In 1940 Franco Dompé, just graduated in pharmacy in Pavia, founded his own drugs production company – independent from the pharmaceutical lab tradition of his father and grandfather – today’s “Dompé Farmaceutici“, still based in Milan, via San Martino 12 (a few steps from Franco Grignani’s house) in an imposing building which, at the inauguration of the new factory in 1951, had very modern architectural lines.
Franco Dompé’s fortune is linked to a careful strategic choice: by investing in the research and development of new medicines, he built a solid knowledge that allowed the company not to suffer for the end of the scheme of the absence of patent protection of drugs.
In 1947 Franco Grignani became the Artistic Director of “Bellezza d’Italia“, the house organ of Dompé Farmaceutici, for which he designed until 1961 numerous advertisements, which contributed to signal him to the world of international graphics.
Characterized since the beginning by the excellent photographic quality and by a graphic design of great value, Bellezza d’Italia was born as a bimonthly periodical printed by Alfieri & Lacroix, aiming at a selected public composed mainly of doctors and their families, to whom it had been given for free upon request since 1948. The editorial recipe consisted in avoiding topics related to medicine, focusing instead on escapism, providing a mixture of various subjects, from fashion (sometimes with the artistic contribution of Jeanne Grignani) to sport, from crafts to current affairs, with specific attention to the presentation of the natural and artistic beauties of the Italian peninsula, with the aim of gaining the sympathy of the “medical class” and then offering them, in advertising inserts, their pharmaceutical products, but in a non-invasive way: “Bellezza d’Italia has never talked or will ever talk about the problems of high surgery, high medicine, epidemic, and diseases that are difficult or easy to cure, diagnostics, and other similar topics. Bellezza d’Italia wants to be an affectionate serene companion in the doctor’s hours of rest, a glimpse of the world […] that arrives at the doctor’s home every month” (no. 7, 1949).
The magazine was also object of propaganda at specialized conferences, such as the “International Medical Days” (“Giornate mediche internazionali”) in Verona:
Franco Grignani took care of the layout of the house organ from the very first issues, but from no. 3 of 1949 he began to make more elaborate covers, focusing on his ability to control graphic and photographic techniques. In no. 5, 1952, the abbreviation “Bd’I” appeared for the first time on the cover. Grignani also gave life to a rich repertoire of graphic solutions in the creation of numerous advertising pages for Dompé products such as Artrosil, Cardioritmon, Guaiacalcium, Tribenzoica, and Vi–Lactis.
In the layout, everything was subordinated to the importance to be given to photographic images, with very different cuts, which Grignani was able to skillfully arrange on the surface of the double-page. Just to give greater prominence to photography and take full advantage of its potential, in 1955 an important novelty was introduced with the album format (24.2 x 32.3 cm, “the only magazine in the world with horizontal layout“), also to differentiate the house organ from increasing imitations:
In 1958, in a sort of provisional balance, the management proudly stated that “in its eleven years of life, our magazine has been able to achieve such a high literary, photographic and technical level that it can be rightly considered among the first publications of international value” (Idea, a magazine focused on graphic design and typography, published quarterly in Tokyo from 1953 till nowadays, dedicated a specific article in issue n° 14 in 1955: “The Dompé and Franco Grignani”).
As it happened with Alfieri & Lacroix since 1952, in the case of Grignani, Dompé Farmaceutici formed a sort of illuminated client, open to experimentation with new inventive possibilities with a freedom that, for other ad campaigns, was much more limited. The relationship with the Dompé family was therefore characterized by such highest mutual esteem, that one Sunday morning Franco Dompé telephoned Franco Grignani to invite him to look out of the window: the Grignani family thus found a brand new Fiat 500 “Topolino” parked as a gift in the deserted street under their house, and it became their first car …
In his work for Dompé, Grignani applied his whole aesthetic and conceptual arsenal: movement, lateral vision, experimental photography, reiteration, and synthesis. Through the photographic experimentation of the ads, he began to build his own unique visual language, often using photomontage in the text-image relationship. The continuous reuse of photographs taken from his personal archive and the creation of multiple versions for the same advertising page also showed Grignani’s typical theme of repetition, making the message effective by strengthening the overall image.
Most issues of Bellezza d’Italia can be browsed from the website of the Dompé Foundation.
more ads for Dompé in the Gallery…
[some infos from Comunicare l’impresa]
[*] courtesy of Daniela Grignani
 AIAP / CDPG Centro di Documentazione sul Progetto Grafico: 1 & 2, courtesy of Lorenzo Grazzani
 Typeroom, courtesy of Loukas Karnis
 Artribune & Galleria Gruppo Credito Valtellinese
 Graphiste-webdesigner, courtesy of Jean-Guy Cheminade