There are some logos that have special qualities; logos so familiar that when we see them they send us back to the past – like a Proustian madeleine – to moments loaded with meaning and emotion. Fabriano’s logo is one such sign, present not only on the school desk of every Italian pupil, but also on the notebooks and paper of professionals the world over.
The credit for the creation of this internationally known icon goes to Carlo Cattaneo, Milanese designer and artist, active in the 1970s. Born in 1934, during the course of his career he worked on graphic design for Alfa Romeo, Pirelli, Ferrero, and Solari. From 1967 he used Fabriano’s papers – above all Murillo – for both realist and abstract work. For projects such as I girasoli e le stelle [Sunflowers and stars] and Il pesce e l’onda [The fish and the wave] you can see his closeness to Constructivism, and also to the aesthetic sense and narrative tension of his peers, Enzo Mari and Alessandro Mendini.
An additional influence, that of the Japanese tradition of origami, is also visible in his zoomorphic sculptures Ape [Bee], Rana [Frog] and Bruco [Caterpillar]. These works were often presented in book form, as in Box Totem and Poesia di Carta [Poetry of Paper], published in the 1970s by Nava. Between play and environmental art, Cattaneo also produced significant public art works, consistently using paper as his material of choice. Such is Sculture da campo [Sculptures of the field] and Sculture di piazza [Sculptures of the piazza] on show in Cefalù, in Sicily, but also in the 1977 exhibition ‘From Flat to Form: Ben Gurule and Carlo Cattaneo’ at the Craft and Folk Art Museum (today the Craft Contemporary) in Los Angeles.
It was in 1971 that Cattaneo was invited by Fabriano to redesign their brand name. It began with a font much in vogue at the time – Avant Garde – designed by Herb Lubalin in the mid 1960s. With its dry, angular lines, its very name evoked a character capable of embodying the promise of modernity, experimentation and faith in a world that was about to be transformed by a visionary generation. Cattaneo also began from this premise, coming up with a geometric and linear brand design that was easily adaptable, distinguished by a clarity and readability that would make it universal and long lasting. Over the course of 50 years, the logo had lost its shine but not its power. To bring it up to date, Fabriano asked Pentagram London to reinterpret it, bringing to life a brand identity in step with the times. With huge respect and attention to the historic and emotional value of the brand, the 2021 redesign recognised the enormous value of Cattaneo’s work, and in paying it due homage the studio has made it even more contemporary. The first two letters are detached, the spacing is enhanced, the ‘A’ has lost its horizontal line and the stretch is slightly diminished. Using the ‘F’ and the ‘A’, Pentagram has also designed a new monogram, perfect for (but not limited to) social media.
The new design enables a more strategic placement on a multitude of products and formats from digital to paper, reflecting the fact that paper is the substance that has defined the extraordinarily, long history of the company, but also the life story of Carlo Cattaneo.