It’s always a treat when new work from Studio Frith arrives in the Grafik office, and their latest venture into book design is no exception. Hotel Il Pellicano, published this year by Rizzoli, is a hard-bound celebration of the titular hotel on Italy’s Tuscan coast, which for nearly fifty years has played host to an exclusive and glamorous clientele. We caught up with Studio Frith to talk about the project and discover how they devised a book design to complement the photography and ephemera within, which documents the hotel’s history.
“This book has been so long in the making, it has traveled with me on my journey from Kerr/Noble to Studio Frith – it’s like an old friend!” Frith reflects. “It all started when Robert Violette approached us with the idea to make a book, or album if you like, of the Hotel il Pellicano’s collection of photographs that Slim Aarons took whilst on holiday there.” The photographs, taken between 1967 and 1991, capture the heady, Dolce Vita glamour of the Hotel’s heyday in the late sixties and early seventies, when you could expect to find anyone from an Italian Contessa to a Hollywood starlet lounging on the terrace or enjoying a Campari-fueled supper . Also included in the book is a selection of earlier photographs of the inception of the hotel by John Swope, a friend of the proprietors, and more recent shots by Juergen Teller, commissioned especially by the hotel for the project.
“Our first consideration was to capture the essence of the hotel, not only for the people who have not been lucky enough to stay there, but for those who have and want to preserve its stories,” Frith explains. “Our job with the design of the book was to provide a window into its world of glamour and sophistication, and convey the many family memories and the serenity of Porto Ercole itself. We had a wonderful time looking through beautiful old maps of the area and lovely leaflets about the hotel that have been kept over the years.”
Armed with piles of evocative reference material, Studio Frith set about devising a design that reflected the personality of the hotel and its guests. “Italian Vogue covers and Gio Ponti were our references to the Italian chic of the Hotel Il Pellicano,” Frith explains. “We created a bespoke typeface for the book based on the forms of Gio Ponti designs, setting its stylish Italian feel against humanist shapes which felt right for what was essentially a story about friends and families.” The designers chose Clarendon for their secondary typeface, as a nod to both the midcentury revival of Egyptian typefaces and to Campari bottle labels. Their focus throughout was on immaculate presentation and high-quality finishes. “We worked closely with Robert Violette to achieve a high-end beautiful result using the best possible materials,” says Frith. “Details like the John Swope photographs appearing on warmer paper were all carefully considered.” The result is a fascinating insight into a sun-drenched, inaccessible world – until recently the Hotel Il Pellicano only took bookings by referral or invitation, though nowadays anyone with the wonga can book a stay. The book’s got us gagging for a slice of the high life at the Hotel Il Pellicano – make ours a negroni, we’ll take it on the terrace.