Guest @CAROSELLO: Mattia Balsamini
Mattia Balsamini is one of the most talented contemporary Italian photographers – interviewed here by CaroselloLab creative director Enrico Caputo.
Interview with Enrico Caputo, founder and creative director at CAROSELLO. Enrico is an art director and photographer from Rome. Curiosity and instinct brought him to start CaroselloLab in 2008. Since then he started a journey full of challenges, new experiences and great opportunities that formed his multidisciplinary knowledge.
He worked on campaigns, brand identities, events, products launches, web-sites, photographs and tv commercials for local, national and international clients in the fields of food, sports, finance, beauty, music and entertainment. Today he leads team with a clear vision, that mixes strategy, creativity and attention to cultural changes to create unique and meaningful brands.
What was your creative professional route to your current position as founder and creative director of Carosello Lab?
My path has a lot to do with natural evolution, a sequence of choices, experiences, successes, and failures that brought me where I am.
During and after my studies (Art Direction and Graphic Design) I was playing in a band and I started photographing other bands, directing music videos, designing their merchandising. After a while, I started to get requests for album artworks and some websites.
My work got noticed by an art director from Saatchi & Saatchi and one from Leo Burnet who were looking to open a company. In a couple of months, CaroselloLab came to life. It was September 2008, I was 26. We worked together until 2013 when our roads split up. I decided to buy all the shares, with a clear project in mind. Until that moment CAROSELLO had mostly served bigger agencies, supporting them in all kind of projects. I wanted to start writing my own story, putting together all the competencies I acquired till then. Brand Design looked to me the most natural field: a discipline made of strategy, strong aesthetics, communication, lifestyle, personality. Something that has to last for more than a couple of months (or seconds?) on a screen. Something that needs grit and guts to stay out there against the wind for quite some time.
What could be the difficulties/challenges in running an independent design agency?
I come from a very normal family. No big connections, no important friends of friends to get work from. All I had on my side was determination, consistency, and instinct. Italy is a very hard market for doing branding and there is not much culture around. In addition, we opened during the great financial crisis. However, that’s also what makes me more proud.
What encouraged the decision of moving from Rome to Milan and how do you believe it affected the studio in a professional and personal way?
Natural evolution. In the last few years, I was traveling back and forth from Milan. We had clients there, meetings and all the photoshoots were happening in Milan. Rome is my hometown and I think I will appreciate it more as a tourist rather than when I was living and working there. Milan has a more European breath, it’s way smaller than Rome so it’s easier to live.
How would you describe the studio’s style? What is crucial to you while leading a project in visual and conceptual terms?
I’ve always struggled on this: should the studio have a recognizable visual style? Yes, but also no. Through the years I preferred to create a recognizable approach. I wanted to make a clear statement through our projects: every brand has a personality which the design has to reflect. That’s why you will find some very colorful projects near some underground, all-black pieces. I love to explore new fields. Of course, I have my preferences but working with clients from various fields give us the opportunity to experiment and develop constantly something new.
Recently I felt the urge of giving CAROSELLO a new identity. We started in 2008 with a very vintage but somehow pop identity that didn’t feel like mine: it was a slow process to bring it where it is today. I think it finally reflects our projectuality and thoughtful approach. Plus it’s mostly black, my favourite color.
What do you like the most about the studio?
A small studio (we are 8 people now) is like a family or a band. Everyone has his own personality, everyone is encouraged to share his or her opinion. I’m sure this is one of the strongest assets we can put on the table. Furthermore, I always try to mix people with very different skills, proveniences, and tastes. This is the real boost for creativity.
Where / when do you feel most present?
I try my best to give guidance at all stages of every project but for sure I like to give my best in the strategic and conceptual phases of the work and in the final stages, to make sure all the details are curated to the best. I always choose very skilled and talented designers for the studio, so I try to give them all the freedom they need when they develop a project.
What is Volcán and its value to the studio?
I have launched a side project during the move to Milan, Volcán Milano. It is the name we gave to our office and that I intend to use to organize small exhibitions and more. It is a dream on which we are working at the moment and hopefully it will come to life in the next few years. I wish I had more time for it.
Was there any project that particularly influenced you?
Absolutely. Sport at the Service of Humanity, a branding project we developed for some of the most famous world organizations. We had the honor to work with people from the Vatican, Allianz Germany, the BBC and a network of marketers from Canada, Lang Marketing.
The brand we created has been under the spotlight during the launch event, which was attended by personalities such as Pope Francis, Ban Ki Moon of the UN, Thomas Bach of the International Olympic Committee and many other world leaders. Being involved at all the stages of the project, around the table with such people has been life-changing. It was one of the few times where I felt the client was really understanding the importance of our work. Our ideas and designs helped greatly all the partners feel involved and united.
In your opinion, Is the process more important than the outcome?
I won’t say the process is more important than the outcome but it is crucial, especially when we work on a full branding project. All the hints, aspects and shades we define during the process usually lay the ground for creating a strong brand personality.
What is a dream project/client you wish the studio will get the chance to work on/with?
I have always been into extreme sports, so I really wish to work more for sports and outdoor clothing companies. Music as well, that’s probably one of the best field to be creative with design. In addition, I hope we can get more branding project with a bigger photography part.
Do you believe it is important to be a multi-disciplinary designer in today’s industry?
It is a question of life or death, together with being open-minded. I always push young designers and creatives to keep eyes open on everything that goes around and to try to understand the clients’ point of view, which is generally linked to the market. I think you can’t design in this field if you don’t get that. Also, when a client sees that you really understand his needs he will be more open to hearing your thoughts and advice.
How do you choose creatives to join the studio?
There’s a sparkle in some people eyes and you can see it in their portfolios and how they present them.
What is your favourite place at this moment in Milan?
The studio, during our Tuesday Yoga Lessons with our friend Vincenzo.
Five first words that come to mind?
Honesty, wife, friendship, Samgyeopsal, and surf.