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LOL Cats and Contamination: Leftloft Designs TDC 63

Each year the Type Directors Club assembles an international team of distinguished designers and judges who help us roll out our competition, which showcases the best in graphic design and type design from around the world. Together we build the website, design the annual, and, of course, choose the outstanding work from amongst the year’s nearly 2000 entries. The concept and design of TDC 63 (you might have noticed the blinking blue banner at the top of this page) is brought to you by Italian branding and design consultancy Leftloft. We asked them a few questions:

Who is Leftloft?
Leftloft is an independent studio where ideas, people and skills converge to develop a wider vision for design, culture and communication. There are approximately 20 designers, writers and developers here in our Milan studio from all over the world. Graphic design is only one of many elements in a project, which all have to be coordinated and balanced.

Leftloft partners

Leftloft partners: Andrea Braccaloni, David Pasquali, Francesco Cavalli, Bruno Genovese

What types of clients do you have? Do you work for other American clients?
We don’t have a standard client; we work with a lot of museums, contemporary art organizations, large publishing houses and historical companies for whom we provide rebranding, art direction and strategy. When we work on a commission, we like to get inside the project and get to know the client as best as possible. Our American clients work with our branch in Dumbo, NY.

You are doing the TDC competition design basically pro bono. What did you think when we asked you to design for us (be honest).
We have known of the TDC pretty much ever since we started working and we were honored to have been chosen to create and design the graphics for the competition. Some real design gurus have done so before us and we are incredibly proud to see our name on that list. The odd person on the project team had a brief panic along the lines of “oh no, every graphic designer in the world is going to see my work, I really need to do a good job…”, but in general we had fun.

What’s the idea behind the design theme of this year’s competition?
This year’s design theme was inspired by the way the digital world has contaminated traditional writing typographically. The hashtag, dash, at sign and slash are all elements that have totally permeated the way we write. We were intrigued by the idea of creating an alphabet in which the standard glyphs were altered or even replaced by graphic symbols that we know from other contexts. We chose a monospace font to make the overall effect more schematic and digital.

Were you sad we didn’t choose the LOL cats proposal?
Yes we were, but the hardest part was having to break it to the cats

What inspires you right now design-wise?
Inspiration is a tricky thing; it can arrive from any detail, environment, shape or sound. We believe strongly in contamination and co-design. This year we created and organized Touchpoint, a series of conferences and workshops in which designers and non-designers worked together to create concepts and prototypes. It is quite incredible what can happen when the design method is applied to environments other than design.

How do you think Italian design differs from American?
We are much less organized at work in Italy, which creates a real spirit of survival and problem-solving. This means that we are more frequently led by our intuition and less by any analytical process.

Brera and Solferino typefaces by Leftloft

Brera and Solferino typefaces designed by Leftloft for Corriere della Sera, a major Italian newspaper.

ebranding and cover design for the Oscar Mondadori series of paperback books published by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore

Rebranding and cover design for the Oscar Mondadori series of paperback books published by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore

dOCUMENTA(13) by Leftloft

Part of the identity and communication campaign for dOCUMENTA(13), the international contemporary art exhibition.

What’s a day like at Leftloft? Do you all ride Vespas and drink espresso? (haha)
Of course, when we’re not eating pizza.
The studio is actually very international so we don’t really conform to many Italian stereotypes. It is a pleasant and diverse environment and we do a lot together: we have “Nonushta” (Uzbek for breakfast) together once a week, a show-n-tell breakfast to update our colleagues about our work, and often at lunchtime somebody will cook and we all eat together out in the courtyard… Come to think of it, this is rather similar to the stereotypical film scenes of big family dinners with red and white checked tablecloths.

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Graphic design AND type design are two talents that don’t often reside within one agency. You created Brera and Solferino for a newspaper client and have collaborated with TypeTogether to create LFT ETICA and LFT ETICA SHERIFF. How has designing type informed your graphic design work?
We struggle to think about graphic design without typography! They are both means of communication and writing is the most immediate solution. We always try and design with a typographical strategy, eliminating graphic design as an ornament and giving the right shape and value to the words. Simplicity is the foundation of our work: a few select elements that work well together.

What’s on your desk right now?
Perhaps a better question would be “What’s not on your desk right now?” – it’s overflowing with sketches, stuff related to ongoing projects, paper samples, pencils, empty espresso cups… It’s a total mess!

—Angela Voulangas / Joe Newton, TDC63 co-chairs