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susanna foppoli

she/her | Site | Instagram | Tiramisusi

Hey Susanna, how’s things?

Hi Megan, everything’s great, thank you!

You were first featured on our platform through Standout, thank you for taking the time to sit down and talk to us!

Yes, it was such a pleasant surprise to be mentioned as a Creative Standout – thank you, Alice, the admiration is very much mutual! My pleasure, Megan, I am looking forward to our chat. 

For those that don’t know tell us about yourself

Born and bred in Italy, I’ve spent most of my adulthood living and working in London as a graphic designer and I have recently moved to sunny Lisbon, where I run my own independent practice. I have a background in philosophy, I’m very passionate about my design job, I’ve recently co-founded a small Italian food venture, and I enjoy pottery and photography.  

What made you switch from Philosophy to Design?

The short answer is…a very fortuitous event.

Coming from a small town in the North of Italy I wasn’t necessarily formally exposed to what graphic design is and therefore didn’t consider the possibility of undertaking it as an education and career path, at first – I studied philosophy instead. My first conscious encounter with design as a discipline came very late in my life. It was during a workshop on synesthesia that I took by chance – we played with music, typography and paper to respond to a given brief. It was all quite quick and abstract, however it felt like a sort of eureka moment. The possibility of expressing thoughts and creating meaning through visual outputs really resonated with me – there was a tangibility to it that I was lacking with philosophy. I looked into what graphic design was and it was like all of a sudden what (I didn’t even know) I wanted to do had a name. So I decided to study design at the London College of Communication.

Do you have any advice for the next generation looking to get into the industry?

My advice to those who are early in the journey would be…keep things broad, cultivate your interests and surround yourself with people that inspire and motivate you. You’ll be surprised to see how many doors will open thanks to the right attitude. 

Talk to me about being at Pentagram. Did you enjoy your time there? 

Very much so. I was lucky enough to join Astrid Stavro’s team shortly after she had joined Pentagram herself, which gave me the opportunity to experience the early journey of a new set up and to be immersed into the work culture of a well-established institution at the same time. The learning curve has been steep and I am grateful to have been exposed to so much – swifty wearing multiple hats as working within a small team requires, working with an array of clients from individual talented artists to passionate entrepreneurs and large institutions across countries (and in different languages!), collaborating with different teams embracing the beauty of a multi-disciplinary environment, crossing paths everyday with the most talented designers…the list could go on, but last but not least, working closely with one of my design heroes and, most importantly, having fun doing so.  

Do you believe there is such a thing as style within the design industry? 

Yes, I think so. However the process of individuating and labeling a style is probably very subjective and influenced by our own points of reference. Also, that does not mean that every practice should be labeled according to one –  there’s definitely many practices that take pride in versatility and/or not having a defining style. 

Is it fair to say that your style is very typography led? 

Yes, I think that’s one fair way to define my style. 

Typography is a medium with a lot of cultural depth that can be communicative as well as expressive – it allows to blend form and concept, to bridge the tangible and the intangible.  

As a “discipline halfway between art and science”, as Philippe Apeloig defines it, I see my fascination with typography as tightly related with my background in philosophy and my interest in words, language and thoughts. 

However, when speaking about my work, I’d probably refer to my approach, which is strategic and conceptual, before my visual style.  

What gets you excited about design?

Design is an endless source of opportunities to explore and discover, a stimulating journey that allows me to constantly enrich and nurture interests and expand my scope of understanding and experience of the world. 


I love the process – working collaboratively with clients to encourage conversations, keeping an open and curious mind to challenge assumptions and reveal opportunities. No two days are alike, no two projects are identical, and no two solutions are the same. 

You sat on the jury for the Drum Design Awards, how was it?

I have been part of the jury for the Drum Design Awards for two years now and it’s an experience I really enjoy. Not only are you exposed to the behind the scenes of great work, gaining a deeper understanding of the context, the process and the thoughts that made it possible, but you also get involved in extremely stimulating debates around it with a very diverse group of talents. This brings up different points of view and healthily challenges your assumptions and perspective, resulting in a very enriching journey – both as a professional and as a person.  

How do you make sure that the ruling is fair on the jury?

First of all, as mentioned, the jury is wide and diverse. Including people from different cultural and professional backgrounds ensures that several different perspectives are taken into account, reducing bias and preconceptions. 

Secondly, the process is well layered. There’s a space to individually collect your thoughts around each piece of work – a comfortable time is given to this part of the process, which allows you to return to it a few times to soundcheck and refine your opinions before distilling them into an initial written assessment. After that, small groups of jurors meet to openly discuss each project, making sure to spend time debating any different opinion that is brought to the table in regards to the quality, relevance or impact of the work. The group’s conclusions are then brought for review to the full jury. All along, the Drum’s team is there to mediate and cross-check debates to ensure further transparency and depth of consideration.  

Do you believe awards are a good thing for the industry?

I believe good awards are. Awards can be great chance for the work to be talked about – they offer an opportunity for debate which healthily and continuously questions the standards and purpose of design. 

However, they should be accessible, inclusive, fair, and remain grounded in the real world – as opposed as nurturing a culture of design for design awards.   

What are your creative industry pet peeves?

I want to believe that things are changing, however I’ll list three that I know to have been a struggle for many, me included, at given times: poor work/life balance, too often sold as the only way to deliver good work; the worship of a single person as the author of all the work; and the lack of development opportunities once reached a certain career stage. 

Who are your standout creatives?

I’d like to mention three talented individuals who I have the pleasure to know personally and who more or less recently have taken the leap of setting up their own practice – and I’m loving the work they are putting out in the world!

Alex Swatridge / DutchScot

Cécile Dumetier / Studio Omelette

Jonas Zieher / Acre Studio 

For my final question, whats next?

I feel quite happy to say that I hope that “what’s next” is more of “what’s now”. I’ve been working with some lovely clients lately and achieved a good rhythm of incoming work, also very much enjoying the juggling of a food venture alongside. 

I’m looking to keep things open and flexible, continuing building a network of like minded creatives across disciplines to partner with to respond to the individual needs of each project. Collaboration, in its various forms, and cross-pollinations between disciplines keeps the process stimulating and expands horizons, so that’s definitely a direction I’d like to embrace more. 


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