Most people know Greece because of its glorious past during the ancient years. Nevertheless, present times are quite stressful for the vast majority of its population due to global recession. But let’s remain optimistic and take a look at the past times of Greek tradition in art and design and then see the state of Web design — an area where things keep evolving.
The Golden Ratio & Architecture
Greece is often stated as the country which introduced philosophy and influenced western civilisation more than any other. Indeed, ancient Greeks’ thought was innovative. Among other ideas they embraced art and architecture in a way that impacts modern design.
Pythagoras and his fellow companions changed the way we perceive mathematics. Their contribution to modern science is remarkable. Pythagoras studied concepts such as harmony and balance. He’s known for the Pythagorean theorem but a few people know that he was also behind the Golden Ratio, a concept which still inspires and guides our designs. A bit later, another Greek mathematician, Euclid, first expressed the idea of the Golden Ratio with words: “A straight line is said to have been cut in extreme and mean ratio when, as the whole line is to the greater segment, so is the greater to the less.”
The Golden Ratio is omnipresent in nature, art, design, architecture, music and of course mathematics. It epitomises harmony and employs aesthetics and beauty. The great Parthenon was designed and built based on the idea of the Golden Ratio or the Greek letter, φ (phi). This is the first letter of the name of the ancient Greek sculptor, Phidias, whose contribution to the monument was immense. The Parthenon’s architects, Iktinos and Callicrates, adopted not only the concept of the Golden Ratio, but also the epitome of the Greek thought and philosophy in general.
Talking About Aesthetics
Aesthetics is also a Greek word. It derives from the word “αισθητικος” which means perception, feeling, sense. It is a branch of philosophy and it is strongly connected to art, culture and nature. Since the ancient years, aesthetics has many different meanings, because perception varies from people to people or among civilisations. However, the power of aesthetics is global and it is the vehicle which marks the different essences of human’s creativity.
Greece, especially in ancient years, influenced architecture, art and design. Aesthetically, Greek constructions and crafts were complex and included many materials and colours. The remains of those crafts may now look minimalistic and simple, but this is not true. However, the applied rules of good design remain untouched by time. We can still admire the high aesthetic level of those works.
To put it differently, aesthetics is something we feel, not what we articulate. Art and design are the main expressions of aesthetics. When it comes to Web design, aesthetics play a crucial part to the way a website is perceived. Our minds need only 1/20 of a second to decide whether they like or not a particular design and this is an aesthetic decision.
The more we explore design the more we dive into different aspects of human nature. If the roots of aesthetics are hidden in philosophy, the way we perceive things is a matter of psychology and even neurology. It takes a holistic approach before we can arrive to good design results. Part of this approach is already revealed by the study of the crafts in ancient Greece.
Art in the Byzantine Period
The Byzantine period is surely worth mentioning because it succeeded the ancient era and it lasted for more than 1000 years (306 AD to 1453 AD). During this huge time span there was a mix of the form coming from ancient years with the Orthodox culture which evolved and turned to be prevalent.
During this period Greece used to be an empire. There were ample resources to move things on when it came to art. Architecture, sculpture, painting, music and other arts were transformed little by little to something completely different. It is still a question whether this transformation was something that happened smoothly or the influence of the church imposed such structural deviations. At the same time art in the empire, as in any empire, was engulfed by the style of artists coming from different countries.
Despite the vast amount and the value of art during the Byzantine period, there aren’t many design principles derived from it. Modern art and design concepts doesn’t seem to represent that period.
Greece is definitely a country with almost no recent tradition when it comes to design and digital communication. The country lost the Renaissance because it was under the Ottoman rule for almost 4 centuries. During the 20nth century Greece also suffered from two World Wars and a painful Civil War which left deep scars and put mental progress to a halt. This bitter situation affected design too.
With this in mind, we can barely find traces of Greek exemplars in design. One of them was Alec Issigonis who was a car designer. Issigonis used to be a very intelligent man who hated the strict discipline of Mathematics, so he called them “the enemy of every creative genius”. Issigonis’ most prominent product was the famous Mini Cooper. Mini was introduced in 1959 and it still remains an epitome of design.
The art and science of typography is also an area where Greece has some tradition. Moreover, the word “typography” derives from the Greek words “τυπος” (= typos, meaning form) and “γραφη” (= graphy, meaning writing). However, printing comes to Greece relatively late. Only in the late ’80s we produce the first digital font families, like the one you see above, GFS Olga. If you’re interested in embedding Greek fonts in your website, you can do that via Fontdeck which provides some excellent families.
When it comes to modern design and digital communication, Greek designers started by imitating and adopting trends. By time we developed our own language and style without fearing to embrace elements of our tradition. The image above is an example of lovely packaging design of the tomato sauce Kyknos. The new approach is based on the traditional packaging of the sauce. It is handcrafted by Red Design Consultants.
