Graphic portraits: a choral portrait of the Italian graphic design community

It is not easy in a definition to include a profession, the graphic design, which tends to expand its influence and its boundaries at the same rate as the means of communication and languages ​​develop, and which always find new ways to escape – by form and concept – every time you try to carry it.
Design historian and researcher Carlo Vinti gave a negative description of it and explained what a graphic designer is. does not is: he is not an architect, he is not a draftsman, he is not a painter, he is not an advertiser, but he is “the result of everything he has understood, he is not”.
This is a formula that fits perfectly with the magmatic complexity of the object of study: any attempt to shed light on the changing and mutated figure of the graphic designer inevitably comes to partial conclusions.
“First advertising artist, even before poster designer, even before typographer, even before still publishing” he writes Maria Angelo Di Pierrocurator, together with Marco Sammicheliof the book Graphic portraitsrecently published by Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation in the small necklace of Formentini Laboratory Notebooks.

“Graphic portraits”, curated by Maria Angela Di Pierro and Marco Sammicheli, Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation, 2021
(photo: Frizzifrizzi)

Di Pierro is a journalist and publicist, former consultant for Aiap and today a partner of the Italian Cultural Institute and founder of the Meme Gallery in Milan. Sammicheli, on the other hand, is a journalist, teacher and curator, currently the Italian correspondent for Wallpaper * magazine and head of international relations at the Milan Triennial. In 2017, they co-founded (and with Williams Fagioli) a festival dedicated to graphic art: it was called MONSTER and was born as a platform for discussion and as an opportunity to bring to Milan realities – Italian and not – that had never worked there yet .

The experience of the festival ended last year, the spirit of investigation and the desire to create networks and elaborate on some of the subject’s key themes continued through other projects, including this particular book, which the curator and curator describe. “a plurality of snapshots” to return “a choral and vivid portrait of a community of cosmopolitan professionals responding to the challenges of the time with passion, talent and courage”.

“Graphic portraits”, curated by Maria Angela Di Pierro and Marco Sammicheli, Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation, 2021
(photo: Frizzifrizzi)
“Graphic portraits”, curated by Maria Angela Di Pierro and Marco Sammicheli, Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation, 2021
(photo: Frizzifrizzi)

The main characters in the volume are actually some of the most interesting Italian graphic studios: Dallas (born in 2015 in Milan), eee study (2013, between Bologna and Ravenna), FF3300 (2008, Bari; but before that it was a free independent magazine), Left ceiling(1997, Milan), obelo (2012, Milan), Studio Temp (2007, Bergamo), Think Work Observer (2011/12, Udine), Tome Tome (2018, Milan), Udesignet (2003, Turin), Zaven (2008, Venice).
Their “portraits” are collected in the second part of the book, organized in a structure that is the same for everyone, through which they can tell themselves according to different points: Foundationswith the history of the studies and who founded them; In the study: the method, the research, the clientwhich I will not elaborate further because it explains itself; Mastertherefore the reference points in the sector and not; We and the cultural system of graphics, where you look at yourself from afar, inside (or outside) a context; and finally For a minimal bibliography of the young professional, which consists of a short list of valuable readings. To follow, for each of the ten realities, a small selection of works.

“Graphic portraits”, curated by Maria Angela Di Pierro and Marco Sammicheli, Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation, 2021
(photo: Frizzifrizzi)
“Graphic portraits”, curated by Maria Angela Di Pierro and Marco Sammicheli, Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation, 2021
(photo: Frizzifrizzi)

Despite the “map” format, it is not exactly an archive – in which case there should have been many more studies – but as already mentioned “snapshots”, which find a place in an ideal album, where many photos, above all historical, is already inserted by the essays that are part of the first section of the book, signed by Sammicheli and Di Pierro (which focus on the role of graphic schools, with the views of different teachers and on the sector associations, respectively, with meeting with Marco Tortoioli RicciPresident of Aiap) as well as by the journalist and the publishing expert Stefano Salis his is a text that emphasizes the Italian book publishing’s lack of courage – and from Andrea Amichettifounder and editor of the magazine Zero, which struggles with a short essay on the art director’s mission.

Given the subject and the many perspectives from which one can observe it, it is perceived in Graphic portraits, some fragmentation. In short, a common thread is missing. Not that it is strictly necessary to have one, but in this case it would not have spoiled any further study in the second part, the one dedicated to studies, so as not to leave them squeezed into two dimensions on the page and instead present them in all their multifaceted three-dimensionality.
However, very different stories and ideas emerge. To unite them all, however, there is an underlying feeling: the feeling of “otherness” in relation to the institutional world, separated from independent realities and unable to provide value and relevance to a system that has historically been highly have contributed to this culture. beauty that we are so proud of.

“Graphic portraits”, curated by Maria Angela Di Pierro and Marco Sammicheli, Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation, 2021
(photo: Frizzifrizzi)
“Graphic portraits”, curated by Maria Angela Di Pierro and Marco Sammicheli, Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation, 2021
(photo: Frizzifrizzi)
“Graphic portraits”, curated by Maria Angela Di Pierro and Marco Sammicheli, Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation, 2021
(photo: Frizzifrizzi)
“Graphic portraits”, curated by Maria Angela Di Pierro and Marco Sammicheli, Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation, 2021
(photo: Frizzifrizzi)
“Graphic portraits”, curated by Maria Angela Di Pierro and Marco Sammicheli, Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation, 2021
(photo: Frizzifrizzi)
“Graphic portraits”, curated by Maria Angela Di Pierro and Marco Sammicheli, Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation, 2021
(photo: Frizzifrizzi)
“Graphic portraits”, curated by Maria Angela Di Pierro and Marco Sammicheli, Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation, 2021
(photo: Frizzifrizzi)

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