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Univisual - Brand Consulting
31 JAN 2013

About Campo Grafico, the technical and aesthetic graphic journal, published from 1933 to 1939, an Italian style incubator for typography and visual design.


A proposito di Campo Grafico, la “Rivista di Estetica e di Tecnica Grafica”, pubblicata dal 1933 al 1939, bacino di incubazione dell’Italian Style per la Tipografia e la Comunicazione Visiva.

On 31 January 2013 – 80 years after the publication of "Campo Grafico / Rivista di Estetica e Tecnica Grafica” – Gaetano Grizzanti established the ASSOCIAZIONE CAMPO GRAFICO in Milan, together with Mauro Chiabrando and the sons of the founders of the journal: Massimo Dradi and Pablo Rossi.

The journal Campo Grafico: Rivista di Estetica e di Tecnica Grafica (A Journal of Aesthetics and Technical Graphics) was an exceptionally original collective publishing venture, that ran between the two world wars, in the northern Italian city of Milan. In the inter-war period, Milan was at the vanguard of new debates on ‘The Modern’, with several vitally important creative hubs, such as the art gallery ‘Il Milione’ and the café ‘Bar Craja’, which helped to ferment fresh ideas on modern taste in Italy and abroad; holding discussions on topics ranging from the fate of architecture to new typography, and hosting exhibitions on abstract painting. It was in this creative climate that the revolutionary journal, Campo Grafico, was launched in 1933, by the artists Attilio Rossi and Carlo Dradi.

Campo Grafico immediately became an ideal aggregation point for similarly-minded independent, free spirits, many of whom had hitherto worked in complete obscurity. Whatever their training, technical and/or artistic, they were open minds responding to the provocative intellectual stimulus that had characterized the European avant-gardes in the previous decade.

“Campo Grafico” first editorial staff in the Dradi/Rossi office, in corso Vercelli (Milano - 1933). From left to right: Bruno Pallavera, Attilio Rossi, Pasinetti, Giuseppe Muggiani, Augusto Arguti, and Carlo Dradi (seated).

As he recalled fifty years later, the co-founder Attilio Rossi, explained that his entirely new experimental graphic arts journal drew on the experiences and “the teachings of the Bauhaus, the stimulating lessons of [the journal] Esprit Nouveau, edited by Ozenfant and Jeanneret, and of ‘Ornamento e delitto’, the famous essay by Adolf Loos, as well as the architecture of Walter Gropius, the rationalist movement of Le Corbusier, the masters of new art (Klee, Kandinskij, Picasso, etc.), without forgetting the new frontiers of modern music (Malipiero, Stravinskij)”.

Although launched in 1933, the Campo Grafico adventure actually began in 1932, in a tavern in ‘via delle Asole’, a small street not far from Milan’s imposing gothic cathedral, where the core group of the journal’s founding writers and artists met periodically. They knew that there was a dire need to rejuvenate the graphic arts: from a technical point of view, they wanted to combine typographical quality with the great strides made in photography; at the aesthetic level, it was necessary to overcome the constricting, inadequate limits of neoclassical symmetry and typography as art; lastly, culturally, they knew that such innovation could only come about from the cross-fertilization of typography, rationalist architecture, and the european artistic avant-garde.

Number one Campo Grafico cover (​​designed by Carlo Dradi, Battista Pallavera, Attilio Rossi) and the magazine's opening page.

Finally, the arguments of the new graphic aesthetics that Guido Modiano and Edoardo Persico had anticipated, between 1931 and 1932, in the magazine Tipografia, could be further discussed, such as the identity and the role of the new professional figure of ‘graphic designer’, which necessarily meant a thorough transformation of teaching programmes in professional schools.

The miracle that was Campo Grafico was only possible thanks to the voluntary contribution and generosity of several professional insiders (typographers, compositors, lithographers, linotypists, phototypists, and graphic artists), often working in their free time and on public holidays.

Some of the 66 covers of “Campo Grafico” magazine, all different as a result of graphic experimentation, signed by: Piero Bernardini (​​Year II / Nr. 10 / October 1934); Vordemberge Gildewart (​​Year II / Nr. 11 / November 1934); Carlo Dradi and Attilio Rossi - photo taken by Boggeri studio (​Year II / Nr. 12 / December 1934).

Campo Grafico’s supporters also lent their support to friends in cognate areas, such as painters, scenographers, sculptors, and architects, since the journal’s constitution dictated that there should be no distinction between manual labour and intellectual work, nor class barriers – all artistic, human, and political values were to be equally considered with seriousness, a critical spirit, and adherence to truth, that normally occurs only after a political and social revolution.

Only recently, by bringing together various texts, memories, and other data, has it been possible to reconstruct what was the actual overall circulation of the magazine: namely, 500 copies per issue, sold via subscription, to supporters and printers.

In addition to its articles and advertising, Campo Grafico often contained inserts, attachments, and unnumbered tip-ins – such as: book covers, writing papers, greeting cards, closing notice for holidays, posters, folding, postcards, graphic projects of college students, announcements, price lists – some of which, by their very nature, were inserted loose, and unfortunately have mostly been lost.

Typical print sample that was applied on some pages of “Campo Grafico” magazine, in this case two graphic projects designed by the students of “Scuola del Libro di Milano” (​Year V / Nr. 5-6 / may-june 1937).

As far as we know, the complete collections of all 66 issues of Campo Grafico can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The inserts out of foliation were independent typographic works of typographies, printed advertising for various clients or essays of the graphic tutorials of the schools.

Below different examples of interesting modern graphic layout designed by “Campo Grafico” magazine.

Look at all the 66 issues of “Campo Grafico” magazine at: www.campografico.org

Univisual designs the corporate identity of the ASSOCIAZIONE CAMPO GRAFICO. See the project here

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