The correlation between artistry and struggle, and the recession and blossoming creativity, is nearly always bandied about lazily, and often as a supposed (and problematic) up-side to arts funding cuts. But there’s no doubt that tighter economic purse strings drive the creative industries to act differently. Such change has been felt acutely by designers in Italy, where the big agency model is being rapidly replaced, or at least heavily supplemented, with a fertile array of small, kitchen table studios. Leading the pack is La Tigre, a Milan-based studio founded by Luisa Milani and Walter Molteni in 2009, known for their direct but playful visual language. Their editorial work has been much sought after since their early days and the duo have just started to win huge clients, not least the rebrand of much-loved Italian department store Bassetti, a national treasure equivalent to something like John Lewis.
“In Italy, the big studios are less important than in the past,” says Molteni. “Milano is full of clients and businesses, plus all the magazines are here, but you can’t compare it with London or New York. It’s quite small and because of the crisis there’s not a lot of mobility. But it’s an opportunity for little studios like us, because brands that now have lower budgets are starting looking around, they find they want quality, not the name of the big agency.”