Graphic designer Daniele de Batté is sincere in his approach to his craft. He lives and works where he grew up, in Genoa, Italy. Both of his parents were architects, so de Batté was able to foster his love of design from an early age. In 2003, along with his close friend Davide Sossi, de Batté founded design studio ARTIVA Design. For de Batté, (who draws, prints and sculpts) design is form, function and gestalt. It is finding and creating beautiful order amongst equally beautiful chaos. His personal graphics are born from conceptual considerations, grappling with the notion that the absence of colour reveals a composition’s essential shapes. De Batté interprets everything around him as inspiration, and finds harmony in his design through what he calls a necessary tension and the notion of sacred geometry. De Batté has a keen eye for detail, and although these ideas are nothing new (they can be traced back to artists such as Michelangelo) it is through his unique vision, rendered always in black and white, that they are made new, pure and unified. Just the way he likes it. In his own words, “creativity is when you are never satisfied… I hope I’ll always be looking for something.”
Sophie Flecknoe: Tell me about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I was born in Genoa (Italy) among toys and architecture! I wake up in Genoa. I have my meals in Genoa. I work in Genoa. I have a lot of coffee in Genoa. I sleep in Genoa. Sometimes I hate this city. I wish I could run away from Genoa.
What are your earliest memories of design? When did you know it was what you wanted to pursue?
My parents are both architects, so in some ways I’ve breathed architecture and design since I was a child. I have always liked drawing, and [I will] probably do it forever.
How did you get started? Did you study?
I attended the ‘Liceo Artistico’, an Italian secondary school specializing in arts in the Faculty of Architecture. During that time I started doing some freelance works. Not long after, I started Artiva Design together with my colleague Davide.
Design is often looked to as the apex of aesthetics. What is your definition of beauty?
Form, Function, Gestalt = Beauty. This is my equation. But beauty is not perfect because it is subjective. It’s different and marvellous for everyone in diverse aspects and forms.
What is it about design that you love?
It must be sincere, clean and functional.
What are the origins of Artiva Design? How do you and Davide work together?
Davide and I are good friends. I met him at university. Our mutual interest in graphic design led us to found Artiva.
Whose work do you look to for inspiration?
Actually, we’re inspired by different sources. We have receptive minds. We re-invent and re-interpret every input coming from the world around us: architecture, exhibitions, art galleries, music, reading and drawing, and also sitcoms – [just] everyday life (except sports). Graphic designers who have taught us a lot are Massimo Vignelli, Tomás Maldonado, Wim Crouwel, Armin Hofmann [and] Josef Müller-Brockmann.
What elements do you consider for a well-balanced image?
To get a well-balanced composition you must insert an element of tension. You can make a dynamic layout by using asymmetry. What interests me the most is the balance of white spaces. The absence of colour is a precious bound which doesn’t enrich the work but it reveals the essential shape. This is a rule that helps to keep the counterpoint between order and chaos, a tension that creates energy.
Do you consider yourself a minimalist?
Maybe… It’s not up to me to give a label.
Your designs often stem from the ‘grid’. Do you believe in notions of sacred geometry or do you apply mathematical algorithms to your work?
Thank you for this question! I search for beauty in geometry… I often use this example to explain what I mean:
Music is a concentration of emotions, a complex world that seems to be devoid of rules, but this is not correct. The structure is based on a mathematical formula, a geometric grid composed by primary elements that harmonize becoming well-constructed systems. This can be observed also in nature where strict simple schemes form structures that are very complicated. These structures need “the absence” to create rhythm and regulate the composition. In typography, the negative space of the types “ties” the letters in a harmonic and rhythmic way.
Do you apply the same formula to your sculptures as you do your 2D works?
Yes the ratio is the same, for me there are no limits between disciplines. Geometry is the DNA of the composition. This is not only my thought [though]… You can see the application of geometry in the art of Masaccio, Mantegna, Giotto or Michelangelo… I didn’t invent anything new!
Why do you choose to work in black and white?
In my artistic research colour is unnecessary. I’ve always liked old black and white lithographs. If a composition works in black and white, it [also] works in colour. Black and white are the main colours [that] define a project. They’re two “particular” colours also defined as “non-colours”. If colour doesn’t have a function or if it has [no] meaning, then it becomes only an ornament, a distraction.
You’re also represented by Saatchi Art, which is based in Los Angeles. Do you spend a lot of time in America? If so, how do the art and design scenes differ in Los Angeles where Saatchi Art is located and Italy where your studio is based?
Saatchi is just an interlude, another experience. My real work is within Artiva. We’ve had clients from the U.S.A. and it’s great because I think it’s amazing being able to work overseas from our studio.
Where is one place in the world you would love to visit?
Maybe New York, I think I’ll go there soon…
Do you have any pets?
Yes, I have a sister… a big cat named Micia.
What is your favourite colour?
What’s next for you and your practice? Where do you see yourself in a few years time?
I hope we’ll keep on being involved in new situations and experiences. According to me, creativity is when you are never satisfied with your own creations. I hope I’ll be always looking for something…
Words: Sophie Flecknoe
Images from Daniele de Batté’s ‘Sketchbook‘, courtesy of the designer.