01 / 11 / 2017

Label Art: a coming together of research, design and production - Part 1

Label Art, an event organised by the association “Gli Ergonauti” and Maria Teresa Tonutti, brought together Paolo Bernardis, a researcher and expert in visual perception and cognitive neuroscience at the University of Trieste, and Giacomo Bersanetti, designer and founder of SGA Wine Design, to discuss and explore the relationships between research, design and production.

This encounter was conceived in the spirit of reducing the distance that has always existed between the worlds of business, university and society. The aim was to stimulate a dialogue between who conducts research to produce knowledge, specifically regarding our minds and on the brain, and who uses this knowledge to produce a product, the label of a wine bottle, that communicates with the consumer as effectively as possible.
The visible information that reaches our eyes is processed and transformed to create representations of the outside world in our minds. These internal representations (or perceptions) are formed according to functional principles or models of cognitive processes. The models of perception are not limited to explaining how the mind functions, but seek also to explain how they can be implemented in the neural mechanisms of our brains, or rather, functional models of the groups of nerve cells that form the brain.

The perception of the outer world

The study of perceptions poses us some preliminary questions that can help us understand the very nature of the study of perception. Kurt Koffka (1886-1941), one of the founders of the school of Gestalt Psychology, in The Principles of Gestalt Psychology (1935), asks: “Why do things look as they do?”.
The question might seem strange. The simplest answer is that the world and its objects are here present and appear this way (red, soft, big, hot,…) because in reality they are that way. This type of approach is called naive realism, and if adopted, does not get us very far towards discovering how our perceptive mechanisms work. Another approach is critical realism, which argues that things look as they do because the organisation of information imposed by the mind/brain system is what it is. In other words, it is the organisation intended as the laws and functioning principles of the mind/brain system that make us experience things as red, hot and soft. There are many examples that demonstrate how naive realism is wrong.

In the example of “Kanizsa’s triangle”, we see a central white triangle with one of the angles pointing directly upwards, the white of which is lighter than the white of the background.

Kanizsa’s Triangle – MODAL COMPLETION

In reality, no such white triangle physically exists, only three black circles with “slices” missing. This example shows us how we “see” the white triangle not because “it is here present”, but because our mind/brain system works in such a way that makes us “see” the white triangle. Several years after this illustration was proposed by Gaetano Kanizsa (1913-1993), two researchers (Grossberg & Raizada, 2000) proposed a functional model of the nerve cells of our brain that explains why, thanks to a sophisticated systems of excitatory and inhibitory connections, in the illusion of Kanizsa’s triangle we see the white central triangle, even though it doesn’t exist.

Below is a selection of projects inspired by the perceptive phenomenon of “modal completion”.

Fontanafredda - 2006

Gialdi - 2012

Winzenberg - 2016


Tag Interview, Label, Packaging