Stavros Bilionis explains his return to Athens from London.
Stavros Bilionis, Athens native and graphic designer sat down with us to tell us more about his background and the city’s current vibe.
Growing up in Athens, he went through state education before relocating to London in 2011. Drawn to the other side of Europe by a creative and analytical mind, he studied at the University of the Arts London, before moving back to Athens at the start of 2016 to work on a design project for the National Theatre of Greece.
Previous projects that Stavros has worked on have been wide and varied, although a personal passion of his has “been documenting Athenian signs. I like typography so I photograph it.” Earlier this year we asked him to create his own typography for The Athenian which was a commission for which he had an abundance of inspiration, “for The Athenian I got to work on what I love and interpreted it for a different market and commercial purpose.”
Gaining more experience in his design career, Stavros began to realise the disparity between designers in Northern Europe and those closer to the Mediterranean. Describing his experience in London as gifting him with “structure” it seems that he views the structure as somewhat clinical, “what [ we Greeks] do is express ourselves, I think that’s very important, it can take you outside the barrel of designers, it’s a differentiating point. I realised that Northern Europe’s design is cold, strict yet very nice. Design from Southern Europe has emotion that is evocative - not perfect, but you feel it."
"Design from SoutHERN Europe has emotion that is evocative - not perfect, but you feel it."
Stavros doesn't feel a particular uniqueness in the energy in Athens, as he compares it to the rest of the Med, instead, it’s a certain ineffable element that is captured in the late afternoon and evenings, “there is a soothing quality that makes you feel happy.” Perhaps it’s the light? He agrees, “if you are unhappy and you go outside and the sun is shining... that instantly changes… It’s what the ancients called the ‘Athenian sky.’”
The move back to Athens was surprising in the way the city had changed for him, “I was expecting to see the same old stuff. Going out to bars at night, I started to meet people from abroad.” Stavros’ curiosity was piqued, as when he “was younger living in Athens, there was always an international vibe but it was very Greek.” Further investigation revealed that most of these newcomers, who are employed in the arts world, moved to Greece as “Athens is at a unique point in history now - it’s very interesting.”
"Athens is at a unique point in history now - it’s very interesting.”
One of the reasons for his return is the ease with which you can can bring visions to fruition in the city. “Three months ago a friend of mine wanted to start an art exhibition but only display things that he likes. It’s actually a space for people to collaborate. It’s an experiment. We held an art exhibition, a workshop, threw a party. In London it’s extremely difficult and extremely expensive to do things like that.”