Greek designers, with a voracious appetite and new ideas, now start gaining the respect of the community worldwide. Designers United, a Greek design agency, created the emblem of Euroleague’s Final Four 2009 and 2010. Above, you can see the official ball of the latest Final Four held in Paris.
Web Design: The State of Things
Being a Web designer right now in Greece is like being a teenager. Things are quite unstable. You are neither a child nor an adult, which means that professionalism is welcomed but not always required. A few times being a professional could hurt you, too.
The average Greek designer is much better than he used to be three years ago. However, when comparing with an American, English or Russian colleague he still has a lot of work to do. The average client is now aware of the power of a well designed website, but most of the times he’s not eager to pay for it.
So why do we bother to mention the state of Web design in Greece? Because, as mentioned above, things are rapidly changing. When we design we know that our work is compared with the work of the experts of the world and this makes us better. Not to mention that a bunch of Greek designers globalised their services with success.
In other words: We walk the road of maturity.
Let the Designers Talk
We asked 8 successful Web designers 8 different questions about the state of things in Greece and they way they work. Their answers are quite interesting:
Constantinos Demetriadis, Creative Director, Tribal DDB Athens:
Q: As a Creative Director in big design agencies what do you think of the current state of Web design in Greece?
Greece’s late introduction to the Internet, accompanied by the mediums unique features, have strongly shaped the state of Greek Web design. Like most countries, Greece has had a lot of catching up to do, but in that sense, we’ve been doing a great job at adapting and integrating our ideas. We can safely assume that Greek Web design is only beginning to mature, but shows signs of fast evolution. New standards, universal access, multiple touch points… are all the way we’re headed, and it’s my belief that Greece is ramping up it’s game. And it’s happening now…
Maria Theodoropoulou, Web designer/developer at Bluestorm New Media:
Q: You live and work as Web designer & developer in UK for more than 10 years. Would you ever come back to Greece to work here? Why?
Moving back to Greece is always at the back of my mind but I cannot quite formulate a decision yet. Working in the UK has greater benefits and offers more opportunities in my field while the Greek marketplace is an unknown quantity for me. With the nature of the job being what it is I would love to work from Greece but with my existing clients in the UK. I love the Greek lifestyle which is much more laid back, but I prefer the English work style which is more goal driven and rewarding if you commit yourself.
Michael Sfictos, Graphic & Web designer:
Q: As a very talented and successful Web designer could you share the sources of inspiration that work for you?
To be honest, it’s hard to pin inspiration down to a few subjects. My inspiration comes from everything that surrounds me, and in most cases comes in the most unexpected moments. I’m sure all the other designers have the same answer. Music is what helps me concentrate and keeps me focused. Furthermore I watch a lot of imagery on various websites, I love looking at other artists and designers work. Photography and typography are objects that I really value and they have been proved, so far, as great helpers.
Petros Dimitriadis, Freelancer Greek Web designer:
Q: You’ve been a successful freelancer in Greece for many years. What do you think of freelancing in Greece? Do freelancers get paid enough?
I have been a freelancer Web designer for the last 4 years. Some people told me that if you survive two years then you are out of the danger zone. So far so good then. Beeing a freelancer in Greece has its ups and downs. It’s relatively a new kind of occupation and a lot of people and companies look at you with suspicion. It’s kind of difficult to get big jobs because of the small market but if you are good at it it’s difficult not to succeed. There are plenty of “freelancers” out there but if you want something done right than do it with a pro!
Nassos K., Art & Creative Director:
Q: You are a well known graphic and Web designer. What’s to leave a big agency to pursue your dreams as freelancer in Greece?
Design in Greece is a really tricky issue to discuss and a major topic is to choose whether to work in an agency, a small group or as a freelancer. With 10 years of experience, spending the last 5 in two big agencies in Athens as an Art and Creative Director, I choose a different perspective. As a freelancer (and a member of a creative collectible) I believe I have more freedom on scheduling, designing and producing projects that interest me, contrary to the pressure of “must-have clients” that you have to deal as an employee. It’s freedom and hard work against restrictions and money.
Lea Verou, Front-end engineer:
Q: Please, share your experience on Web and education in Greece. Where are we? What do you think of the way markup and design principles are being taught?
Zaharenia Atzitzikaki, Web Designer & Developer:
Q: You are a web standards evangelist and a recent freelancer. Do you think clients in Greece care about Web standards? Would they pay more for a well structured website?
Clients in Greece are no different than clients worldwide — lots of them don’t know about standards and won’t really care until you explain them simply why they should. If you focus on how their website may be a bit pricier now but will be easier and cheaper to maintain in the future, they’ll understand and appreciate it and will dismiss cheaper solutions. Most of them know that you get what you pay for, even in Web design, and if they don’t, well, at least you tried, right?
