| Italian Food Illustrations, Including Staple Made-in-Italy Ingredients that are EU-Certified (DOP and IGP), by Illustrator and Artist Yaansoon |
In October 2018, I won an RFP floated by the Italian Trade Agency – ITA (Agenzia ICE – Agenzia per la promozione all’estero e l’internazionalizzazione delle imprese italiane), inviting a number of design and illustration agencies and artists to place their bids with samples of artwork that answers to the RFP, while showcasing their art direction and illustration style.
In here, I am sharing with you the main illustrated products created for the Italian Culinary Week event – mainly the Italian cheese, pasta, and desserts prints and posters that I came up with. Those were printed out with official Italian logos at the bottom of each poster (not included here), and were distributed as a giveaway at around 11 events in 2 countries, including food-tasting events and gala dinners featuring authentic Italian ingredients.
The illustrator with the winning technical and financial proposal was tasked to create a number of illustration & design products – within a tight deadline – for events showcasing the excellence of Italian food ingredients, as well as this European nation’s gastronomic way of life.
The events were part of the Italian Culinary Week (Settimana della Cucina Italiana nel mondo), part of Italian Taste (#ItalianTaste2018 #Vivereall’italiana), celebrated for the 3rd year in a row in November 2018. This is a worldwide event launched by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its embassies, and carried out by the Italian Trade Agency (ICE), which is tasked to promote Italian products, investments and partnerships globally.
The RFP requested the following deliverables:
- 3 illustrated posters and 3 roll-up banners of Italian food illustrations and ingredients (cheese, pasta, desserts) with hand-lettering
- 1 illustrated roll-up banner marking the official launch of the Italy Culinary Week’s events
- 1 certificate of participation design
- 2 illustrated gala dinner menus in bookmark size
- 2 illustrated screen backgrounds (in 16:9 and 3:4 format) as event backdrops, using projectors
- Illustrated 32-slide presentation, for a food-tasting workshop dubbed “The Excellence of Authentic Italian Ingredients,” highlighting DOP and IGP-certified products
The Italian food illustrations had to be consistent and within the same art direction. Artwork also had to come with font pairings or hand-lettering in Italian and Arabic (I went for hand-lettering since I’m an illustrator). Some auxiliary designs (like the certificate of participation) were in English.
Italian Culinary Week: Patronage & Target Audience
Patronage: The events were held in two countries in the Levant, part of the MENA region, under the patronage of Italian ambassadors, consulates, and Italian senators.
A Multi-Faceted Target Audience: The events were tailored for each segment, as follows: Cooking-school students, importers/distributors of Italian products, and TV cooking shows, among others.
The Italian Culinary Week also starred cooking workshops and dinners hosted by Pastry Chef Federico Anzellotti, president of CONPAIT (The Italian Confederation of Pastry Chefs), and Chef Marco Murenu, of an Italian restaurant located at the Marriott hotel.
Illustration Philosophy & Marketing Approach: A Contextual Backstory with the Target Audience in Mind
As mentioned in several places across my Portfolio and Illustrated Blog Series, my illustration style is about creating visual messages that communicate culturally-informed stories about the food ingredients featured in the projects I tackle.
Contextual Backstory: For this project, I relied heavily on the power of context to create an atmosphere, rather than just a straight-forward infographic that informed the audience of the name of each ingredient or Italian dessert.
Just like in the cinema, every ingredient and dish featured in these Italian food illustrations was created with a “backstory” in mind, turning every single one of them into a “round” graphic, rather than just a “flat” image with no dimension. To achieve this, I made sure to place each ingredient/dish with another kitchen utensil or food staple that is relevant to its production process, place of origin, or a typical food pairing known to gastronomes in the Italian cuisine.
Most of the ingredients in the project’s Made-in-Italy cheese posters and roll-up banners are EU-certified agri-food products. To elaborate, the following illustrated cheeses are all DOP certified: Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Mozzarella di Bufala, Gorgonzola, Pecorino Romano, Asiago, Taleggio, Caciocavallo Silano, Fontina, Provolone Valpadana.
