Matteo Bologna’s take on Mucca, typography and Italian design

Matteo Bologna of Mucca Design, described as the modern day reincarnation of Salvadore Dali (key in on the mustache similarities), is just as eccentric as his design company’s name: Mucca (cow in Italian). Bologna came to the U.S. from Italy in 1944 because he wanted to escape having to use innuendos and photos of sexy women in his designs. Although he started as an illustrator at age 18 and became a graphic designer because “he bought a laptop,” his company has made designs for grocery stores, restaurants and food packages. Bologna talked about his typography at CreativeMornings for this month’s food-themed lecture at the Gene Siskel Film Center.


Here are his top quotes that kept Chicago designers laughing all morning:

Bologna on leaving Italy
“I had a partnership with two people that I wanted to kill and they wanted to kill me, so I decided to move to the states because murder, it’s illegal in Italy. It’s the only thing that’s illegal in Italy.”

Bologna on the name Mucca Design
“I was at a lawyer’s office to incorporate the company … and he said, ‘OK, I filled out all of the forms, signed all the stuff that needs to be signed, then OK, how do you want to call the company?’ And I was like,  ‘Uhhh …I have no Idea.’ He said, ‘don’t worry you can change It later, just put a name.’ So I gave him the nickname that we have for our Dalmatian dog, cuz he’s white and black, you know, he’s like a cow. So I said ‘OK, lets go with mucca.’” 

Wait, scratch that
“We did lots of research. Our strategy team spent six months doing customer service, analyzing the market … competitive analysis, and their brand positioning…”

Bologna on starting Mucca Design in the U.S
“Because in Italy you don’t start companies. You go bankrupt … Italians are great for fun, maybe some, not for work.”

Bologna on typography
“Actually I learned how to do type design on the phone with a girlfriend … I was trying to break up with her and we spent hours on the phone talking about our relationship, which was pretty painful and boring every night doing the same thing over and over. So at the time I had my first computer and I had a hacked copy of [design software] …then started learning how to use the software while I was on the phone with this woman for the next three or four weeks … and it became, kinda like, a career.”

Bologna on typefaces
“As a typographer I never felt like a real man because since the early ‘90s I’ve designed many typefaces, but with no formal education in type … [and] I never ever did a textface; you know textface is the thing that makes you be like a real man because it’s difficult to make … I want to become a real man. I started taking hormones, my voice changed, started growing hair — everywhere, I have to shave my back [figuratively] … I wanted to prove my masculinity in design really.”

Bologna on why he started Mucca Design
“I had clients and I needed employees and I just needed to [go] corporate. Because I don’t like to work for other people, though I work for other people – paid – whore.”

gq_italia_cover_matteo_bolognaBologna on his GQ Italy cover design..
“It’s GQ; usually GQ has kinda naked women on the cover …ooooh great! So I had this fantastic idea that implied having a casting –  I love doing castings and this casting would be like perfect … the idea was to put a one before a nipple. I wanted to take a photograph of that boobie and, you know, put the one before so we had a ten – ten-year anniversary of GQ. Perfect. Sex, typography – aye fantastic!”

Bologna on why he didn’t use that idea..
“I can not be like the usual Italian pig who [uses] naked women again and solves the problem. I should be a little bit more American; a bit more sophisticated. So, I said my second favorite thing after sex is typography – I’ll go with that.”

Bologna’s advice for young designers
“Do try to wake up happy in the morning and happy to go to work … just make sure it’s the right office if it’s your’s or somebody else’s … and don’t screw the secretary because it could be sexual harassment. Or in that case, get a good lawyer.”