Emanuela Amato, Luca Guarini, and Luigi Vitali once shared a flat in Florence, out of it came DUST, a magazine that was born from the desire to "explore the universe of youth in the context of a present time marked by a continuous state of crisis." The bi-annual publication quickly garnered the attention of the fashion industry. Soon their contributor list expanded to include the names of industry heavyweights, such as Willy Vanderperre, Brett Lloyd, Coco Capitan, Olivier Rizzo, Ellie Grace Cumming, Holli Smith, Duffy, Anthony Turner, Thomas de Kluyver, Ashley Brokaw and many others. Throughout DUST's rise to success, Emanuela continually pushed design boundaries to position it as one of today's leading publications.
This interview took place via email between Tate in New York and Emanuela in Berlin
TVPS: Can you give an overview of how you got to where you are today?
EA: Where to start? I think it all began in Florence when I first met Luca Guarini and Luigi Vitali; we were students and flatmates at that time. Then after about a year, I went to Barcelona to study graphic design and Luca and Luigi went to Madrid. We decide to start DUST magazine to follow our passion for photography; we started it without any expectations. I still remember we built the first issue via skype and then we met in Poland to finish and print it. I still get excited when I think about that period, we were very young and full of dreams and motivation. I think we still are, maybe that’s the key to keeping it together, with a big dose of perseverance. From there a lot of things have happened.
Where are you based?
I actually travel a lot, I work several months in Berlin during the year, and when I can I return to my hometown Catania in Sicily to spend time with family and enjoy the sun.
What are you up to now?
At the moment I'm DUST magazine’s art director and graphic designer and also working on this new project that’s called DUST capsule. We started it two years ago, and we’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with differents artists and designers like Peter De Potter, Jurgi Persoons, and Vava Dudu. I love to experiment and challenge myself with new projects; learning is what makes me feel the most alive and approaching this new field is something that’s really exciting for me.
How does DUST put together an issue from start to finish?
At DUST we are like a family, we do everything together, we all propose ideas for who to work with and discuss all aspects of the issue. Although everything is a collaboration, Luca’s main priority are the shoots, Luigi writes and commissions, and I look after the design.
So after we decide on the theme for the issue, we start building out ideas for shoots. For that, we start with photographers and stylists that we want to work with, and then we build out from there. At this point, I start the graphic design research and propose ideas to Luca and Luigi. When it's time to start putting the issue together, we all go to Berlin, and I propose various layouts and then together we chose. At this point, we’re working nonstop for about two weeks. The production is done in Lithuania and Luigi goes there to see it through.
DUST continually works with the best photographers, stylists, etc. in the industry. How did you all first get them involved and interested in DUST?
We started to work on this project seven years ago, and since then our effort has been to create a product that could be meaningful, could have high standards, and that could reflect an uncontaminated vision. This has made many people in the industry interested and motivated in working with us, most of them approached us directly. We didn't have to convince or brief anyone, the magazine itself has always been our business card.
How did DUST first gain its early readership?
When we came out in 2011, we immediately had good feedback. Our main interest was focusing on what we were passionate about, on what we consider beauty and worthy to talk about, rather than thinking about marketing strategies and positioning. We wanted to say something, and when you are honest, and stick to what you think and like, people resonate with it, it may take time, but it´s the only rewarding, the only secret for a long lasting project.
How do you work as a graphic designer to help convey DUST’s message?
I think that clarity and simplicity are the most important things to have your message well received, to be strong and loud you don’t need to have a catchy graphic but a strong message. It’s also important to always be in line with our aesthetics and who we are. I like to experiment and bring news ideas to the table, but we have to make sure it’s inline with the DUST way that we look at things.
Would you consider yourself, and your style of work, a brand?
I wouldn’t call myself a brand. I do on the other hand think that it’s important to have your own aesthetic and taste that can be easily recognizable, but at the same time is something that takes time to be developed. Everything is really fast now, and we get bored very easily by aesthetics, so it's important to count on your own taste. It’s also important to be true to your work and try not to follow the hype.
Do you have a favorite typeface?
I don’t have a favorite typeface in general as it depends on the use, but I especially like Arnhem, Caslon, and Suisse.
What are some of the challenges of being a part of a newly founded publication?
The editorial world is a very challenging one. Hundreds of printed and online magazines are born every day and the competition is tough. The biggest challenge is for sure standing out from the crowd, being recognizable, well respected, and creditable.
I think what I’ve learned is that being loyal to your ideas means that it might take a bit longer to get to where you want to go, but it’s the only way that makes what you’re working on stand out.
Has there been a favorite project that you’ve worked on?
There’s a few! One of them was this photo book we published in collaboration with Joost Vandebrug “Cinci-lei,” that focused on the children that lived in the tunnels underneath the streets of Bucharest, Romania. All of the proceeds of the book were donated to help the children.
Another one I really liked was in collaboration with McQueen, they launched a bag and asked me to design the logo for the bag and a small agenda that they gave during their presentation. I really enjoy creating logos and building brand identities as it’s something challenging but also very fulfilling.
Who or what has had the biggest influence on your career or outlook as a designer?
I can't say something specific, I think contemporary art was the biggest influence during my studies, and still is something that I always look at for inspiration.
How do you keep yourself engaged and inspired?
I never get tired of research, and I’m always listening to music, which constantly inspires me. I’d also say that visually I never get lazy, I’ll spend hours looking for new ideas and ways to be stimulated. Today we have everything in our hands, so there are no excuses.
What would you say is your biggest challenge right now?
My biggest challenge at the moment would have to be the DUST CAPSULE project as that’s where most of my attention goes (aside from the magazine). When I start something new I am always full of doubt, and I know that I have tons to learn, but at the same time, this is the most beautiful part.
What was your biggest learning experience?
I guess it was when we were printing the first issue of DUST; I realized that what I learned in school wasn’t enough.
Is there an impact that you would like to have on the industry? And do you have an idea of where you’d like to be in the future?
I never think about that; I think that the biggest impact is to achieve my personal goals and to always be truthful to myself without compromising. I already feel super lucky, and I hope to keep doing what I’m doing. I’d also love to work on more collaborations, maybe with a fashion house but who knows..
So, what advice would you give to aspiring graphic designers or anyone who hopes to work in the industry in some capacity?
To be interested in it, to watch, to research, to always be curious about everything (not just design but also music, movies, photography) and also to be perseverant, humble and truthful to themselves.