The Burrata di Andria cheese, on the other hand, is IGP certified. While the Ricotta is not an EU certified product, it was included in the poster illustrations for its popularity as a staple Italian ingredient.
Target Audience & Product Differentiation: I was also very aware of the project’s target audience, and the fact that the whole purpose of the event was to communicate the cultural nuances of the Italian food products and culinary tradition. The majority of the target audience attending the Italian Culinary Week are non-Italian and probably have no comprehensive knowledge of the story behind each Italian food product. However, the illustrations were done in a way to communicate to them that story through attention to detail and an illustration style that “differentiated” these posters from the visual messages they were used to in their daily local context.
In the two countries where the events took place, corporate-style flat design (vector illustration) was the dominating genre, and so I made sure to juxtapose that with an illustration style that had an organic, handmade, and natural feel – achieved mainly with the hand-drawn lines and the analogue watercolour textures.
Cultural Flavour: My approach to this Italian food illustrations project was to project a handmade-feel that gave emphasis to the Italian aesthetic and way of life. Going for a minimalist, clean look, I wanted to create posters that the target audience of the Italian Culinary Week would love to hang on their walls. I wanted it to be an artistic infographic that they enjoyed looking at.
Emotional Connection: I’m glad to say that the Italian food illustrations were a big hit and although the ICE printed out a large number of posters just in case, they ended up getting an outstanding number of requests from individuals and institutions for extra copies to gift or to keep. At the end of the week, ICE was out of prints!
Reactions and Testimonials
As mentioned earlier, these illustrations were a major success and I feel I need to share some of the reactions they garnered during the approvals process across the different official channels, as well as during the events:
- Commissioner of the Italian Trade Agency in the Levant described the illustrations with one word: “Mitico!” (mythical).
- A Senator in the Italian parliament cut the ribbon at the opening of one of the events, and his reaction was: “Stupendi!” (gorgeous).
- High-ranking Italian consulate officials sent in the following comment: “Complimenti, bellisimi!“ (my compliments/congrats, beautiful).
- The Agro-Alimentari desk at the Italian Trade Agency in Rome: “Bellisimi!” (beautiful).
- Local cooking-school students and B2B businesspeople: “Beautiful, unique!”
Italian Food Illustrations: What Are DOP & IGP?
DOP and IGP are two of several EU certifications to indicate the quality and authenticity of agricultural-based food products created within the European Union. Italy scores the highest number of EU quality certifications, with 299 products under its belt.
DOP is short for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, which translates into “Protected Designation of Origin” – ensuring that products like the famed Parmigiano Reggiano cheese are made from locally grown ingredients, as well as locally packaged, guaranteeing to the consumer that the food was made by local farmers and artisans using age-old traditional methods.
IGP, on the other hand, is short for Indicazione Geografica Protetta and literally translates into “Protected Geographical Indication.” This EU protective trademark is used to certify foods and agricultural products based on the geographical area in which they were produced, processed, and/or prepared. In other words, the IGP guarantees that at least one primary ingredient essential to the product, or stage of production, were local to a specific geographic area.
La cucina italiana, delizia dei palati mediorientali – Exportiamo.it
Client: The Italian Trade Agency – ITA (Agenzia ICE).
ITA is a governmental department, part of the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance (Ministero dello sviluppo economico). The lead on this project was their office for the Levant region, with approvals obtained across three cities, including Rome. ITA/ICE has offices in 70 countries worldwide.
Year: Oct – Nov 2018
Illustration Technique: I created these Italian food illustrations using a Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 pen display tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 smart tablet, and digital brushes on Adobe Photoshop and the ArtFlow app. I also scanned analogue watercolour washes I created using professional-grade watercolours and incorporated them into the illustrations digitally. The lettering was created using custom digital ink brushes on Adobe Photoshop.