Exploring the gender gap through Italian history of art and book design

Milan-based communication design studio Tomo Tomo talks us through its latest book design project, a documentation of artist Alessandro Scotti's recent work.

13 January 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read


“What fascinates us about graphic design, and about every kind of design project, is the connection between form and content and the subtle balance that binds these two elements, making our profession fundamental for cultural development and for any business,” explains Luca Pitoni, co-founder of the Milan-based communication design studio Tomo Tomo. Established alongside Davide Di Gennaro, the Italian duo work across a variety of disciplines in the cultural sector, from visual identities to the creation of digital tools.

As a specialist in both publishing and visual identities, Tomo Tomo prides itself on this in-depth exploration into the relationship between form and content. Its projects are created with precision and subtlety, and every design decision has an intention behind it. Clearly exemplified in Luca and Davide’s latest project, Respect. Stop violence against women, the studio was approached by The Censis (Centre for Social Investment Studies) to document their research around the gender gap in Italy. The project first came about when Censis, the primary socio-economic research institute in Italy, asked photographer Alessandro Scotti to create a project around the topic of gender inequality in the form of an exhibition and catalogue.

Having worked together previously, Alessandro asked Tomo Tomo to “think about the exhibition and catalogue as a unique operation”, designing something with a strong identity which suitably reflected the issue at hand. In turn, Luca and Davide created a catalogue where its pages also function as source material to the exhibition. They envisioned the print design as a large atlas with spiral binding, allowing the reader to easily detach the pages from the publication to hang on the wall.


Tomo Tomo: Respect. Stop violence against women

Divided into three parts, the publication documents the main report carried out by Censis, followed by a section titled Bellezze d’Italia, meaning beauties of Italy. This second part importantly contains “reworkings of pictorial images to represent the evolution of man-woman relationships and the perception of femininity over the centuries,” explains Luca. And finally, the third section the Atlas of Misogyny takes on the form of an actual atlas, capturing zenith photography at its height and documenting the information in the style of old maps.

Each section possesses a distinct design to reflect the variety of content. With different coloured paper and colour schemes, “we wanted it to be perceived as three different moments of the same project,” adds Luca. “Just like how there are three different rooms in an exhibition.” Similar to how Alessandro’s work highlights the gender gap through subtle indications that point to deep-rooted aspects of society, akin to the photographer, Tomo Tomo treated the publication’s design in a non-obvious way.

Through an intricate design system gently hinting to the subject at hand, Luca and Davide stimulate the reader’s curiosity with unusual design solutions. For instance, in the section Bellezze d’Italia, the designers draw inspiration from a universal symbol of female iconography, early Renaissance paintings of the Italian Madonna, and utilise the gold-bronze colour in their designs. Contrastingly, the designers use the colour not in a suggestion of virginal purity, but in the background of a rape scene, subverting the subconscious representations of the female role in society through the colour gold – a historically poignant colour always used in a particular context. Then offsetting such implications with a “plain” typeface, the designers chose Radim Pesko’s Union to inject the fact-heavy content with the contemporary. “Union is a kind of neutral typeface,” Luca finally goes on to say, “it works very well both in a small and display size.” He concludes that the thoughtful design is “perfect for this kind of project.”

GalleryAll images by Tomo Tomo: Respect. Stop violence against women

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All images by Tomo Tomo: Respect. Stop violence against women

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

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.


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