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Riccardi takes a keen interest into each client’s case, maximizing his role as Memo’s lead designer and strategist within the studio. With a portfolio that covers identity, hospitality, publishing, packaging and more, Memo offers a distinctive, design style. At GraphicDesign.com we particularly like the bold logo of Tarry Lodge and the vibrant vision their Sugar and Plumm collaboration conveys.

Amongst other pieces, the branding of Pizzeria Mozza has been one of Memo’s most recent successes. We spoke to Douglas Riccardi to find out more about his design story, Memo’s philosophy and their Mozza project…

Mozza box
Photo credit: Memo

At what point did you know you wanted to be a graphic designer?

I always knew, in high school, that I wanted to be a graphic designer. That was WAY long before anyone even knew what graphic designers did. I remember once, for a senior art class final project, when everyone did paintings of cats and landscapes, I did a car brochure. The genesis of this career move is still a mystery to me.

How did Memo come about?

It was a running joke during my time at M&Co. that no one ever left that studio to work for anyone else. On my first day in fact, Joseph Guglietti said to me, “Welcome to the last job you’ll ever have.” I did actually have a few stints after M&Co. — as Art Director of Egg Magazine, as Corporate Art Director at Benetton in Treviso, Italy, and as a senior design at Sottsass Associates in Milan.

But Memo really got started when I returned to New York in the early 90s. On my way home I travelled to London where I met the late Tony Arefin who was also moving to New York that same month. When we saw each other in New York, he introduced me to another friend of his, Lisa Naftolin, who had also just moved to New York from Toronto. The three of us decided to start a loose work collaborative and somehow Tony came up with the name Memo. We didn’t really do much work together and when my other two partners found other employment I kept the Memo name for my studio.

The focus on food and hospitality work probably comes from my strong Italian upbringing where most conversation revolved around food. Two early clients helped make this happen: working with my long-time friend Florent Morellet at Restaurant Florent (we took over as Creative Director in the 90s when Tibor Kalman moved to Rome) and Mario Batali, who I met through an old friend Lisa Eaton, who is his internal Creative Director.

Mozza facts
Photo credit: Memo

You cover many fields of design including identity, hospitality, publishing and packaging; which project has been your biggest challenge?

We do indeed cover many fields of design but I strongly believe that they all call upon our core strengths of brand building and visual storytelling. A strong emphasis on typography also unites most of our work. Our biggest challenge is not a project type but a client type. As a studio, we tend to get excited very easily by new clients, we think fast and can put ideas into visual form rather quickly. And we think of ourselves more as collaborators than prima donnas. Yet to this day our biggest challenge is the client who simply cannot articulate or determine what their brand is all about. These just need a touch of therapy too — which is something I wish we could provide, but we don’t.

Tell us about your collaboration with Pizzeria Mozza?

We met Mario Batali through his wife and through Lisa Eaton, his cousin and Creative Director. Our first project together was his first cookbook back in the late 90s. We had been working on his restaurant identities for a few years before the Mozza project came about. While I’ve met Nancy Silverton and the L.A. team, most of our interaction has been with the creative team in the New York office. Lisa Eaton typically shows us inspirational images she has assembled for the interior design and we in turn develop that into a brand identity. Because most of Mario’s restaurants have an Italian focus, we are always looking for new ways to say “Italian” without mining the same territory. In this case, we tried to create a modern aesthetic with some quirky, slightly grungy fonts. Kind of like what might happen if a 21 year old in an Italian type shop got to design stuff, but only had access to his grandfather’s fonts.

Mozza Italian
Photo credit: Memo

The packaging you created also provides a tool for learning Italian; where did this idea originate from?

Thanks to my wonderful grandmother, I’ve spoken Italian all my life and am always looking to share my love of that language and culture. Why not pass on useful tidbits such as: according to Italians, having your hair cut during a new moon is a way to prevent baldness? The idea of multiple place mats at Mozza was actually Lisa Eaton’s – she couldn’t decide which of our 4 proposals she liked best so she decided to print them all. We used to try to introduce new ones from time to time, but I think now there are enough designs in rotation that guests always seem to get a different one.

Are you proud of the end result?

We try to be proud of everything we do — but Mozza is still a favorite of ours. I’ve always liked that the place mats at the bar can spark a conversation among guests that don’t know each other. I like that if you do a Google image search for Pizzeria Mozza, you’ll see a lot of our graphics among shots of their awesome pizza. And I am really happy to see that the new Domino’s black pan pizza box seems to be a homage to the one we designed for Mozza.

Mozza superstitions
Photo credit: Memo

Memo are a distinctive design team who convey a clear message, the importance of both the client and the consumer. Nurturing valuable, long-standing relationships is their forte, with many collaborative partnerships having been in place for the past 8 years or more. The ethos of Memo underlines a passion to drive creative talent and inspiration, a notion that is firmly rooted in Pizzeria Mozza.

We will certainly be keeping an eye out for their next design venture…

See more from Memo HERE.

Tarry Lodge bags
Photo credit: Memo

Sugar and Plumm boxes
Photo credit: Memo