Roma Day XI: A Modern End To A Historic Trip

Jun 08 2015

By Molly Stump

We finished all of our scheduled workshops, tours, and lessons with a tour of the Roman graphic design studio Marimo.

The day began with us taking a bus to a district due east of our hotel. This graffiti covered neighborhood had a youthful, creative energy to it that was nearly tangeable. It felt similar to how I feel in my neighborhood of Bushwick back in Brooklyn, or how the Lower East Side felt when I would visit family in NYC as a child. It felt like where all of young Rome was living, vastly different of the tourist filled historic center we had been staying. Neither one of course being better than the other, it was just a stark contrast.

When the studio was ready to see us, our professors lead us into a massive building they told us was a former pasta factory. I was a little uncertain of where they were taking us as they led us into a slightly decrepit gray stone loading area to take the elevator up to the studio. The elevator could not even stand the weight of taking all of us up to the studio at once, we had to go in three waves. (fig. 1).

An old Vespa and boxing bag lay outside the studio door. Not something I typically see outside most graphic design firms. (fig. 2)

But what I found inside was a large open space, with a high celling, white walls and hardwood floors. There were about a half dozen tables each holding about 4 Mac computers with designers hard at work at them. There was a small, communal kitchen. And space clearly dedicated to being able to properly photograph whatever would be needed. The walls were lined with bookshelves, and posters of the studios work. This repurposed industrial space resembled many of the hippest, modern studios I have visited in Dumbo, Brooklyn. (fig. 3).

We huddled around a projector and sitting area, as Paola Manfroni showed us videos and samples of the work the studio has created. She mentioned that they actually shared the space with a photography studio, about half the tables there were full of their photographers. Very convenient for when they needed someone to take great pictures for their work. She explained this former factory now rented spaces solely to artist to have their studios, and they were the only commercial art firm of any of them in the building. (fig. 4)

At the end she took questions and answers. We learned the studio had been founded by she and two other women who formerly worked at McCann Erickson Rome. They each left in at nearly the same time. When one was unexpectedly asked to take a job for Barilla Pasta, the three ended up founding the studio. It has grown to now employ 12 designers. She spoke of the difficulty of knowing how to adjust to the changing demands of the industry, having traditionally been a print design firm, as the world becomes increasingly digital. I was quite surprised to hear her say as well that she felt the barriers of being a woman in the industry were actually stronger now, than when they founded the firm eight years ago. She said she was very unsure of why that was. Although it was obvious that everyone at the firm were quite intelligent and talented. (fig.5.)

After the studio tour, we had a real treat for lunch. We went just across the street to Said, which was a fourth generation owned chocolate factory. As the great grand daughter of the founder explained to us they had recently given up making other sorts of non-chocolate treats to instead open a restaurant in the space in addition to continuing to make some of the most delicious chocolate I’ve ever had. (fig. 6.)