Valerio Monopoli’s type designs celebrate history and all things bookish

The Barcelona-based type designer talks us through two of his recent projects, Gil Modern and PP®Räder, whilst also explaining why he has no problems conforming to design conventions.

Date
3 March 2022

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Here at It’s Nice That, we’ve not been able to get enough of Valerio Monopoli’s type, Gil Modern. So, we were even happier to hear that it is a project “born out of love”. Based on both modernist and Romanesque models, the type was made in celebration of the publication of his girlfriend’s masters thesis on Catalan architect Louis Domenech i Muntaner – which analysed “the influence of romanesque architecture in the modernist aesthetics through the example of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau”. The typography begins with the letters P and G, while flourishing with a coherent, calligraphy infused alphabet – a decision used in honour of the donor who financed the hospital Pau Gil. The Gil Modern project pretty much sums up the designer's approach to typography: he uses history and extensive research to inform his authentic yet modern designs.

With a love of historically informed design, it's no surprise that books have featured as one of Valerio’s biggest inspirations. Picked up from his parents – especially his mother, who he describes as an “indefatigable reader” – his interaction with books has been a fluid, ever-changing journey. “Being multilayered objects, both materially and conceptually, it took me some time to decide from which side I wanted to analyse them”, Valerio explains. As a result, he tried his had at some writing and studied as an editorial designer before quickly realising his aesthetic potential. “ I got interested in what ultimately were the visual components that made a book enjoyable and unique; typography struck me as the most fundamental of them, something I could experiment with and inject in my projects.” Later enrolling in a type design masters at EINA Barcelona, Valaerio began sharing his work on social media. The designer was then fortunate enough to attract Pangram Pangram founder Mathieu Desjardins’ attention with his first typeface, after which they began collaborating. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Valerio Monopoli: Räder (Copyright © Valerio Monopoli, 2022)

Blessed with a humorous and candid nature, Valerio has no shame when it comes to the stereotypes of the design profession: “I’m passionate about chess, fusion jazz, cheese and basically anything type designers like nowadays: I conform to the standard,” he says. And this philosophy also somewhat extends to his physical practice. Usually working within the limits of typographical convention, Valerio mostly seeks inspiration outside of it: “you could say that my curiosity revolves around finding unexpected formal structures within a familiar framework”, he explains. The designer also has some honest and quite frank reflections on the design profession. Stating that, like any specialised craft, type design can get “very sclerotic and methodical"; he advises keeping yourself distracted. “Distraction is a rather effective antidote to tunnel-vision, but one must not be picky. Anything can be turned into inspiration!”

Recently at Pangram Pangram, Valerio worked on the release of PP®Räder, a deco-infused type inspired by 20th century German road signage. Boasting a blocky yet rounded design that has an instantly evocative impression, the type could easily have been plucked off the streets of 1960s Berlin. Starting its life as 64 characters (designed in just a single day!) the type now consists of a whopping 1500-glyphs and many more typographical adornments, even some language-specific ones for German users. Being the first design that Valerio has developed after receiving a strong reception on social media – with many designers asking him to bring it to completion – Valerio now wants to take into account the considerations of other designers and clients. “I’m starting to take into higher and higher consideration the needs of the users, as I believe re-contextualisations are what truly breathe life into a type project.”

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Valerio Monopoli: Gil Modern (Copyright © Valerio Monopoli, 2021)

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Valerio Monopoli: Räder (Copyright © Valerio Monopoli, 2022)

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Valerio Monopoli: Korium (Copyright © Valerio Monopoli, 2021)

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Valerio Monopoli: Korium (Copyright © Valerio Monopoli, 2021)

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Valerio Monopoli: Sapfir (Copyright © Valerio Monopoli, 2022)

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Valerio Monopoli: Sapfir (Copyright © Valerio Monopoli, 2022)

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Valerio Monopoli: Sagittaire (Copyright © Valerio Monopoli, 2021)

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Valerio Monopoli: Untitled (Copyright © Valerio Monopoli, 2020)

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Valerio Monopoli: Eglise (Copyright © Valerio Monopoli, 2022)

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Valerio Monopoli: Gil Modern (Copyright © Valerio Monopoli, 2021)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in illustration, photography, ceramic design and platforming creativity from the north of England.

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