A Moment with Milano’s Finest: The Visual Agency

Indigo Design Award Interview with The Visual Agency, 2019 Graphic Designer of the Year. by Christina Lauren | 25 Sep 2019

Indigo Award had the pleasure of meeting not one, but three extraordinary talents behind The Visual Agency—a multifaceted design company that has been taking the world by storm since 2011. The faces behind the enterprise are Giacomo Bettiol as Illustrator, Benedetta Signaroldi as Information Designer, and Matteo Bonera as the Creative Director. When asked what makes The Visual Agency stand apart from the rest, the team is proud to relay their greatest achievement to date. According to the team, since opening the company’s proverbial doors, “[We] grew into one of the few agencies in Europe that produce infographics, motion graphics, and interactive data-visualizations by extracting and explaining data-based narratives and visualizing complex qualitative knowledge,” explains Bonera, the group’s creative mind. They hit the group running and have been hot ever since.
It all began with a high demand for companies and organizations to work together in order to communicate large amounts of information to clients, as well as the press and community at large. According to Bonera: “In close collaboration with the Density Design Lab (the communication design research laboratory at Politecnico di Milano), CEO Paolo Guadagni came up with the idea to create an agency that combined technical know-how and data-science with creative design. The aim is to help clients transform qualitative and quantitative information into in-depth insights, concrete knowledge, and powerful narratives,” says the designer, while adding an important aspect: “Respecting and cherishing equal opportunity standards, our team has a 50/50 gender split consisting of information and interaction designers, front-end developers, and motion-graphers with long-standing professional experience,” he tells us.
It sounds as if high school played an influential role for the Italian born and bred entrepreneurs. For example, Benedetta Signaroldi’s early studies of human sciences helped blend information design with data visualization. The designer explains: “I have always been attracted to creative arts that’s why I decided to attend a design course at university. I first came across the world of data visualization thanks to the Density Design Lab and my professor Paolo Ciuccarelli. Information design allows me to blend my design approach with my human sciences background,” she says. As for the team’s illustrator Giacomo Bettiol, drawing at a young age wove its way into his future successes. “Everything started in high school studying to become a surveyor, [followed by] architecture and communication design at IUAV, Venice. Since I ended my studies, I [now] focus on illustration, which allowed me to begin my journey in The Visual Agency, almost 3 years ago,” Bettiol says.

The dynamic trio displayed such confidence—as any highly sought-after professionals should—that we were eager to know how they respond in times of opposition. What happens if a client comes back with harsh criticism? “Creativity is at the core of our project realization approach as we believe that it is the decisive element that determines the success of a communication product. Creativity can be a game-changer [when it comes to] increasing audience interaction, visibility, and impact of publications and other communication products. Sometimes, the impact of creativity gets compromised due to a combination of factors…Our experience has taught us that a collaborative approach and involvement of the client is of crucial importance to protect the integrity of each project and guarantee a successful outcome and satisfied clients,” Bonera states. And we agree, yet what happens if a client needs convincing to trust the better judgment of a graphic design guru? Simple: “Over the years we have learned that the client needs to have active ownership over the creative process,” says Bonera.
“This relationship between client and supplier enable us to guide the client and to explain the creative rationale that has been developed in order to correspond to the brand’s look and the objectives,” he adds. “This is important because it provides the client with the necessary information to be able to communicate and present the project internally to peers and superiors. We have learned, however, that kick-starting a project with a collaborative workshop, the sharing of mood-boards and benchmarks, is an effective method to establish trust relationship between client and agency from the beginning. In this position it is easier to convince a client to trust our better judgment,” the Creative Director adds. And this is seen, as clearly the union between the creators of The Visual Agency and their clientele is a product of the integrity put into their work, as well as the reputation of their projects.

It doesn’t hurt that the team is always up to date with the hottest trends in design. According to Signaroldi, the date-fuelled member of the group, “I really like to explore other creative projects on Behance-- there are a lot of designers and artists whose work I appreciate and who inspire me to improve myself,” she says. As for Bettiol, “I find Instagram to be a perfect tool to stay updated daily or even hourly! Unfortunately, I find myself spending too much time on it, but besides my attempt to ignore the smartphone a little bit more, I’m very careful about who to follow and I try to keep only accounts that can inspire me or give me good content,” explains the team’s illustrator. As for tools they couldn’t live without? Bettiol mentions the fundamentals but adds a profound point: “This constantly changing landscape makes me think that the only tool that will last forever is the pencil with rulers and a compass.”

What about the job brings a designer the most joy? For Signaroldi, “I like to be in an agency that gives me the chance to work on new and different projects in multiple fields, I like the challenges the projects bring and that sometimes the solution is hard to find. I like the people I’m working with every day! I enjoy [sharing] ideas and exchanging views with my colleagues who have different skills and perspectives on the projects,” she says. As for Bettiol, “I love creativity in all its shapes and illustration is probably the tool that works best with me. It’s not about drawing, coloring, shapes or textures, it’s about [the ability to] express and conveys an idea, a thought, a concept. What I enjoy at the end is what I hate during the process, and it’s to be tested in a different field, in a different style, each time, with each client,” he states. When asked about the best piece of advice the team had ever heard, we got lucky, as the creator’s behind The Visual Agency shared with us some of their very own: For Signaroldi, “Don’t make it personal!” she advises. For Bettiol, “Never update a Windows PC!” he warns. And lastly, Bonera instills a final life lesson—“If everything is important then nothing is.” Learn more about the brains behind the business here and follow them on Instagram.