“I prefer working on projects where there is a personal connection, when I can actually relate to, and believe in, the project that I’m working on,” explains Italian graphic designer, Leonardo Pellegrino. A recent graduate of Central Saint Martins, Leonardo is currently working at Brave New World in London, developing a multidisciplinary portfolio which offers graphic design, filmmaking and art direction.
Leonardo got his start in graphic design via a “rebellious teenage graffiti phase” which, ultimately, was “a good exercise in learning about colours, letterforms and composition,” he explains. This DIY introduction then naturally evolved into more complex and mature experimentations that pushed him to work in a more communication-driven approach. That approach, Leonardo tells It’s Nice That, has “since the beginning, been really intuitive and visually driven”.
Working across art direction and design for luxury fashion and culture, Leonardo’s current experience at Brave New World has solidified his interest in this area of graphic design. “Working up to the creation of an image for a campaign has been a page-turner,” he explains. A quick look at his portfolio affirms that this is an interest which began during his time at university, however. With a breadth of inspirations and references which include artist Alberto Burri, designers Achille Castiglioni and Bruno Munari and director Federico Fellini, Leonardo’s work is understandably varied in its output and concepts.
It was during his last year at CSM that Leonardo began working on his typeface, Giovanni Grotesk. “I was always really fascinated by the craft of typography and with my graffiti background, letterforms have always been particularly appealing to me,” he explains. Through the medium of a typeface, the project explores identity with a particular relationship to Leonardo’s Italian roots.
“The name of the type comes from a joke with my university tutor,” Leonardo explains, “He would always confuse my name with another Italian student he had in the past and would always call me Giovanni.” It’s this story which informs Giovanni Grotesk’s specimen, which is full of Italian names.
Leonardo’s heritage feeds into a lot of what he creates, for example, in a collaboration with Edicola 518 which has now been going for over a year. Edicola 518 is a newsstand in Perugia, which was regenerated by a group of local artists, writers and students. Having been shut down due to “a terrible national crisis in the printed publishing industry,” this group “decided to launch its own cultural challenge, starting from this urban ruin with no apparent destination,” Leonardo tells us.
The newsstand offers a unique selection of independent magazines from all over the world and a curated selection of artist books, zines and small objects. “It was a pleasure to be part of this project,” he adds, “the newsstand is situated in the historical centre of my hometown making it a project that I’m more attached to. There is a lot of personal connection.” Edicola 518’s collection continues to grow, along with its reputation, and its website, designed by Leonardo will be launching soon.
With a practice which values personal connections and a true belief in the projects he works on, Leonardo is quickly growing an impressive portfolio. Although varied in concepts and form, each project is grounded in Leonardo’s visual stamp: the recurrent use of typography, coupled with “a certain softness and delicacy,” he concludes.
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