Design Indaba 09 || Day 1|| Rick Valicenti

The second speaker on the first day of the Design Indaba was Rick Valicenti.


Here he is  on stage, taking a picture of the technician who was trying to help him get his presentation started.  Actually – it might have been better if that technician had failed.   Valicenti without the presentation was much more compelling than his performance with all the technology working. Which was ironic as his main theme was that of “real human presence”.

Real human presence, for Valicenti – is that elusive quality that we lose as we get more involved with technology.  The difference between reading about someone,  or shaking hands with a real person.  Technology is not necessarily the antithesis of human presence, but it tends in that direction,  and we need to be aware of this tendency.

Valicenti took us through various stages of his life as a designer.  His talk was uncomfortable to listen to because he came at things in such a strained way.  During the Indaba I was intrigued by how people present themselves. Valicenti came across as an arrogant designer trying very hard to be humble and not having the faintest idea how.

He shared a number of fonts he designed, complete with luscious and ultra serious campaigns to support them.  In each case he followed this by an example of how this font was used in contemporary culture- for example, signage at a Glam Rock concert.  He seemed to be aiming for a wry take – something like  “pride comes before the fall”.

An interesting project was done for artist Arik Levy.  It is a video visualization of a voice recording in which he speaks about his latest piece – an enormous light.  You can see more about this here at the Thirst site and here is a video recording of Arik Levy speaking about the project.


Coming back to real human presence –  in another project he  recorded video footage of dancers moving.  They had a number of dots on crucial points – knees, shoulders, etc.   A computer joins the dots and the end result is a curiously compelling story of movement- real human presence.  The images were on the verge of the abstract, but the hesitant, imprecise movements were so clearly human.

He showed us a series of ink drawings done over a short period of time.  Lovely visceral line work combined with searingly honest messages.  Uncomfortably personal. I could not find many images of this work, but here is one – it says “lover”.


I think the image below was derived from this series also:


The image above is from a project in which designers submitted images that would encourage people to vote for Barack Obama. You can see more of them here.

I did not respond favourably to his talk.  For a more balanced account and a clearer communication of his ideas,  you can read about him in this interview.

He left us with these thoughts:

“Practice Seduction

Represent Presence

Indulge Knowingly

Serve Happiness

Master Humility”.

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