For Milan-based studio Dallas, typography is the foundation of graphic design
Francesco Valtolina and Kevin Pedron talk us through their recent redesign of the highly regarded Mousse Magazine and shed light on their design ethos.
- Jyni Ong
- 17 March 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Francesco Valtolina and Kevin Pedron have been working together since 2015 when the pair first collaborated on a pavilion for Expo 2015 – when they formed Dallas. Since then, the Milan-based graphic design studio has gone from strength to strength, crafting a name for itself through its dynamic work for many a great client. The Albanian Pavilion, the Venice Biennale, ICA Milano, Mousse Magazine, Muse Magazine and Sternberg Press are just a handful of the many clients this duo has designed for, expressing a clear and sophisticated visual language for every brief it tackles.
“We’ve always tried to remain a small and nimble studio,” Francesco tells It’s Nice That, “as we prefer to control most of the creative process in direct dialogue with our clients.” Together, the founding designers believe the best way to achieve this explicit communication is by remaining a small structure, making use of the creative freedom and space that comes with just the two of them. With a shared taste in design and photography, Francesco and Kevin’s united forces focus on the attention to detail. And for Kevin, this is still the most fascinating aspect of the discipline: the nitty-gritty details that separate a good book design, from a fantastic book design.
Despite the myriad exciting technological tricks that have come hand in hand with the rapid advancements of the industry, it goes without saying that the “simpler” design tasks are still extremely difficult to master. Kevin recalls a line from his teacher, François Rappo, during his time at ECAL. Paraphrasing, he said: “If you cannot do complicated things, just keep it simple.” It’s a piece of advice that Kevin still contemplates almost every day while his interest in graphic design continues to lie in the typography, readability, materials and so on.
It’s a passion that both designers are passing down to students in their respective schools in Milan. Francesco adds on this: “Being in constant contact with students allows us to continuously re-evaluate the basics of our profession and the conceptual validity of our decisions.” Fundamentally, however, for Dallas, typography is the foundation of every project, and often, “where everything starts.” It’s part of the studio’s wider strategy to establish long term relationships with its clients, developing a number of different design solutions over time, as seen in its two-and-a-half-year-and-counting relationship with Istituto Svizzero, for example.
In other work, Dallas redesigned the contemporary art magazine Mousse, centring the visual language around the editorial content. Avoiding a purely aesthetic approach to the redesign, the founding designers created a design system which streamlines the editorial structure, in turn, giving more space to profiles and in-depth articles. “We worked a lot with a typographic framework strongly based on two typefaces, a serif by François Rappo and a sans serif by Chi-Long Trieu, who also designed the masthead of the magazine along with us,” says Kevin. “We think these articles deserve to be read and not just browsed, so all our efforts went into allowing readers to discover content in an easy and appealing way.”
Elsewhere, Dallas has been working on a monumental book design since 2016. Titled Yes Yes Yes, the studio was approached by Amedeo Martegani, a collector and owner of the publishing house A+M Bookstore. Tasked with designing a book on his 600+ collection of alternative and underground magazines from the 60s and 70s, Francesco and Kevin were faced with the thrilling task of reliving into this mighty collection, cataloguing the collection in a designed curation. Separating the publication into three sections – full bleed colour, black and white and a series of interviews –the designers highlighted the plurality of messages and forms in this extensive document. “What was stunning to us is the creativity of the authors,” Francesco finally goes on to say, “who were by all means mostly amateurs from a graphic design standpoint, but were able to create some unique, loud and imaginative things. And to bring forward some really important themes of the time (and of now).”
Dallas: Yes Yes Yes Italy Catalogue, 2020, photography by Mattia Parodi
About the Author
Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.