Emiliano Ponzi’s bold, textured illustrations employ repetition, a judicious use of line, and strong graphic compositions to define and communicate the concept at hand. His illustrations have appeared in advertising, magazines, books, newspapers and animations. His clients include The New York Times, Le Monde, Time, The Economist, Newsweek, United Airlines, Penguin books, Saatchi&Saatchi New York, and in Italy: La Repubblica, Feltrinelli, Il Sole 24 Ore, Mondadori,Triennale Design Museum. Emiliano has received numerous honors including the coveted Young Guns Award from the the New York’s Art Directors Club, medals of honor from Society of Illustrators New York, Society of Illustrators Los Angeles and 3×3′s Magazine Pro show. He has also received awards of excellence from Print, How International Design Awards, Communication Arts Illustration Annuals, and American Illustration Annuals.
How did you get into illustration?
Well, it sounds funny now, but I became an illustrator because I didn’t get into the university (science of communication) I wanted to attend. My other talent was drawing, so I decided to attend a private Illustration university instead. This university was the only art school I knew of! It was the 90s and the internet was not so developed. One of my cousins went there and that was enough for me to take my bags and move to Milan. Sometimes life has its way of setting you on the path you’re meant to be on.
What other types of jobs have you had?
Once I was a model for a print ad of a very well known brand…of shoes, so just my feet were under the lights.
As we move from print to digital how do you think illustration will evolve?
I think the future will be very different. Drawings will stand up from paper and cross through to digital devices. According to John Maeda, we need to match synthesis and complexity. Illustrations will be more of a concentration of the senses, a clever thing in the moment that captures the eye, less didactic and more emotional. We can already see it in some of the books designed for the iPad. The static concept of illustration probably won’t be enough in 10-15 years. In Italian, the etymology of the word “ilustrazione” says this, (“azione” means action). Illustration is about showing an action and making it clear.
What is your favorite type of commercial project and why?
There are so many… I guess all the projects where the people involved know what they want, and there is a smart and positive exchange of views.
Your work is very conceptual, what do you like about conceptual illustration?
I like that first of all it’s a mind job, a mind exercise. The style, colors and shapes come after the idea. The core of this approach is that synapses have the biggest role rather that the ability to simulate a realistic face color or landscape shape. Technique is just important as style but what comes first is a solid vision, a spark that is being built by rational thought.
How do you come up with your ideas?
Every object has a name and a natural environment, and every good idea comes up for me when I’m able to break that relationship and make an object work in another environment. I mean, how far can an apple go from its tree? Could it be a face? Or maybe a bomb? These are the questions I ask myself when I start a new job.
Do you ever do work that decorative?
I guess my work is anti-decorative. My aim is to communicate a concept with the fewest elements possible. The minimum number of items in the illustration means to me that the goal is being reached.
Please tell us about your new book 10×10? What’s it about? Why the name? etc
10×10 is my first monograph. It’s a chronicle of my life and job: 10mq was the size of my first room in Milan where I started my career, the other 10 refers to the number of years it’s been since I started my career as illustrator. It contains over 60 images that I created for international clients and also original emails from art directors, friends, and other people I was lucky to be in contact with. It shows how relationships can develop, how they can be constructive, frustrating or sometimes ironic.
Nicholas Blechman from the New York Times signed the introduction to the book, and it was a great honour especially when he refers to my style as “being universal without being generic”. The volume is being published by a great Italian editor, Corraini, and it’s being sold in art museums and design bookstores around the world.
Please describe a typical day?
Alarm clock between 7 and 8am
Start working between 8 and 8:30
Lunch from 1 to 2
From 2 to 2:30 am I usually play with some apps or look at stuff on the web
From 2:30 till 8/9 pm I work
Then dinner with girlfriend plus a movie
Sometimes I have some work to finish even after dinner
Finally I jump on the bed and fall asleep with a book in my hand
What is your working environment like?
I’m actually working in 2 cities, 3 days in one and the other 2 in another, but I have to say that my 2 desks look quite similar: laptop, tablet, a bunch of empty coffee cups, books, unsigned contracts, old piles of paper, magazines, stuff that I have gathered over the years but that I should probably throw away to make a bit of room.
Who are some of your favorite illustrators and why?
I do not have a list of favourites, but I guess the images that inspire me the most I encountered first during my formation at school. I also come across new work in my everyday life by looking on the web or discovering unknown illustrators in a book.
What is something new you have noticed or learned recently?
I learned 3 things in the last year. The first one is that forgetting our limits is the best way to surpass them. When I’m working on a tight deadline, I can’t waste time thinking about what I can and can’t do. This is when I produce the best work, when I am able to ignore and overcome the limits I’ve placed on myself.
The second thing I learned is that the perfect idea doesn’t exist. The concept of “perfection” itself doesn’t belong to this world, so all we can do is try our best hoping it will be enough.
The last thing is that my allergy to cat hair has probably disappeared since I’m living with my girlfriend’s cat and… so far so good.
Top 5 favorite things in life
- the rest after work
- going far from home to come back
- Chinese food
- “the catcher in the rye”
Top 5 bands/singers
- the Clash
- Edith Piaf
- I tre allegri ragazzi morti
- Beastie Boys
Can you suggest 3 artists or illustrators we should check out?
I suggest 3 young illustrators: