Pt. 1: Franco Grignani

In 1908 Franco Grignani was born in Pieve Porto Morone in the north of Italy. Not much is known about his childhood, but his impact in the world of design began early. After attending a technical high school he entered the University of Pavia, where he got involved with the second generation futurists movement in 1926. After finishing 2 years of mathematics studies he moved to Turin to pursue architecture, and participated in a futurist exhibit in Rome organized by Filippo Marinetti. Although he studied architecture, he thrived in photography and painting, but became well known for his work in graphic design. His work rejected traditional painting techniques and instead used a scientific and psychological method.

When Grignani moved to Milan in 1934 he moved away from works in futurism and began studying more abstract geometric forms, experimenting extensively with photography, However his work was put on pause during World War II, he was put in charge of teaching people how to spot enemy aircraft. Since he didn’t have experience, he traced silhouettes of planes from a German military magazine to show the public easily identifiable forms in the sky. This exercise in relaying information through visuals would shape his graphic design career in the future. In 1942 he got married to Jeanne Michot, who was a prominent figure in the fashion world. When the War ended he experimented with new techniques and forms that would later influence OpArt. In the 50s his work in ad campaigns was seen as revolutionary compared to the classic romanticized ads of home life.

In 1952 he began working for Alfieri & Lacroix, a printing company that gave him full creative liberty with his advertising design, and because of this freedom he won a national award in advertising. In 1963 he created a logo for Woolmark in a competition run by the international wool secretariat, this is well known as his most famous graphic design project. The logo, called Woolmark, is quintessential Grignani, it uses only black and white lines to create an interesting yet simple visual optical illusion. It portrayed wool intertwined and gave it a natural and elegant look. Another well known project of his, was a collection of cover designs for science fiction books commissioned by Penguin Press. The collection included sixteen titles that he designed, all of them including one color with black negative space, his art was perfect for this project because it elicits a feeling of otherworldliness in the viewer, meshing with sci-fi perfectly.

He has had more than 50 solo exhibits all around the world, the most prominent being at the MOMA in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Stedelijk museum in Amsterdam. Grignani died in 1999 in Milan after complications from a degenerative disease. His work in graphic design was influential to the design world, never staying confined in one genre while holding true to his unique style. A quote he would always repeat was,

“A good drawing starts with a well sharpened pencil,”

perfectly encapsulating his imaginative, yet disciplined work.



Camera, Emiliano. “Franco Grignani.” a Whole Life, 28 Feb. 2022,

Grignani, Daniela. Edited by Emiliano Camera, Franco Grignani, 2020,

Lark, Jasmine. “Franco Grignani.” Widewalls, Widewalls, 4 Apr. 2016,

Schifano, Sara. “The Hypnotic, Mind-Bending Work of ItalianDesigner Franco Grignani.” Eye on Design, 8 July 2019,