‘3+2×5’ (2011) is a series of posters designed for ISIA Urbino to promote a change in the structure of its BA course – from four years to a three-year BA plus a two-year Masters course. Each poster features a large ‘3’ and ‘2’ – in many different fonts – offset-printed front and back on coloured paper. Sonnoli’s intention is that they can be combined in many different permutations when posted side by side.
Sonnoli’s identity design for cultural organisations such as the Sagra Musicale Malatestiana music festival and the Pinault Foundation make play with lines, symbols and glyphs that dance across screen and paper while leaving space for essential information about each event.
Sonnoli was born in Trieste, on the east coast of the Adriatic, right next to Italy’s border with Slovenia. He was taught to paint and draw by his mother, whom he describes as a very good artist. ‘I started to be fascinated by typography because I was very bad at illustration,’ he says. As a small boy he enjoyed writing poems, and loved to type them out, using the red and blue colours available on the ribbon of an old-fashioned typewriter. When he became a design student, he began to realise the possibilities of expressive typography, discovering the Russian avant-garde and the Bauhaus, chancing upon Neville Brody’s work during a trip to London in the late 1980s, and then realising that the first ever Futurist soirée was held in his birthplace, Trieste, in 1910.
He studied graphic design at ISIA Urbino, taking a break halfway to do his civilian service (as a conscientious objector) in Trieste. ‘There, I noticed on the wall some nice posters signed Tassinari/Vetta. At that time they were collaborating with Massimo Vignelli for the identity of a few exhibitions about the city of Trieste in Paris.’ Sonnoli worked for the practice as an intern, and it was here that he began to learn about design, print and paper. He regards Pierpaolo Vetta (1955-2003), who sadly died young, as his main mentor. Sonnoli went back to Urbino to complete his studies, then worked for Vetta for another year and a half before joining Dolcini, a bigger, more commercial studio. Their work was not so much to his taste, but he was given a lot of freedom to develop his ideas. When Dolcini fired him in 2002, he started CODEsign with Vetta, working from Rimini. After Vetta’s death he continued at the Rimini outpost of Tassarini/Vetta until leaving to start Studio Leonardo Sonnoli at the end of 2016.