Gerasimos Tsiamalos, Web designer & developer:
Q: You’re about to launch a new service: Premium themes for WordPress and not only. What made you make that move? Do you think Greek designers/developers have the potential to succeed in such demanding markets?
Greeks, living in Greece, are natural problem solvers. They have to be like that in order to survive in this little corner of the earth. Simple. Greek designers/developers have the potential to succeed in any market. Examples? Odesk.com About the premium WordPress themes arena, it’s true that i’m about to enter a saturated market. In the way we know this market anyway. As with any market/product though, differentiation is the key to make heads turn your way and a realistic scenario to solve their problems. Time will tell, but I’m pretty sure I have found how to be different from the competition and I can definitely provide the second one (a realistic scenario to solve their problems).
Greek Web Agencies & Freelancers
The following list is an indicative guide to some of the most successful and active agencies and creative professionals in Greece:
Atcom is a big, well known agency in Greece. Its huge portfolio includes some of the most important Greek portals among others.
OgilvyOne, the Greek branch of the brand, specialises in creative work with great results and several awards.
aeraki specialises in Flash. It has a beautiful website with very interesting projects.
Beetroot is a very creative agency. Many famous Flash projects and TV commercials have been made by these guys.
Zefxis is a small but well known company that cares both about creativity and Web standards.
Upset! is a creative agency full of fresh ideas.
Nomint. Another creative agency specialising in Flash projects.
Wedia. A new but dynamic agency with some beautiful projects.
Generation Y. Modern solutions from a very active agency.
Fabulous!. A well known company specialising in beautiful Flash websites.
Tria. Bold and sometimes experimantal design.
Komrade. A very interesting website for an active and solid agency.
Digitalbox is consisted by a small but very agile team and it has an interesting portfolio.
Antonis Kyriazis. A great Flash designer with a rich portfolio.
Konstantinos Penlidis. Very talented and experienced Web designer.
Thanos Papavasiliou. Wireframe Plus is a Web service which turns your ideas into wireframes.
Helen Gizi. Vector stories designs fabulous illustrations for your next best website.
Showcase of Greek Web Designs
Here comes a list of beautiful designs in different areas. We focused on design no matter the technology behind. Many websites included are based on Flash but there also many which use great HTML & CSS.
Our list could not include all beautiful Greek websites of course. However this is a good sample of what Greek Web designers can do. Go ahead and visit them. The vast majority of these websites include a version in English.
Kiku Japanese Restaurant
A Japanese restaurant in Athens. Amazing art direction and atmosphere.
Yokaboo lets you create your own online store with ease. It focused on creative people but practically anyone can start using it.
Den einai paramythi
“Den einai paramythi” means “It’s no fairytale”. A sweet interactive game for kids about recycling. Beautiful concept and execution.
Great imagery and creative direction for the website of 6 keys hotel in Volos, Greece.
The official website of Lakis Gavales, a famous Greek fasion designer. Classy and elegant.
The Clockwork Man
The Clockwork Man website is about the relevant hidden object game which is designed & developed in Greece. The illustration is just amazing.
A strange yet very creative approach for Squad, an advertising agency in Greece.
“I pitta tou pappou” could be translated as “Grandfather’s pie”. The beautiful website is about the well known restaurant with traditional Greek food such as gyros and souvlaki.
A very well designed online shop for people who like sports.
A lovely website in black and white about an art gallery in a beautiful greek island, Lesvos.
Very impressive and original approach for a company specialising in mobile apps and not only.
This is Athens
This website is actually a nice photostream to show to everyone around the globe that Athens is a beautiful city. The photos included there can prove it.
The Greek approach of the famous Kentucky Fried Chicken food chain.
Furniture for adults and kids. The relevant website is clean, crisp and greatly designed. Overall, this is a great presentation.
Lipton Ice Tea
A micro website for an online contest for Lipton Ice Tea. A smart and joyful approach.
Style and luxury in modern living. The website reflects these two characteristics of the brand.
Salt&Pepper specialises in packaging and graphic design. The website is warm and elegant. You can spend much time in there.
This website is all about a huge online shop. It is designed with taste and style despite its size.
Lacta – Love at first site
An interactive love story/game which changes according to your decisions. Excellent idea and execution.
Bank of Greece – Virtual gallery
The Bank of Greece presents its art collection in a beautiful way. A virtual tour through the recent history of Greece.
The personal website and portfolio of the graphic designer, SÃ©bastien Nikolaou. A modern and creative one page website with some beautiful samples of work.
This website is about an art stage in Thessaloniki, Greece. What’s special about it is the perfect equilibrium between function and form.
An online interactive way to find all interesting places to visit in Thessaloniki Greece.
A very creative and fresh weblog design.
Your Thoughts on Greece
Please feel free to share with us your thoughts on Greece with us in the comment section below.