Sign of the times

Following the recent passing of designer Piero Gratton, Champions Journal illustrator Osvaldo Casanova looks back at the impact of his much-loved Lupetto logo, which came to symbolise a golden era for Roma

WORDS Osvaldo Casanova

History
The jagged outline of a wolf cub’s head – mouth open – with one red eye giving the cartoon-like character a more menacing mien. The cub’s head is encircled by two red and yellow rings in a nod to tradition, but also as a radical step away from the past. It’s a simple, timeless design – but one that signified a revolution.

The Lupetto, as the wolf cub is known, was introduced by AS Roma at the start of the 1978/79 campaign, the badge the only alteration to the previous season’s home shirt. Like any sudden change, it opened up a rift. The younger generation embraced the innovation straight away; older fans found it hard to accept this emblem as their own.

Roma’s bold creative choice was a world away from the traditional crest – and symbol of the city – featuring Romulus and Remus, the mythological founders of Rome, being suckled by a she-wolf. The new image cut to the heart of the question of identity and what a badge means to a club.

It was the work of Piero Gratton, who died in April, and his motif ushered in a new wave that left its mark across Italian and even European football. Gratton’s style was already well known to Italians (even if his name was not) through his graphic animations for state broadcaster Rai and the TG2 news logo, which I particularly love.

"Every community needs marks, symbols and flags, and if you create one that resonates, people will make it their own. The power of the Lupetto design clearly endures, as proven by the fact that it still crops up as graffiti across Rome, having become part of the fabric of the city."
"Roma’s bold creative choice was a world away from the traditional crest"

The Italian football landscape is dotted with his legacy, from Bari’s rooster logo to his eagle badges for Lazio and Palermo in the early 1980s and the series of kits he designed for Pouchain Sportswear. Gratton’s work also reached a wider audience through his logos for the 1980 and 1984 European Championship finals and even the UEFA logo itself in 1983. The visual design for the 1977 European Cup final, with two flamboyant birds tussling for domination, likewise sprouted from the same gifted mind.  

But it is the Lupetto that speaks most to me. This wasn’t purely aesthetics: the Lupetto was at the heart of a new system, a new way of thinking. It provided the focal point for a daring corporate identity, given life by Gratton as he implemented then Roma president Gaetano Anzalone and managing director Gilberto Viti’s vision for the club. Gratton had designed the brand identity for the 1974 European Athletics Championships in Rome and Viti saw the potential, hiring Gratton in order to completely rebrand the club.

Anzalone, meanwhile, oversaw the building of the Trigoria training complex and invested in a youth system that produced the likes of Agostino Di Bartolomei, Bruno Conti and Ubaldo Righetti, who were all members of the Giallorossi side that won the 1982/83 Scudetto (just the club’s second title). Roma also won four Italian Cups between 1980 and 1986, as well as reaching the 1984 European Cup final.

The club had entered a new era and a pillar of this project was raising their profile and selling merchandise through club shops. For the first time, Italian fans were able to buy official products – and the centrepiece was the shirt itself. Here, Roma joined forces with Pouchain Sportswear, whose owner Maurizio Pouchain had been suitably inspired by the influence of North American sports teams on streetwear and fashion.

The result was unlike anything Italian football had seen before. The shirt that Gratton designed for the 1978/79 season has become known as the Ghiacciolo – the ice lolly – with yellow and orange bands across the shoulders and arms blending into a bright red body. I like it but it isn’t the AS Roma shirt; I’m definitely more traditional in my outlook.

But there was no arguing with its impact – nor, perhaps, its inspiration. Check out the Houston Astros baseball team’s Tequila Sunrise jersey worn between 1975 and 1979. If, as for the Astros, the kit was a way for an ailing team to catch the eye, it worked. By the end of the first game to feature the Ghiacciolo shirt at the Stadio Olimpico, a 1-0 win against Juventus in December, fake replica kits were already being sold outside the ground. Not that it met with widespread approval. One newspaper described Roma as “undici ghiaccioli in campo” (11 ice lollies on the pitch) and the name stuck.

From a design perspective, the Lupetto is a perfect logo: high brand awareness, easy to reproduce and effective big or small. It came to symbolise a generation and a new decade for Roma, as well as for Italy as the nation stepped out of the dark 1970s and into the bright 1980s. Gratton’s work follows the same approach of all the great designers of his time: simple, clear ideas and a modern style, while never following a trend.

Every community needs marks, symbols and flags, and if you create one that resonates, people will make it their own. The power of the Lupetto design clearly endures, as proven by the fact that it still crops up as graffiti across Rome, having become part of the fabric of the city.

Even though Roma fans successfully campaigned to change the logo and bring back the traditional crest in 1997, the Lupetto remains beloved and has frequently adorned kits since then; in fact, it is expected to be back on the away shirt for the 2020/21 campaign. The wolf cub is alive and kicking. It is vintage, part of the club’s heritage and intrinsic to those glory years of the early 1980s.

