Twisted Yarn

Typechap (aka Stephen O'Neill) recently came across the world's favourite logo (designed by the great Franco Grignani) in slightly unusual circumstances – while on type safari in downtown Croydon to be precise…

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Station Road in Croydon is hardly the world’s most glamourous street. A winding row of semi-derelict buildings squashed up against mobile phone repair shops. However, up above a boarded up shop called ‘itters needs’, I spotted the greatest logo ever created.

Just hanging in there.

This logo is the Woolmark logo, created back in 1964. It’s a stunningly simple solution attributed to Italian designer Franco Grignani, however there is a slightly unusual story behind it. Although the Alliance Graphique International (AGI) credit him with the design, they mention that he had entered the logo into a competition under the name of ‘Francesco Saroglia’. A year previously, The International Wool Secretariat (IWS) had organized a competition to design a new logo for Woolmark, and they appointed Grignani as one of the judges to choose a winner from the submitted logos. The story goes that Grignani was unimpressed by what he saw, but entered one of his studies for a new logo under that pseudonym – the subject matter was perfect for his style after all. And that logo was chosen as the instantly recognisable trademark for wool that we all know today.

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As well as being a graphic designer, Grignani was an artist who was involved with the futurists, before moving towards a geometric style that was at the origins of Op Art, creating thousands of experimental works. This style crossed over into his design work – notably with the Woolmark logo – and he also mixed swirling typography, lines, and also high contrast photomontages to stunning effect for clients such as Pirelli and printers Alfieri & Lacroix.

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So anyone wanting to learn more about Grignani’s extensive amount of work should head to Islington’s Estorick Collection and make a date in the diary for July to visit their upcoming exhibition on the man himself. There, I’m sure you can see the work of someone called ‘Francesco Saroglia’ – but we all recognise it as Grignani’s genius.

Like pure new wool, you can’t fake the real thing

Franco Grignani: Art as Design 1950-1990
5 July 2017 to 10 September 2017

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
39a Canonbury Square
London   N1 2AN