Salt Legends: Federico Artuso’s treatise on the folklore and mysteries of Venice

Each city has its own legends: especially funny spirits who populate lavish palaces; tragic deaths that would still haunt the places where blood was shed; strange coincidences that occur if you climb a certain tower or touch a certain statue; and then demons and witches, monsters from the underground, unexplained phenomena …
In Venice, all this is reinforced by the fact that the city itself – which throughout its long history hosts a perhaps unmanageable number of fantastic tales – seems to be built in a liminal space between fantasy and reality. And even today, despite a tourist hyper-exploitation that has wrapped it under a patina of artificiality, just turn a corner and get out of the tour operator’s card for a moment, or get lost at night among deserted streets or squares, for temporary to lose touch with the mundane everyday life and find oneself inside a “different” dimension, in direct contact with illusion and dreams.

As you know, mystery tourism sells well. And of course, there have been many books on the legends and riddles of Venice. However, a young illustrator and graphic designer tried to design one a little differently, not only based on the folklore itself, but also on an author’s graphic interpretation of these stories.
The result is Barracks legendsa volume that actually gathers two books into one, and is the work of Federico Artusowho did it as a specialty in product and communication design atIUAV University from Venice.

(courtesy: Federico Artuso)
(courtesy: Federico Artuso)

Artuso therefore knows the place well. Not only because he studied there, but also because he comes from the surrounding area (he comes from Spinea, a town a few kilometers from the lagoon).
For the project, he made more than 60 illustrated tables and was particularly inspired by three books: in terms of content, Venetian legends by Alberto Toso Fei, illustrated by Anna Forlati; An American story by Emiliano Ponzi and Olimpia Zagnoli for the double-sided structure of the publication; Legendary atlas of the streets of Iceland by Johann Hjálmarsson and Jón R. Hjálmarsson (Iperborea) for the way the story is told, including through maps, and the design of the book in general.

It is he himself – below – who tells the story of the project, which is also becoming a real book to be bought (you can book here).

(courtesy: Federico Artuso)

Thing Salt legends?

Salt legends is a double-page book that tells a journey through the legends of Venice about folklore, the dark and the magical, which passes through a myriad of information and curiosities that are characteristic of Venetian popular culture. The book is composed on one side of 12 legends about the lagoon city, on the other side of itineraries for the places in the same 12 legends, allowing the reader to walk along the streets of the historic center, to discover in this way the most mysterious and fascinating of one of the most beloved and reached cities in our country.

Salt legends it is therefore an unusual journey through calli, campielli and sestieri, which in the past were the scene of inexplicable events, made of blood, unexpected encounters and mysterious appearances. Along with the legends and guides, the illustrative component of the project is the main character, who not only acts as a decorative element, but becomes the common thread that binds the two parts of the book.

Illustration for the mystery of Campo San Boldo (courtesy: Federico Artuso)

The purpose and target group of the project

Salt legends suggests a new way to visit the lagoon city, engaging and evocative, played on the thread of a tale where ghosts, demons, evil witches, benevolent ghosts and monstrous creatures come to life, where the real and the imaginary are intertwined in the story about Venice through the language of myth. From the gentle spirit of Palazzo Grassi, who saved the life of an insider, to the macabre story of Biagio Cargnio; From the skeleton of the bell ringer doomed to wander because of his greed, to the mysterious red stone of sotoportego that connects Calle Zorzi with Corte Nova.
The aim is therefore to promote the city’s folkloric heritage through unusual illustrations and travel plans that lead to a more intimate and authentic Venice. A Venice far from the most crowded tourist circles and often very close to an everyday culture that mixes the sacred and the profane, superstition and utility.

The project was mainly aimed at an audience belonging to an age group of 12 years and up. The presence of some explicit content could offend the sensitivity of the little ones. As with animation, the world of illustration is often mistakenly connected to the world of childhood. The choice of illustration as a narrative tool of Salt legends it is not so much designed to bring the little ones closer to the discovery of the legends of Venice, but more to enhance the touristic and narrative experience that the book offers.
Moreover, Salt legends it allows both the citizen of Venice to recognize the myths of his city, through a captivating narrative path, and for a non-Venetian reader to discover one of the less touristy sides through alternative travel plans.

(courtesy: Federico Artuso)

Project format

The format designed for the realization of the project is the classic A5, which actually does Salt legends a real wallet. Although the illustrations in the book would stand out more with a larger format, the choice of a small format was primarily designed to allow the reader to carry and consult the book in a comfortable and convenient way.

