Good 50X70 is an international initiative that we at Visual Culture have been both participants and huge supporters of over the last three years. Recently, we’ve had the pleasure of dialoguing with Good 50X70 co-founders Tommaso Minnetti and Pasquale Volpe on how it all began, the evolution, and the knowledge gained within the journey.
VC: Congrats on your third year of Good 50X70. Could you share a few highlights with us?
TM: I’d say that one of the most interesting things we did this year was to organize 3 workshops with 3 of our jury members here in Milan. It has been truly great to see how much people we gathered for the event and I’m really proud we managed to do something that might be an important and meaningful experience in the future career of the students who participated.
From Woody Pirtle Workshop in Milan
VC: What began as an idea has evolved into a growing initiative to raise awareness on pressing issues our world faces. What sparked this concept and how did you make it happen?
TM: We just wanted to do something that gave us a good feeling while being effective for the client. We don’t despise professional work for commercial clients, it’s something you can’t avoid doing. A smart client who gives you some trust can bring a lot of satisfactions too, but there’s nothing like doing the job you like for causes that you can really believe in.
Rather than making it happen, we just tried doing it, and strangely enough it worked. To be honest, we were the first ones to be amazed by the results. This is also what we constantly say when we’re talking to students in our seminars, everybody has the tools to make a difference, but you have to give yourself the chance. What we did was simply build a tool for others to make a difference. If you give people the chance, they’ll go for it.
It has to be said that although we made it happen one way or the other, we’re far from being able to say we actually “made it”. We’re very far from economical sustainability. We’re still trying to give our project the sort of structure that could keep it going without having to be scared about the future.
VC: Throughout your careers has ‘design for good’ been a consistent theme?
TM: It was more of a red thread, but it changed in many ways over the years. Our first work experiences are connected to very commercial, not environmentally conscious clients. In a way, that helped us to develop a conscience about the problem. I imagine communication students getting out of school right now are involved in green (or greenwashing) projects no matter who they work for, and this might make them less aware of the fact that there’s a strikingly unbalanced situation in terms of communication of social issues.
I guess you could say we’re now closing the circle, as more and more of our time is spent doing work you could define agency work, but now for the kind of clients, charities, we always wanted to help. There’s still a very long way to go though.
VC: Your jury list is an impressive group and represents the global community in a nice way. How did you get them on board and what was your thinking behind the selections?
Poster by jury member Woody Pirtle
TM: In a way, getting our jury together has been one of the easiest parts of the whole project. Designers like the ones we contacted are generally quite illuminated persons that understand why their help could be very valuable for an initiative like ours. To select them, we just looked at all the people we could look at with admiration, both for their professional experience and for their social commitment.
Poster by jury member Lourdes Zolezzi
Now we are in a weird situation where people we consider a great source of inspiration in our professional work finds it amazing what we managed to put up. That makes us really proud of course, although most of the time we think they’re just being polite…
VC: What have been some of the challenges in running an initiative of this kind? What have you learned year to year?
TM: We learned a lot. It’s a bit difficult to summarize because it wasn’t really about eureka moments, but a very organic process where the complexity of what we were handling grew together our skills. We learned what it means to not be able to withstand expectations, no matter how hard you try. We also learned that you can find amazing people along the way that can give you more help than you would have ever asked for, just because they share your own idea.
VC: Good 50X70 has been embraced by the design community with the participation rate growing every year. Where do you see the majority of the participation coming from? Students? Young Professionals?
TM: It’s something between these two groups, and lately we’ve noticed this border has been consistently blurring. Of course, there are professionals with a lot of experience participating, but it is difficult to beat the workload that can deliver an entire class working on the briefs. The participation of schools and universities is very determinant in the volume of the entries. We like the idea that year by year students get Good 50×70′s briefs as part of their education, it’s exactly why we started all of this.
VC: What sustainable processes/methods were used in regards to the annual exhibition in Italy and the corresponding book. Give us some insight into your design thinking behind materials, paper stock etc.
TM: Our paper is always FSC certified paper. In Italy, we have done all of the book printing so far, it is easy to find printers that are happy to use low alcohol or water based inks. The kind of exhibition we designed doesn’t need specific structures to be build, in fact we use grill walls normally used on building sites.
To print our posters the most ecological approach you can have is to print digitally. To avoid printing endlessly the same posters, we try to ship the same posters to who wants to put up an exhibition. Transportation is something that can be easily offset and to an extent more ecologically viable than reprinting, although of course is a matter of distance.
VC: Have any of the posters been used in campaigns by the charities of the competition? If so, can you share a success story?
TM: The biggest success came this year, as one of the posters from the competition has been selected by Greenpeace Italy for their campaign against the government effort to make new nuclear power plants in Italy.
There are many other little stories that we don’t often tell anybody about, but that make us really proud because we’re making a practical difference. For instance we helped a tiny publication made by a charity in Zimbabwe to spread information about HIV and AIDS. We also helped preparing a communication manual for Chinese NGOs, to help them in making better communication.
VC: Good 50X70 has expanded into local initiatives like Good Amsterdam, Good Suriname… How have these extensions of the initiative been received?
TM: The local initiatives are an expression of the fact that Good 50×70 doesn’t want to be a fixed, structured entity that doesn’t change in time. We’re trying to evolve, adapt our model the different necessities we’re facing from time to time. Both those projects have been sort of tests, to get ready to go in the sort of direction where we would like to take the project. There is a need for Good 50×70 to be more effective, focusing on real projects that have a tangible impact on everyone’s lives, and we think this is the way to go to get there.
VC: What should we expect in 2010.
TM: Unfortunately it’s really hard to say what to expect from us as our resources are somewhat limited and the economic crisis put quite a significant challenge for us. Still, I hope that more people will be able to attend our exhibitions through a larger exhibition tour and through our catalogue being finally distributed through official channels.
Apart from that, what I would really like to see is our project becoming better at tackling the practical communication issues of many charities, thus making a real change.