Fans love tradition. However, sometimes the tradition they cherish today was once a controversial symbol of the ‘modern game’. Perhaps that’s because ‘modern football’ never stands still; even the most fractious changes become smoothed into the realm of memory.

Additional reporting by Michael Harrold

The Lupetto, as the wolf cub is known, was introduced by AS Roma at the start of the 1978/79 campaign, the badge the only alteration to the previous season’s home shirt. Like any sudden change, it opened up a rift. The younger generation embraced the innovation straight away; older fans found it hard to accept this emblem as their own.

Roma’s bold creative choice was a world away from the traditional crest – and symbol of the city – featuring Romulus and Remus, the mythological founders of Rome, being suckled by a she-wolf. The new image cut to the heart of the question of identity and what a badge means to a club.

It was the work of Piero Gratton, who died in April, and his motif ushered in a new wave that left its mark across Italian and even European football. Gratton’s style was already well known to Italians (even if his name was not) through his graphic animations for state broadcaster Rai and the TG2 news logo, which I particularly love.

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"Every community needs marks, symbols and flags, and if you create one that resonates, people will make it their own. The power of the Lupetto design clearly endures, as proven by the fact that it still crops up as graffiti across Rome, having become part of the fabric of the city."
"Roma’s bold creative choice was a world away from the traditional crest"

The Italian football landscape is dotted with his legacy, from Bari’s rooster logo to his eagle badges for Lazio and Palermo in the early 1980s and the series of kits he designed for Pouchain Sportswear. Gratton’s work also reached a wider audience through his logos for the 1980 and 1984 European Championship finals and even the UEFA logo itself in 1983. The visual design for the 1977 European Cup final, with two flamboyant birds tussling for domination, likewise sprouted from the same gifted mind.  

But it is the Lupetto that speaks most to me. This wasn’t purely aesthetics: the Lupetto was at the heart of a new system, a new way of thinking. It provided the focal point for a daring corporate identity, given life by Gratton as he implemented then Roma president Gaetano Anzalone and managing director Gilberto Viti’s vision for the club. Gratton had designed the brand identity for the 1974 European Athletics Championships in Rome and Viti saw the potential, hiring Gratton in order to completely rebrand the club.

Anzalone, meanwhile, oversaw the building of the Trigoria training complex and invested in a youth system that produced the likes of Agostino Di Bartolomei, Bruno Conti and Ubaldo Righetti, who were all members of the Giallorossi side that won the 1982/83 Scudetto (just the club’s second title). Roma also won four Italian Cups between 1980 and 1986, as well as reaching the 1984 European Cup final.

The club had entered a new era and a pillar of this project was raising their profile and selling merchandise through club shops. For the first time, Italian fans were able to buy official products – and the centrepiece was the shirt itself. Here, Roma joined forces with Pouchain Sportswear, whose owner Maurizio Pouchain had been suitably inspired by the influence of North American sports teams on streetwear and fashion.

The result was unlike anything Italian football had seen before. The shirt that Gratton designed for the 1978/79 season has become known as the Ghiacciolo – the ice lolly – with yellow and orange bands across the shoulders and arms blending into a bright red body. I like it but it isn’t the AS Roma shirt; I’m definitely more traditional in my outlook.

But there was no arguing with its impact – nor, perhaps, its inspiration. Check out the Houston Astros baseball team’s Tequila Sunrise jersey worn between 1975 and 1979. If, as for the Astros, the kit was a way for an ailing team to catch the eye, it worked. By the end of the first game to feature the Ghiacciolo shirt at the Stadio Olimpico, a 1-0 win against Juventus in December, fake replica kits were already being sold outside the ground. Not that it met with widespread approval. One newspaper described Roma as “undici ghiaccioli in campo” (11 ice lollies on the pitch) and the name stuck.

From a design perspective, the Lupetto is a perfect logo: high brand awareness, easy to reproduce and effective big or small. It came to symbolise a generation and a new decade for Roma, as well as for Italy as the nation stepped out of the dark 1970s and into the bright 1980s. Gratton’s work follows the same approach of all the great designers of his time: simple, clear ideas and a modern style, while never following a trend.

Every community needs marks, symbols and flags, and if you create one that resonates, people will make it their own. The power of the Lupetto design clearly endures, as proven by the fact that it still crops up as graffiti across Rome, having become part of the fabric of the city.

Even though Roma fans successfully campaigned to change the logo and bring back the traditional crest in 1997, the Lupetto remains beloved and has frequently adorned kits since then; in fact, it is expected to be back on the away shirt for the 2020/21 campaign. The wolf cub is alive and kicking. It is vintage, part of the club’s heritage and intrinsic to those glory years of the early 1980s.

