Flora Sala’s touch behind the Fantini Cosmi image

Flora Sala, an art director who has been designing record covers for many Italian singers for over 40 years, tells how the collaboration with Fantini Cosmi came about.

12/09/2023  |  Fantini Cosmi Reading time

Not everyone knows that the image of Fantini Cosmi is curated by a professional well known for her collaboration with some of the most important artists in Italian music. We’re talking about Flora Sala, an art director who has been designing record covers for many Italian singers for over 40 years. She has participated in numerous collaborations, including those with Pooh, Francesco De Gregori, Eros Ramazzotti, Ivano Fossati, Patty Pravo, I Nomadi, Donatella Rettore, Loredana Berté, Giovanni Allevi, and many others.

The collaboration with Fantini Cosmi arose from a completely chance meeting, that with Angelo Brambilla, the company’s president, and from a passion they share: ski mountaineering. We asked Flora to tell us some anecdotes about her professional career and how her collaboration with Fantini Cosmi began, starting with that first fortuitous and fortunate meeting.


What was the path that made you one of the most sought-after designers by Italian artists?

I actually wanted to study interior design, but then I found that graphics attracted and stimulated me more. It was something I did not know, I was curious, and it was immediately clear to me that I wanted to do that in life. After my studies, I started working at a record company that was looking for a graphic designer and I have not left the music world since. In those early years I worked with Luciano Tallarini, a very well-known name in the recording world, who taught me a lot and allowed me to collaborate on important projects for artists like Mina. But already at the age of 25 I felt I had to embark on my own path and I opened my first agency called “Strawberries and Cream”: many artists I had met followed me.


How was your first meeting with Angelo Brambilla?

Angelo and I met in the mid-1980s in the snow during a holiday. When he found out what I did, he asked me if I could help him solve a non-trivial challenge: he said, “I have an innovative programmable thermostat, but precisely because it is new I have to find a way to make it easy to understand how to use. It was 1985, the year of the launch of Intellitherm C21, the first digital programmable thermostat manufactured in Italy. That was the start of my collaboration with Fantini Cosmi.  I created the first graphics on this programmable thermostat and I believe I was a precursor to “icons”, graphic symbols that were meant to make the user understand that each button had its own specific function: at the time there were no examples to start from, icons were not something people were used to seeing and interpreting.

After that project, my collaboration continued as Art Director until today.


What have you been particularly involved with for Fantini Cosmi over the years?

There have been many and diverse projects: I worked on the Fantini Cosmi logo, which was updated several times over the course of time, on products, advertising campaigns, catalogues and price lists, gifts, point-of-sale materials. In more recent years, I have also worked on stands for trade fairs. I have also taken care of some projects for collaboration with renowned artists, such as the recent one with Mimmo Paladino for the Ecocomfort 2.0 Smart product.

In all these years, the critical issue has always been the same: explaining Fantini Cosmi products to the end user while communicating to the installer. If the image is too sophisticated it is no good, if it is too simple it is no good. The difficulty lies in communicating in a simple way what the product does with an image that expresses the sophistication that characterises the company.


Was there a year that marked a turning point in Fantini Cosmi’s image?

There was a turning point In 2010. We started to include different graphics in the catalogue, with waves and flows, recalling the movement of heat, air and wind.


What were the most impactful campaigns?

Some were disruptive in their simplicity. I am thinking of the campaign for the C32 product “Perfect as an egg” with the big, clean image of an egg or the campaign for Aspira “If you don’t want hot air” with the drawing of a fried egg. Simple but powerful images that remain.

The campaign for the C800WiFi with the synapses of the brain and the slogan… “Simply Smart” was also very impactful.

Let’s say that with Angelo’s son Franco Brambilla taking over the company, we had a lot of fun: especially during his first years in the company, he would come to my studio and we would design together. He was open to experimentation. With Franco, we also paid a lot of attention to product design: he understood the importance of product aesthetics and invested time and effort.


