Torino Internazionale | The designer is analchemist


Luca Ballarini, Label/Bellissimo


At the end of the nineties, graphic design found new impetus. These were years when some important international companies began to commission work from small, agile and adaptable creative groups.

These groups paid no attention to job titles and account managers, suddenly making the big advertising agencies seem antiquated in their organisation and not very competitive in their creativity.

The concept of graphic authorship emerged, enabling graphics to rise not only to a higher intellectual level, but also be more effective commercially. This was the period when some pioneers, supported by the proliferation of style magazines, gave shape to the contamination between image and music, art and life style, suddenly becoming world stars: from the US West coast, with the deconstructed pages of Emigre and those full of typographical "errors" of Raygun, designed by David Carson that were to inspire an entire Mtv generation, from Designers' Republic in Sheffield with a superlative, minimal visual approach, through to the London of Tomato where all emotions merged in a new way of interpreting advertising. In the same period, something was also happening in Torino and, in the drive to re-invent itself, the city banked on creativity.

The clubbing scene exploded, linked above all to the conversion of Docks Dora into a night-time entertainment neighbourhood. DJ-culture was the cutting edge, promoted mainly by the work of Xplosiva. Thanks to these two factors, in just a few years Torino saw a proliferation in the production of graphics, flyers above all: it became vital for new clubs and bars to have their own identity. Parallel to this, young people's perception of graphics as a decisive element in forming their quality judgements increased: the aesthetic experimentation of graphic designers is connected to the new needs of this public and this helped to feed a system that fuels itself.

Publishing was also beginning to find a new beat. In the years after the birth of Label (the pilot issue came out in April 1997), many fanzines were founded, some still published. In 2001 Label was launched on the international market as the first Italian style magazine; distributed in 19 countries, it is still recognised as one of the most influential magazines with young adults, and highly original in its art direction and graphics. The publishing venture of the Labellers was followed by the launch of other magazines such as Baco, Uovo, and Cluster.

More recently, graphics have played a central role in the development of the identity of Torino as a capital of contemporary art. The leading institutions in the sector have gradually decided to entrust their communication to young creative professionals. The Bellissimo group, founded by the same nucleus as Label, was responsible for the image restyling and launch of the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation, the communication for events like Big Torino 2002 and Artigiano Metropolitano, designed the Internet sites for the GAM modern art gallery and the Fondazione Torino Musei. BoletsFernando has managed the image of Artissima for several years, while the 515 group promotes the local scene with the twin association Adelinquere. These collaborations are the clearest demonstration of the close bond between the artistic world and a growing number of self-taught publishers, graphic artists, designers and copywriters, in perfect equilibrium between striking creative independence and an original formula of continuous learning and updating.

If from the ideal point of view and looking to the future, the designer is, as the president of the Art Center College of Design of Pasadena Richard Koshalek says, "the alchemist of the future", the strategist that teaches companies how to be creative, in everyday life they are a catalyst of contrasting tensions. The designer is, in fact, co-author of the consumer spirit of corporations, who commission the work, and a privileged witness who feels the need to speak out in a way that helps society not to take anything for granted, to innovate, to change life in order to transform the world.