The Art of Noises, written by Luigi Russolo, originally published in 1913, is a Futurist manifesto written in the form of a friendly letter from Russolo to the Futurist composer, Francesco Balilla Pratella after he had attended one of his orchestras performances. Russolo credits Balilla Prantella’s genius for his own discovery and immediate appreciation of an entirely new and complex art form, the art of noises, hence the title of the book (Russolo 23). Through this informal letter, which is currently available for purchase on Amazon here, it becomes evident how deeply immersed in the Futurist movement Rossolo is. His writing calls for new innovations in the music industry and describes his desire for a technological revolution in music production. He dreams of a future similar to ours today, where there will be over thirty thousand different noises that man can make and combine in limitless variations for the individual’s own artistic satisfaction (Russolo 29).
The Covers Graphic Design Elements
Upon first glance of the original book cover (Figure 1), with no prior knowledge of the subject matter, I would never assume that it would have any relation to the futurist movement, or any other Avant-Garde movement for that matter. This blew me away because after actually reading the text, it becomes evident how passionate Russolo is in regards to the Futurist movement. It also becomes clear how well his manifesto aligns with other published Futurist manifestos that were written by significant supporters of the movement. Unfortunately, Rossolo’s passion for the movement was not effectively displayed through the original, lackluster and generic, graphic design of the book cover. The cover features a bland sans serif font that lacks dynamism, a crucial signifier of Futurist designs. The result is a cover that is quite dull and sluggish. I felt that the abstract concepts discussed in this letter, paired with the unique writing style which even includes the use of onomatopeias that were further emphasized through typography, deserved an equally abstract and Avant-garde cover to complement its context, so I decided to tackle this task. (Russolo 99).
Elements of The Redesigned Cover
When analyzing the original cover, it becomes clear that none of its fundamental elements aided in visually relating the book to the Italian Futurist movement, so I started from scratch (Figure 2). The variation in type size, along with its angles, was very important as I feel it was crucial to effectively demonstrate dynamism. This resulted in the letters appearing to be fast and energetic. I decided that the accent color would be red, to symbolize the violence that was admired by the Futurist movement. The loud, competing geometric forms of red, black, and negative space are somewhat obnoxious. This contrast allows the cover to further represent the aggression and intensity of the movement. I made sure to include diagonal lines of force in an attempt to further demonstrate energetic movement.
The typeface that I used, called Mardell (Figure 3), is designed by Louise Fili. Although the typeface I used was released fairly recently, in March of 2016, it was created in traditional woodblock style using bold Italian futurist letterforms. The typeface has precise angles and closely follows the standard type style for the futurist movement at the time of the publication of the book, which is why I felt its use was appropriate. The geometric forms that I incorporated into the cover’s graphic design were heavily influenced by Depero Futurista (Figure 4), or better known as “The Bolted Book,” by Fortunato Depero and the DinamoAzari publishing house (Eskilson 150).
This book’s graphic design was considered innovative at the time of its publication due to the complexities of its print and design elements. It featured bolts to bind it, intending to have the book appear more machine-like, this is just one example of how overtly this publication fell in line with futurist manifestos. I have heavily borrowed my use of positive and negative space, along with overlap in the typeface and geometric forms from Depero’s Futurist book cover. In doing so I was able to create visual stimulation that demonstrates the restlessness of modern industrialized life, often featured in Futurism.
CAMILLINI, Gianluca. The Bolted Book. bia.unibz.it/bitstream/handle/10863/2255/Camillini_pp26-31_pp109-110_Bullonato.pdf?sequence=2.
Eskilson, Stephen. Graphic Design: a New History. Yale University Press, 2019.
Riechers, Angela. “Louise Fili’s New Wood Type Font Is an Homage to Italy and Women.” Eye on Design, 16 June 2017, eyeondesign.aiga.org/louise-filis-new-wood-type-font-is-an-homage-to-italy-and-women-typetuesday/.
Russolo, Luigi, and Jeanne Moran. Barteaux. The Art of Noises, 1913- 1931. 1978.
Russolo, Luigi. The Art of Noise English Translation. www.o-p-o.cz/links/Russolo,Luigi%20_The_Art_Of_Noise_EN.pdf.
Russolo, Luigi. “The Art of Noises.” Amazon, Pendragon Press, www.amazon.com/Art-Noises-Monographs-Musicology/dp/1576471144.
WebCite Query Result, www.webcitation.org/5uY3woYNG.