Graphic designer Leonardo Sonnoli (Trieste, 1962) worked and still works, like others, for the Venice Biennale, the Versailles Château, the Grassi-François Pinault Collection Palace, the Pompidou Centre, the Rovereto Mart, the Milan Triennale, the Design, GQ Magazine, The New York Times, Artissima, Zanotta, Giulio Iacchetti Studio.
Among his projects: environmental graphics for the welcoming areas of the Versailles Castle, the visible identity of the 50th Venice Biennale, the communication of cultural activities at Grassi Palace, Venice, and the communication of the Stanze exhibition at the Milan Triennale.
In 2004 Phaidon Press in its volume AREA placed him, the only Italian, on the list of the one hundred most relevant and innovative graphic designer, worldwide. In 2011 he obtained the Compasso d'Oro (in addition to two significant mentions in the years 2001 and 2014). He taught at RISD - Rhode Island School of Design (USA) and at Iuav University of Venice; currently he is professor at the ISIA of Urbino.
He is the author behind the installation promoted by F/ART for the new set-up of the Triennale Design Museum, we met him in order to outline his relationship with neon.
When and how was your interest in neon born?
As a graphic design student who is passionate about lettering, I have started to appreciate the shapes of the letters made with glass expanding towards the 3rd dimension. For the first time, through a non-frontal vision of neon letters, I discovered that a glyph could convert to a different sign.
My love for conceptual art came from this, since it often employs words as expressive material, and those artists who have illuminated those concepts through the use of neon.
Which features does a material need to make it more interesting to your job?
The vivid colors, the dynamicity and the rhythm that can be given to the word with the timer, in addition to lights overlapping.
A static word can embrace the characteristics of a visual poem as rhythm, presence or absence on paper/wall, adding the possibility of achieve the third and fourth dimension.
The expressive researches built on light are, due to their nature, strictly connected to the technical progress and to the technologies related to bright sources production. How does your work develop, between creative project and technical creation?
I mainly work as a graphic designer and the use of light takes a minor role in my job. It happens only when I – still guided by an architect – deal with the setting up.
For this reason, my technical knowledge of lighting design is weak and the support and the judgement of the manufacturing companies is fundamental.