Fans love tradition. However, sometimes the tradition they cherish today was once a controversial symbol of the ‘modern game’. Perhaps that’s because ‘modern football’ never stands still; even the most fractious changes become smoothed into the realm of memory.

Additional reporting by Michael Harrold

The Lupetto, as the wolf cub is known, was introduced by AS Roma at the start of the 1978/79 campaign, the badge the only alteration to the previous season’s home shirt. Like any sudden change, it opened up a rift. The younger generation embraced the innovation straight away; older fans found it hard to accept this emblem as their own.

Roma’s bold creative choice was a world away from the traditional crest – and symbol of the city – featuring Romulus and Remus, the mythological founders of Rome, being suckled by a she-wolf. The new image cut to the heart of the question of identity and what a badge means to a club.

It was the work of Piero Gratton, who died in April, and his motif ushered in a new wave that left its mark across Italian and even European football. Gratton’s style was already well known to Italians (even if his name was not) through his graphic animations for state broadcaster Rai and the TG2 news logo, which I particularly love.

"Every community needs marks, symbols and flags, and if you create one that resonates, people will make it their own. The power of the Lupetto design clearly endures, as proven by the fact that it still crops up as graffiti across Rome, having become part of the fabric of the city."
"Roma’s bold creative choice was a world away from the traditional crest"

The Italian football landscape is dotted with his legacy, from Bari’s rooster logo to his eagle badges for Lazio and Palermo in the early 1980s and the series of kits he designed for Pouchain Sportswear. Gratton’s work also reached a wider audience through his logos for the 1980 and 1984 European Championship finals and even the UEFA logo itself in 1983. The visual design for the 1977 European Cup final, with two flamboyant birds tussling for domination, likewise sprouted from the same gifted mind.  

But it is the Lupetto that speaks most to me. This wasn’t purely aesthetics: the Lupetto was at the heart of a new system, a new way of thinking. It provided the focal point for a daring corporate identity, given life by Gratton as he implemented then Roma president Gaetano Anzalone and managing director Gilberto Viti’s vision for the club. Gratton had designed the brand identity for the 1974 European Athletics Championships in Rome and Viti saw the potential, hiring Gratton in order to completely rebrand the club.

Anzalone, meanwhile, oversaw the building of the Trigoria training complex and invested in a youth system that produced the likes of Agostino Di Bartolomei, Bruno Conti and Ubaldo Righetti, who were all members of the Giallorossi side that won the 1982/83 Scudetto (just the club’s second title). Roma also won four Italian Cups between 1980 and 1986, as well as reaching the 1984 European Cup final.

The club had entered a new era and a pillar of this project was raising their profile and selling merchandise through club shops. For the first time, Italian fans were able to buy official products – and the centrepiece was the shirt itself. Here, Roma joined forces with Pouchain Sportswear, whose owner Maurizio Pouchain had been suitably inspired by the influence of North American sports teams on streetwear and fashion.

The result was unlike anything Italian football had seen before. The shirt that Gratton designed for the 1978/79 season has become known as the Ghiacciolo – the ice lolly – with yellow and orange bands across the shoulders and arms blending into a bright red body. I like it but it isn’t the AS Roma shirt; I’m definitely more traditional in my outlook.

But there was no arguing with its impact – nor, perhaps, its inspiration. Check out the Houston Astros baseball team’s Tequila Sunrise jersey worn between 1975 and 1979. If, as for the Astros, the kit was a way for an ailing team to catch the eye, it worked. By the end of the first game to feature the Ghiacciolo shirt at the Stadio Olimpico, a 1-0 win against Juventus in December, fake replica kits were already being sold outside the ground. Not that it met with widespread approval. One newspaper described Roma as “undici ghiaccioli in campo” (11 ice lollies on the pitch) and the name stuck.

From a design perspective, the Lupetto is a perfect logo: high brand awareness, easy to reproduce and effective big or small. It came to symbolise a generation and a new decade for Roma, as well as for Italy as the nation stepped out of the dark 1970s and into the bright 1980s. Gratton’s work follows the same approach of all the great designers of his time: simple, clear ideas and a modern style, while never following a trend.

Every community needs marks, symbols and flags, and if you create one that resonates, people will make it their own. The power of the Lupetto design clearly endures, as proven by the fact that it still crops up as graffiti across Rome, having become part of the fabric of the city.

Even though Roma fans successfully campaigned to change the logo and bring back the traditional crest in 1997, the Lupetto remains beloved and has frequently adorned kits since then; in fact, it is expected to be back on the away shirt for the 2020/21 campaign. The wolf cub is alive and kicking. It is vintage, part of the club’s heritage and intrinsic to those glory years of the early 1980s.

Fans love tradition. However, sometimes the tradition they cherish today was once a controversial symbol of the ‘modern game’. Perhaps that’s because ‘modern football’ never stands still; even the most fractious changes become smoothed into the realm of memory.

Additional reporting by Michael Harrold

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