We had the good fortune of connecting with Lavinia Lascaris and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lavinia, what’s one piece of conventional advice that you disagree with?
“Follow your passion”: I find this statement vague and misleading. A passion is not an external thing that one needs to “find” and then follow. I think better advice is to shift the focus away from identifying the one passion and onto what are our interests and how we approach them. In my experience, finding purpose in what we do is an active, non-linear process. The enthusiasm that we all look for comes from randomness, experimenting, curiosity, learning, changing your mind, being useful, and observing how we respond to that process. Then building on those observations.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
It has not been a linear process. I started out as a fine art student in London, where my focus was in sculpture and photography. I was exploring themes of birth, the body, and evolution, mostly working with traditional materials. I liked London a lot but after graduation I wanted to try a different city, so I moved to Paris and interned at an art gallery, helping with inventory and installation. After that, I spent a few months traveling in India, collecting photographic material which I then presented at a solo exhibition in Athens, my home town. During that trip, I applied for an MFA in sculpture at London’s RCA but was not accepted. I took that as an opportunity to try something different, so I shifted my focus from art and photography to dance. As I child, I was trained in ballet and as an adolescent in modern dance and was curious to develop that further.
I moved to Barcelona, and started training in Cuban dances—afrocuban, rumba Cubana, and salsa. I spent two years there before moving back to Athens and setting up a small dance studio for teaching and training. First as a member of a group, then with a partner, I taught workshops and performed at international dance festivals around Europe. I loved dancing but the financial crisis in Greece at the time was wearing me out and I was craving something more intellectual. After six years, I was ready to go back to school, this time for graphic design.
I moved to LA and spent a year building my portfolio and applying to design schools. In 2016, I began my MFA in graphic design at ArtCenter College of Design. Those two years were probably the most transformative of my life. The experience was enlightening, exciting, overwhelming, and frustrating all at the same time. I discovered a profound interest in academic research and how that leads to developing concepts that are then graphically and typographically articulated. My projects were led by notions of privacy, crisis, camouflage, identity, and language, from sociological and historical approaches. Since then, I have been interested in the educational role of graphic design and typography; less so in its use for selling things.
I now design exhibitions and catalogs for the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography (HMCT) at ArtCenter. The content of these are educational projects about graphic design, typography, and language that are presented either in our gallery spaces or in book form. For our next project, I am studying the relationship between language and technology and the possible effects of that relationship on the future of verbal, written, and visual communication.
During this process, I never knew where I was headed; I still don’t. The mentality of setting concrete, long-term goals has never resonated with me. My focus has always been on the present; concentrating on what makes sense now and trusting that it will lead somewhere. For a while, it felt like I was unable to commit to one thing, but all past experiences inform by current work. So, no ragrets.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
It would depend on the friend, but if it were up to me, I would like to cover a bit of culture, entertainment, and nature—LA has plenty of all those things. I would take them to some art exhibits at Hauser & Wirth, LACMA, or The Broad. If they are more into science, The Museum of Jurassic Technology or the Griffith Observatory have great displays. If they like books, I will use any excuse to go to Arcana Bookstore in Culver City and browse through the collections. I would go to Tropicana in Highland Park for a nice smoothie, Le Pain Quotidien or Kitchen Mouse for brunch, and Mama Shelter, Apotheke, Cafe Stella, or Good Housekeeping for drinks. Depending on what’s on, I would check out either Zebulon for a concert or Laugh Factory for a stand up comedy show. Finally, for some nature, I would take them to the Huntington Botanical Gardens in Pasadena or a trail in Topanga for a nice hike. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My mother for always supporting my life choices, however unconventional. My boss at HMCT, Gloria Kondrup, for trusting me to design the exhibitions and catalogs. My teacher and Creative Director at HMCT, Simon Johnston, for sharing his knowledge about graphic design. My teacher, Carolina Trigo for teaching me how to bring life to abstract concepts. My friend and colleague, Ximena Amaya, for our endless discussions about life and design.
©Joshua White/JWPictures.com, Johnathan Huang