What is the relationship between music and design, and why is it important to you? Music gave me the confidence to learn who I am and what I wanted to be, which was something that design couldn’t give me at first. The design communities, mostly in London, made me feel extremely anxious. They were really competitive, and my insecurities were pushing me away from design. Music gave me the strength to try again with design and to challenge myself as a freelancer. Now, I see music as design, and I couldn’t possibly live without either one!
How did you begin to specialize in designing posters for bands and record labels? Being a musician myself, I was already in that circle. I’ve always loved music that makes me dance, and I started going out to northern soul and indie nights when I was a teenager. I’m also fond of Italian music, African music, British punk, post punk, Chicago house, deep house and so on. Music has always been part of my life as much as design, so I knew the two would organically mix at some point of my career. When I decided to start freelancing, I used the contacts that I had in the music industry to work on posters, records and videos for bands and labels. The music community really stepped up and helped me create my own platform of work. Lately, I’ve been trying to create a more versatile range of work, but I’m still mainly focusing on design for arts and culture.
How have your extensive travels influenced your work? I only noticed how much experience I have in my bag when I settled down. When you’re moving around, things happen so quickly that you don’t realize what you have around you. Once I settled down and started a freelance career on my own terms, I was finally able to appreciate my previous experiences in Milan, Berlin and London. Currently, I am enjoying my new life in Glasgow. I’m in love with the city’s culture, traditions and history, which is my heroin. The more you travel, the more you discover new stories, communities, ways of writing, ways of eating and ways of living your life. And that changes you forever.
Which artistic periods have had a lasting impact on you? My passion for history came from studying ancient Greek and Roman art. I find their sculptures very beautiful and statuesque, from the curves of their bodies to the tones of their muscles. These gentle lines also inspire my work. Since I’m from Tuscany, Florence has played a big role in my passion for art history. I love the Renaissance period, and though art periods like mannerism and baroque didn’t appeal to me, once I hit realism, there was no turning back. I was in love with everything about it! I also flick through books about cubism, futurism, constructivism, dada and anything modern and contemporary. My favorite Italian designer is Bruno Munari, along with Enzo Mari, who just recently passed away. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring also helped me understand my role in design as an artist.
How do you decide which typefaces to use when you’re designing album covers? The first thing I always ask is to listen to the artist’s music. By doing so, I can capture what they are like and then translate what I envision for the project. Then, I start testing typefaces until something strikes me. At this point, it’s difficult to change my mind as I already have the whole project in my head!
What draws you to retro typography? That link between history and the present time. Every time I use a font, it’s like I’m paying homage to the person who drew it years before I use it. But it’s a challenge as well. I want to give a new face to the font, which drives my creativity further each time.
Your work has a strong focus on social justice issues. Do you view design as a form of activism? We are surrounded by design, and we need to take responsibility for the bad designs. I always ask myself if I can do a project better, if the message can be clearer, if we can share something positive with our designs, and if we can communicate with and reach more people with design. And we certainly do! I’m an activist, so I would be fooling myself if I didn’t listen to my ethics.
What inspired you to launch Group Font, a global type initiative to raise money toward research for COVID-19 and the World Health Organization? I wanted to bring the design community together during a period of struggle. The idea of having a typeface designed by 37 creatives, with all the letters being different from each other, goes against all the typographic rules. But we managed to do it, and it looks crazy! We raised more money than we initially thought we would, so we decided to start donating to the Black Lives Matter movement and the Lebanese relief funds.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? To be patient and to enjoy what I have. I still struggle to appreciate what I have around me. I challenge myself too much, and I always work twice as much as I should. But overworking isn’t healthy, and I recently discovered the pleasure of switching off and recharging my creativity by looking after myself. We are not robots and as a result, we have to look after our bodies and minds since we tap into our best creativity when we feel stronger and more confident.