Ilio Negri at the beginningIlio Negri was one of the protagonists of that exceptional season of the Milanese graphic design that has accompanied the made in Italy production from the post-war recovery to modernity, with his creative and methodologic contribute. A maybe less known name, for his reserved and timid personality, even if many have known him, indirectly, coming across his “marks”, from the Autobianchi Logo, to the Boffi Kitchen, to the Lagostina pots, the Recordati medicines, all the way to Pirelli pneumatics.
Since a very young age Ilio was exposed to the world of graphics and visual communication, gaining artisanal experience in his father’s typography, of which he becomes the head in 1947.
In 1956 he becomes the director of the Sezione Grafica dell’Editrice C.M Lerici, which meanwhile had bought over the typography.
Negri and Confalonieri in an advertising for Pirelli laminatesIn 1956 Ilio convinces his friend Giulio, school friend and rugby team mate, initially a committed painter and who had already taken part in the publishing of a couple of Lerici’s book, to become an associate in the graphic design studio of via Lanzone, which takes the name of Studio Confalonieri & Negri. It gives birth to a magic alchemy between two very different personalities, Giulio impetuous and spontaneous, with great skills even in the role of “account”, Ilio, stricter and more methodic, with an in-depth knowledge of the typographic language. Together they produce unforgettable pages, of a unique creative energy and of a clean and sharp mark.
Proof are the works realized for Pirelli, Cassina, Innocenti, Boffi, the covers of Domus and Stile Industria, the productions for the pavilion Italia in the ’61 and other important fairs and the series of books for the Lerici Publishing.
From the left: Negri, Confalonieri, Tovaglia and ProvincialiNegri meets Michele Provinciali e Pino Tovaglia at the Scuola Umanitaria, all three of them being professors of tecnical-artistic courses. Together with Confalonieri he meets them again during the collaborations with Pirelli, but it was probably during the encounters and the events organized by Milan’s Art Director Club that starts the idea to found together a big professional studio, on the model of the big companies born in UK and United States, but with a strong graphic imprinting. From the initials of all founders starts the CNPT. Few months after the starting of the project Confalonieri decides to abandon the group, which in that short time had already achieved the realization of very important pieces of work: from RAI’s sigla, to advertising campaigns for Total and Superga, to the first example of brand identity projects for a self-service station for Plügen Bräu, designed by Achille Castiglioni. The strong personalities of the three graphic designers clash, preventing a good collaboration, they so decide to dismiss the collective and carry on with their respective practices.
Ilio Negri in his office of via privata Borromei
In 1965 Ilio Negri decides to carry forward his professional activity on his own. During this period, he consolidates his methodologic approach to brand identity, developing visual identities of many companies such as Autobianchi, Recordati, Giuliani, De Cardenas and Tronconi. His studio intervenes on the company’s global image, also working on strong coordinated advertising campaigns that see the collaboration of big photographers such as Ugo Mulas, Aldo Ballo, Giampaolo Barbieri and the collaboration of architects and designers such as Ponti, Rosselli, Frattini and Bettonica.
Simultaneously he carries on personal projects on formal and structural graphics, such as multiple series of zodiac signs utilized in the very peculiar calendars he created for his clients, and also realizing graphic tables that reproduce, for example, the possible compositions of geometric figures on modular grids.
His commitment to social communication peaks with his participation to the Rimini Exhibition of the 1970 titled “Aggressiveness and Violence of man towards the environment”.
Ilio joins the research group of the Nebiolo association, for which he designs, together with Aldo Novarese and others, the Forma Typo, which he received the Gold Compass Insigna in 1971.
Amongst his last works we find the series of leaflets for Milan Touristic club and for the Lombardia Region that puts graphic design to the service of the artistic patrimony for cultural tourism. He dies prematurely in 1974.
Among the different clients and consultancies: Agnona, Amaro Cora, Autobianchi, Bassetti, Boffi, Cassina, Contardo, De Cardenas, Ente Provinciale Turismo di Milano, Fondazione Lerici, Fendi by Cwfurs, Fratelli Ormezzano, Frigerio, Giuliani, Guerlain, Innocenti, Italseber, Hanania Lancellotti, Jole Veneziani, Koh i Noor, Lagostina, Lanificio Ormezzano, Mattex, Midy, Milanflex, Museo della Scienza e della Tecnica, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Nebiolo, Oggiono, Panizza Pellicce Moda, Pirelli, Poltronova, Pomellato, Rai Radio Televisione Italiana, Recordati, Regione Lombardia, Splugen Brau, Thonet, Total, Tronconi, Valentino, Vallardi, Veneziani, Vergani.
- Diploma Typomundus 21.
- Honour Insigna X Milan Triennale.
- Gold Medalist XI Milan Triennale.
- Gold Medalist Viareggio prize, 1959.
- Merit Certificate ADC New York, 1964.
- Grand Prix XIII Milan Triennale.
- Best illustrated book Prize, Bratislava 1967.
- 5 diplomas a Typomundus 20, Stuttgart 1970.
- ADC Packaging Prize, 1970.
- Gold Compass Insigna, 1970.
- Milan’s ADC Brand Identity Prize, 1971.
- Milan’s ADC Category Advertising Campaigns Prize, 1971.
- Milan's School Umanitaria,
- Monza’s State Art’s Institution,
- Milan’s Davide Campari Technical Advertising High School.
Joins the research group of the Nebiolo society, for which he designs, together with Aldo Novarese and others, the Forma Typo, which he received the Gold Compass Insigna in 1971. Member of ADCM, ADI, AIAP, ICTA (Int Center of Typographic Art of New York) he campaigns for the affirmation and recognition of the graphic designer as a professional figure and for the insertion of graphic design in the industrial design sphere.