As previously mentioned, one of the main features of Salt legends is the double face structure.
In this way, the reader will have the maximum freedom to choose which part of the book to consult, as there is no predetermined order.
The two pages of the book – each of 55 pages – are named respectively:

Salty legends, illustrated legends about the city of Venicewhich literally and graphically tells 12 legends about Venice;
Salty legends, guide to the legends of the city of Venice which tells the legends’ places, history and protagonists.

(courtesy: Federico Artuso)

Structure of Illustrated legends about the city of Venice

On this page of the book, Salt legends tells in 55 pages, verbatim and graphically, 12 folk tales about the city of Venice. Based on the story of the skeleton of the bell-ringer who is doomed to wander every night because of his greed, we arrive at the miracle that imprisoned the plague in a red stone placed on the road connecting Calle Zorzi with Corte Nova. In all the legends, the place and the district where it was born are also marked, a subject that will, however, be explored in the part dedicated to driving.

4 pages are dedicated to each legend, of which:

• a page where a specific legend is told verbatim;
• a page where the story is accompanied by an illustration;
• an illustrated double page that acts as a filter between one story and another.

(courtesy: Federico Artuso)
(courtesy: Federico Artuso)

Structure of Guide to the legends of the city of Venice

As for the opposite side of the book, however, the same number of pages leads the reader through calli, into sestieri, and all the magical places that have given life to an invaluable folkloric heritage for the city. If we in the legend part got to know the sad end of the bell’s skeleton, we have on this page of the book the opportunity to visit it inside the museum, where it is kept. Furthermore, we can orient ourselves in the city both thanks to the presence of an illustrated map divided into districts and with a QR code that allows to guide the reader from the position where he is to the place of the desired legend through
the Google Maps guide.

4 pages are dedicated to each legend, of which:

A double page containing the guide, the illustrations of the main characters of the story and a small note at the end of the page with some information such as: the vaporetto lines to be taken, the steps separating the destinations from the station, etc .;
• a double page with the illustrated map and a QR code associated with Google Maps.

Graphic components of the project: typography

The fonts selected for realization of texts, titles and subtitles by Salt legends I am Some text And Noe Displayrespectively Screen for titles and subtitles e Text for the texts. The two graceful fonts are designed by the foundry in Berlin Send Toikka. Their main feature is high-contrast design, consisting of sharp triangular graces and reduced spacing, which adds a certain “cruelty” to the usual elegance of graceful characters.
The choice of Noah therefore, it is justified both by its great readability and by its bold character.

Graphic components in the project: color palette

The chromatic choice of the project was applied in different ways on the two sides of the book:

IN Salty legends, illustrated legends about the city of Venice:
• that yellow (# f8e928) is used in the coloring of the book section, in this way the legend part is recognizable even when the book is closed;
• that blue (# 204898) in the subtitles, but above all in the coloring of the characters of the illustrations;
• that beige (# fff4db) in the coloring of the illustrated double page;
• that black (# 000000) is used in texts and titles.

IN Salty legends, guide to the legends of the city of Venice:
• that yellow (# f8e928) is used to color the district within the map;
• that blue (# 204898) in the coloring of the character on the illustrations and the entire double page dedicated to the map;
• that beige (# fff4db) in the coloring of the pages related to the illustrated guide;
• that black (# 000000) in the texts and titles.

Student: Federico Artuso
Speaker: Gianluigi Pescolderung
Academic year: 2020-2021
IUAV University of Venice

Illustration for the legend of the bell skeleton (with courtesy: Federico Artuso)
Illustration for the Legend of the Ghost by Giordano Bruno (courtesy: Federico Artuso)
Illustration for the Legend of the Ghost by Giordano Bruno (courtesy: Federico Artuso)
Illustration for the legend of the Rialto Bridge (courtesy: Federico Artuso)
Illustration for the legend of the gentle spirit of Palazzo Grassi (with courtesy: Federico Artuso)
Illustration for the legend of the gentle spirit of Palazzo Grassi (with courtesy: Federico Artuso)
Illustration for the legend of the black water monster (with courtesy: Federico Artuso)
Illustration for the legend of the black water monster (with courtesy: Federico Artuso)
Illustration for the legend of the red stone (with courtesy: Federico Artuso)

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