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  Interview with Max Philippi
Kwennie Cheng
posted on October 3, 2013 at 12:06

Like last summer, we published illustrations by recent graduates during our Green Blob special throughout July and August. We also visited a few graduation shows and were given many presentations on the projects. During one of these fieldtrips we met Max Philippi: a 22 year old illustrator with a very interesting and most of all innovating graduation project, State of Scarcity. A digital application, current, illustrated and well researched. Time to have a little chat with mr. Philippi! 

State of Scarcity

Tell me, who is Max Philippi and how would you describe your work?
I’m an illustrator, I also work as a graphic designer and I have a passion for animation. I also work in a company called Raapwerk. My graduation project criticizes society from an ecological point of view. This is a topic I’d like to carry on working with. As an illustrator I’d like to be involved and mean something to issues I’m personally interested in.

Great! So about your graduation project ‘State of Scarcity’, can you tell us a bit more about that?
Of course. I started my research by looking at problems: deforestation, desertification, pollution, etc. First I tried to find people who were responsible for that. I found the answer in the system these people live in: capitalism and the many companies which work within this system but at the same time exploit nature. However, then I realised I was being very hypocrite as I’m participating to this system as much as the rest. That's why I didn't want to be overly accusatory, but look into solutions instead. I landed on different philosophers, architects, urbanists and idealists and built one coherent world out of these different visions which you can enter through a digital application.

So you’re trying to show the subject from different point of views?
Yes, exactly. I try to show a future image where eventually everything turns out fine. People like Buckminster Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright and many of those ‘megastructure architects’ who were optimistic about the future inspired me to do so. They thought everything would turn out fine because of technological innovation. Nowadays we are a lot less optimistic, which is somewhat understandable too. But I saw this ‘50s and ‘60s optimism as a way to reach my audience.

Fields, State of Scarcity

What surprised you the most when working on this project?
I discovered how a well thought out and researched story can help making illustrations. In my case, I already digested a lot of information before I even started working on the first illustration. This resulted in being able to make more concious decisions while building this world. Not to mention it was often a lot easier to make desicions too.  All in all, theory didn’t turn out to be a restriction but it only strenghtened my project.

And why a digital application?
Right before I started my graduation project, I participated in a project group where we designed a prototype app. I opened my eyes to interactive media and discovered that illustration within interactive media can be very innovating. In State of Scarcity I want to criticize in a subtle way and I think the best way to do so is to let the viewer enter this society, so he can explore this world at his own speed and choose whether he wants to get a general idea on the subject or look into the more obscure details. I think a digital application was the best way to work with the multiplicity of information. Eventually I had to cut a lot of information out, but mainly because I didn’t have enough time. All in all I think I made 9 or 10 different locations which can be visited in the application. Initially I wanted to make 17!

Did you know from the start you wanted to use this medium?
No, actually I made that decision pretty late in the process. First I wanted to make an animation, but I was afraid I couldn’t put all the information in I wanted to tell, as the story would be more linear and the viewer wouldn’t be able to decide to zoom in on certain aspects at will. Then I thought of infographics which would show these current problems alongside of potential solutions. Eventually I chose not to, as these are problems that are known to pretty much anyone, which would render my message redundant, causing people to lose interest.

Train station, State of Scarcity

Do you think your study at the academy responded enough to these new possibilities?
I had a few Photoshop and After Effect courses and after that I could decide whether to expand my technical skills or not, but that was it. The potential of new media, such as the internet for instance, was never really addressed.

Did you miss it?
Personally I did. I do understand it doesn’t interest everyone though, but I would have liked to have the choice to work more into that direction as I think the internet is the most innovating place to be as an illustrator. We did have this project group as I said before, where we would work with more technically focused students from the HKU in Hilversum. I think this is something which should definetely be carried on.

So you do see a future in these applications as an illustrator?
I do. I think this world of applications is very illustrative, illustration is everywhere in the digital world and I also think that illustration is a perfect solution to filter the incredible amount of information we are overloaded with every day. Applications also provide narrative possibilities, like in State of Scarcity, which is actually a bit of a video game. Together with interaction designers, illustrators can definetely explore an unknown area and really innovate within their field. This is definitely an exiting future in which I would love to participate!

More about Max Philippi:
State of Scarcity