What was the biggest challenge?

Certainly the 90th anniversary for what it represented for Fantini Cosmi. We had a lot of material, a video to produce, advertisements in Corriere della Sera and Gazzetta dello Sport. Impactful creativity was needed and I focused on very bright colours, on completely different graphics from what had been done in the past. The company gave me a nice show of trust and esteem and I still remember the words of Angelo who said ‘”if you tell me it’s OK I will accept that because you are a professional”.

Also the collaboration with an artist like Mimmo Paladino was also quite a challenge: it was not a foregone conclusion to convince an artist of that calibre to create a silkscreen print for a ventilation product like Ecocomfort 2.0 Smart. Paladino, however, accepted the idea of elevating ventilation to a work of art. The study of the product packaging was also important, as was all the accompanying image.



What has been the most complex job?

The creation of stands for large trade fairs. In recent years we have built very large stands, on two floors, with more than 350 products on display. In spite of this basic complexity, we still managed to give an idea of elegance.

I always enjoy the challenge of the stand: in the last edition of the Mostra Convegno Expocomfort trade fair I even added 200 copper springs hanging above the reception desk… a folly of mine, but these are the peculiarities for which I like working with Fantini Cosmi, because the company leaves me room to express my creativity.


What is the difference between working for an artist in the music business and for a company like Fantini Cosmi?

Every customer has its own complexity. I’ve always done record covers and music is my passion, so it’s easier for me. You have to get in tune with the artist and study the lyrics of the songs and the project behind them.

Working for companies is different: they have a pyramid organisation. There are so many people who take over the final decision: the marketing director, the communications manager, the CEO… so many steps that make the process tiring and complicated. But experience leads you to guide the client, to make him trust you as a professional.


Has computer technology changed your profession and how?

Technology has brought a strong acceleration. The timing of the realisation of a concept or campaign has changed. Creative ideas actually take time to process, so speed has often adversely affected quality. Today, however, I see a reversal in this trend: creative agencies are starting to ask for the time needed for proper proposal formulation: rushing does no one any good.


What do you think about artificial intelligence?

As far as illustration is concerned, is a very positive development. On the other hand, information processing can be dangerous. It never answers “I don’t know”: sometimes the program uses wrong information, so the human part will still be important and crucial. You have to learn how to use it properly: the same thing happened with the arrival of computers, when it was thought that there would be no more work for graphic designers. Technology is great but it always needs human intelligence to bring out its full potential.


What would you suggest to young people who want to enter your profession?

Keep up to date, look ahead, experiment and learn all the new techniques. Observe what they do abroad: I myself have always looked to the Americans and the British for graphics, but for lettering also to the Swiss. Today I keep looking around, researching, if I see an image that strikes me I put it in my drawer!

I wish I could say at my age that I can live off my past successes, but in reality there is something to learn every day: it is tiring but challenging. Web design and 3D have led to the creation of fantastic images and you have to look there because the future is there. You can achieve a three-dimensionality that once did not exist: making physical products for Fantini Cosmi, I see this evolution.


Can you tell us what work has made you most proud over the years?

In music, definitely the cover by Giovanni Allevi, with the keys of a piano tucked into his hair. This image has been reproduced in school books as an iconographic cover and for me it brings me great satisfaction.

For Fantini Cosmi, I would say the advertising campaign with the egg.


What will be Fantini Cosmi’s next communication challenge?

Until now, the company has communicated with a generation of installers who recognise in Fantini Cosmi its long history, reliability and market presence. In the future, it will have to look at the new generations that are taking over the installation companies and therefore adapt the message as well, a path that has already started a few years ago in the company with digital communication.

Furthermore, Fantini Cosmi is carrying out work on systems that is very modern and innovative: it is a “story” that must definitely be communicated.


Also signed by Flora Sala is the latest press campaign published in August in the Gazzetta dello Sport.


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