Interview with the Beetroot Design Group and Paris Mexis, curator of the exhibition "The Greek Monsters"

Vangelis Liakos, Yiannis Charalampopoulos and Alexis Nikou are the founders and CEOs of Beetroot Design Group, a continuously successful communication agency. In an interview with red dot, the Greek all-rounders describe their unconventional works and their intentions regarding the exhibition "The Greek Monsters". Paris Mexis, curator of the exhibition and a world-wide renowned production designer, also gives insights into the world of Europe’s supposedly evil monsters.

With the concept of “The Greek Monsters” you respond to the negative image of Greece. How did the idea originate to work in allegoric dimensions?

Vangelis Liakos: The idea originated from the word itself. The word “Monster” (“teras” in Greek) is used to describe a fearsome and terrifying being but can also be used to describe anything or anyone considerable and significant both in size and quality. In the perspective of the current financial and political situation in Greece the ill meaning of the word is pretty much self-explanatory. By toying further with the notion of being Eurozone’s “Monsters” and in the context of our agency’s success, it seemed appropriate for us to try and reverse the meaning of our title. We wanted to create something positive out of something negative.

“The Greek Monsters“ stand for Beetroot. What message did you want to convey with the creation of the supposed bad guys?

Alexis Nikou: To use the much quoted Marshall McLuhan phrase: In “the Greek Monster’s” exhibition the medium is the message. For the casual visitor our gigantic Minotaur sculpture, our idols and graffiti installed as a gallery exhibition, may only work as a tribute to the unexpected and to the way design blows up “normal” context – and in this case the exhibition space – out of proportion. A careful visitor will discover that in the place of the information plates that can usually be found near the exhibits, we have instead put poems that describe why this particular exhibit is there and through that our main design practices and philosophy.

The implementation of the project is situated on the borderline between design and art. How important is it to find the right balance?

Yiannis Charalampopoulos: The relationship between art and design may be the most personal aspect of this exhibition, as Beetroot quite recently decided to take a big leap and expand its operations to a wider spectrum that may include one-off projects such as paintings, sculptures, photography, installations, performances, films etc. Given your notion of a borderline between design and art, we wish to treat ourselves to a “free pass” and travel easily to both worlds. In the end we think that art and design may be parts of the same world: creativity.

In your opinion, what are Greece’s abilities to convince with on the international stage – except with outstanding communication design?

Paris Mexis: Although we origin, live and work in Greece we can hardly speak on behalf of our whole nation. What we feel though, is that after a closer look, past our serious political and governmental problems, there are many creative, hardworking and trustworthy voices that could be worthwhile to listen to. Greeks are very bad with restrictions and that, although harmful in some occasions, renders them with a unique ability in breaking boundaries, “out of the box” thinking and developing unexpected but very effective results in most fields and especially art and design.

What does it mean to you that the Berlin exhibition now finds its way to the red dot design museum?

Vangelis Liakos: We are thrilled! We are very excited about this opportunity that will bring our exhibition closer to a wide and well informed audience. Communication design is all about getting across signals and getting responses to these signals. We made “The Greek Monsters” exhibition, first and foremost to tell to people “Hello – Don’t be afraid – Look again – Look closer – Look more”. We anticipate as much feedback as possible.

What particular challenges did you encounter while realising this project?

Alexis Nikou: We wanted to develop a strong concept that will maintain its communication qualities whether it is on paper, in physical space or in digital space. Moving from 2D to 3D to meta-2D was both challenging and creative and we had great fun doing it. Also we were always constantly aware and thoughtful of the way the exhibition would be perceived by the audience. Our exhibition has many layers that in some cases – like in our free-postcard-portfolio – are very subtle. We were very careful when adding more “angles” to “The Greek Monsters” exhibition in ways that they could be delicately comprehensible.

In general, how do you approach to new projects?

Yiannis Charalampopoulos: First, we try to learn our project and focus on the less obvious qualities that make it unique. These qualities are usually the seeds of our designs. We then let ourselves free of any restrictions and discuss, design and grow our projects, as if we have all the resources, time and trust from our clients to do anything we want… and then we realise it!