Whistles women: Veronica Ditting
On a rainy winter weekend, the Whistles team made the pilgrimage to Amsterdam to meet with ground-breaking graphic designer and art director Veronica Ditting. As well as her hugely influential work as Art Director of both The Gentlewoman, COS magazine and previously Fantastic Man, Ditting's curriculm vitae lists collaborations with Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum, the White Cube gallery and Selfridges as well as a whole host of self-produced art books.
Veronica is a rare breed, as one of only a few female art directors in her field. An abundance of white space and sans serif fonts are omnipresent throughout her work which stands as an ode to modern minimalism and has undoubtedly earmarked a seismic shift in graphic design. Her studio is in a quiet corner of Amsterdam, which she shares with an artist friend in the towers of what once was a Pathological Anatomical Laboratory. During our visit, we unearthed a little more about the process behind her work, the importance of collaborations and how graphic design has influenced her style.
What objects do you have on your desk and what stories do they tell?
It actually depends on what stage of production I’m in – at the moment as I’ve just finished with a lot of projects there is just a coaster, a filing system and a stone I got the other day – it’s a little bit ugly and kind of looks artificial; it’s a mixture of two stones coming together. But more often than not my desk is covered with too many papers, book or magazine dummies, paper and linen samples.
What books in you studio have become invaluable to you?
It's difficult to name a few, but one book I really value and can always come back to is the Whole Earth Catalogue; a catalog which has been published in the late 60s and early 70s and listed all sorts of products for sale. An item could be listed if it was useful as a tool, relevant to independent education, high quality or low cost, not already common knowledge and easily available by mail. It's a fantastic index of all kinds of different things. I think Steve Jobs actually called it 'Google before Google'. Another one I really value is Schott's Miscellany, a collection of culture trivia; it's highly entertaining.
Ingmar Bergman was said to eat the same lunch every day: whipped sour milk and strawberry jam with corn flakes; do you have any daily routines or rituals?
Yes, definitely – Argentinian mate tea, that’s something that I need every day. I have it in the morning and afternoon, I don’t drink any coffee so it gives you a bit of a buzz but doesn’t make you jittery as coffee and it’s supposed to be really healthy. Really often I have phases of things, at the moment I am obsessed with thyme-infused licorice.
Do you read any fashion magazines?
People often ask me that. I’ll pick up the odd copy of Self Service, 032c or Vogue Paris, but there is no fashion magazine that I read on a regular basis. In general I buy many more artist's books.
It is obvious that form, style, aesthetics are very important to you, which women influenced your own style sensibility, and what was it about their sense of style that you admired?
It’s such a cliché answer, but one of the women is definitely my grandmother – she was this elegant Argentinian woman who back in the days in Argentina was wearing lots of things that were ahead of her time. I still have quite a few garments from her, some old Pierre Cardin, a fantastic Gucci clutch and beautiful jewellery – she had really good taste but not obvious with a bit of latin drama in there.
You seem to collaborate a lot on projects, what do collaborations offer you, and what is the key to making a successful collaboration?
It’s really an important aspect in my work. It's great to have someone to bounce off ideas and I really think that a project can only be successful (in whatever that means) if everyone involved is after the same thing. What’s really important in collaborations in general is trust – if you feel there is a trust issue then you're probably up for a disaster.
How has being a graphic designer affected your personal style?
I probably don’t wear a lot of patterns or things that are too decorative. I like simple cuts and I’m definitely quite colour aware. I find myself often buying the same things.
What do you like most about creating The Gentlewoman?
The collaboration with my colleagues – I really like to discuss with our team. When we get together for the last stages of the production of the magazine it's kind of an energetic phase. Then of course working with all our different collaborators is inspiring. And content wise, I really like the women that are in the magazine; I think we’re respectful to the women and we put thought in the smallest detail. In that sense just that it feels like a really complete thing.
Can you name one piece of clothing that you couldn't live without?
I can’t live without my Church's penny loafers and Stratford shoes, I probably wear them more often than I am supposed to.
This is my caption for Victoria Ditting
Do you have a favourite issue or article from The Gentlewoman, and if so why?
The third issue was quite an important issue for us design wise (with Adele on the cover) and profile wise, Penny Martin’s piece on Inez van Lamsweerde in the second issue is still one of my favourites. Also Caroline Roux's 'Modern Detail' on Arriving Alone is something that stayed with me for a while.