My Type of Revolution

Raissa Pardini is voicing messages of change and protest through bold graphic design
Art | 6 December 2021

In times when words are of fundamental importance but communication has turned instant, graphic design has risen as a global tool of expression and change. Although nothing new – think, for instance, to the use of posters during the Mai Française student riots, the use of banners by football ultras or, later on, to graffiti art – the mass consumption of our existence, from music to information, has further empowered graphic design, assigning it a central role in the art of contemporary communication and activism.

In this shift of graphic design from the ink-bleeding Xerox machines to the glow of smartphone screens, a whole generation of artists have found in social media a platform to affirm their art, but also their ideals.

Raissa Pardini is one of them. Born in Tuscany and grown up in the small but sparkling universe of the Italian provincial underground across the ’00s and the ’10s, Raissa no doubt made virtue of this heritage formed on subcultures, community life and design tradition. Whether collecting Northern Soul vinyl or studying typography, her dedication to a conscious and profound study of the past was never afraid of dialoguing with modernity, and with digital graphic design.

The result is a compendium of works that are equally stunning in print – whether on screen-printed posters or vinyl covers – and digital form.

Along this journey, where the heritage of Italian Futurist advertising design meets with the artist’s life experiences in Berlin, Glasgow and London, Raissa developed a trademark style made of bold colours, groovy fonts and rhythmical repetition of elements. Her contribution to the world of graphic design has been officially recognised by the V&A, which acquired a series of her works for its permanent collection earlier this year. All of this while gracing the tours and albums of many bands with her designs (Mystery Jets, The Orielles and Squid, to name a few), and working in partnership with the likes of Nadia Lee Cohen for the cover design of her book Women, renowned illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli on an Italian national campaign against homophobia, and creative studio Mathery.

Now, a selection of Pardini’s graphics displaying the more socially-informed and militant side of the artist’s views and experiences are on display at Poko, London. Titled My Type of Revolution, here her bold typography spells out messages of change, hope and protest towards a future as bright as the work itself.

GALLERY

Lorenzo Ottone: You hail from Italy, a country with an outstanding tradition in matters of design and visual arts. However, you have been living abroad for years, from Germany to England and Scotland. Is your trademark style the outcome of all your collected experiences?
Raissa Pardini: I strongly believe communities change the way we live, we consume, we deal with each other… and of course the way we approach creativity. Each city I’ve lived in has given me something different to experience – my practice became a bit of an organised mess between different languages, cultures and countries. That’s the only way I see myself creating and producing work.

LO: Your work has mostly become associated with music, however in this exhibition you tackle broader social themes, like inequality or mental health, for instance. Do these two aspects of your work communicate with each other or are they intended to be two separate bodies of work?
RP: They can be seen as different bodies of work, although being the only person who deals with these projects makes it inevitable to mix everything I feel and experience around my work. I can’t separate my personal opinions and activism from my practice, so I started to push my personal inputs onto the projects and bring more to the table.

LO: Your new solo exhibition is titled My Type of Revolution. Do you think that graphic design can impact people’s minds and lead to greater changes in society? If so, can this happen in the restless, instant society of scroll culture?
RP: I think a good design can only inspire people, however it’s ‘bad design’ that worries me the most. A bad communication, a sexist campaign, a homophobic copy, a misunderstood message: that’s what scares me the most. We know from history that bad campaigns lead to media reactions and community issues – those actions from the media are toxic. They can change the way people see a community or empower them to use their ignorance to speak up against those very communities.

“A bad communication, a sexist campaign, a homophobic copy, a misunderstood message: that’s what scares me the most”

LO: In times when art and graphic design are heavily shifting towards digital production and consumption, how relevant can the physical skills of the illustrator and designer still be? How pivotal is, instead, the virtual stage offered by social media?
RP: I’ve always tried to make my work available, regardless of the platform. I don’t like spending too much time making my designs relevant to one platform only, I think that wouldn’t give justice to the work in the long run.

I use as many outlets as possible, from print to digital. I’m just so keen to spread the word with my design and that’s how it becomes as accessible as possible. Not everyone is on Instagram, as much as not everyone buys books. Finding a balance between different platforms is key to making our work known, consumed and inspiring for all.

Opening conversations between professionals and students regarding what’s next is vital in order to keep the community healthy.”

LO: During the whole duration of the exhibition you’ll be offering free mentorships to students and up-and-coming designers. Do you think the UK could do more in terms of accessibility to training in the arts and empowerment of its future talents?
RP: I’m not a big fan of universities in general. The only thing that would attract me to study design right now would be to access to printing techniques, studio rooms and spaces to create. Rather than that, feeling lost and not ready for trading properly seems to be a mutual feeling between professionals who actually had an academic training. Opening conversations between professionals and students regarding what’s next is vital in order to keep the community healthy. I just want to give my time back to the community as much as possible, as I feel very lucky to be working as a designer. Inspiring other people, showing them we’re all here for each other, that can be a life-changing moment for a future creative.

My Type of Revolution by Raissa Pardini runs Monday to Friday at Poko Gallery, London, until February 17th, 2022.

Read Next


YES PLEASE, SIGN ME UP FOR ALL THE LATEST HERO NEWS