Piero Gratton. A visionary designer who did the most beautiful AS Roma rebranding
The name of Piero Gratton is mostly known for the Lupetto of Roma — a minimalistic style-designed logo featuring the wolf’s head. But there is more to tell.
The name of Piero Gratton is mostly known for the Lupetto of Roma — a minimalistic style-designed logo featuring the wolf’s head. In reality, his impact on the Roma identity and the way football clubs present themselves for the general audience is way more impressive. Gratton was a visionary, not just a simple graphic designer with one lucky design in his portfolio.
He became a part of an ambitious group, featuring Roma president Gaetano Anzalone and the founder of Pouchain sportswear brand Maurizio Pouchain. The way European clubs represented themselves back in the mid-1970s was way more different than we are used to it nowadays. It is all about monetization nowadays. Back in the day, it was more about football itself.
Pouchain saw the great potential in the North American model of sports marketing, and Roma was a club to implement it on the European soil. Club’s president Anzalone was open to new ideas, and Gratton became the brain of this rebranding process. Pouchain became the club’s kit supplier, and he was on his way to create iconic branding.
Lupetto was just a part of a bigger picture. Gratton worked on minimalistic but eye-catching designs that were re-imagining everything around the club. Every detail surrounding Roma became beautifully designed — tickets, matchday programmes, accreditations, and season tickets. New typography, warm red, golden and yellow colors turned these previously common things nobody did even notice into nice souvenirs for the Roma fans. Now graphic designers work on these aspects all the time. Every solid club has a team that is dedicated to marketing and branding matters. Back then, it was something new.
Together with Pouchain, Gratton worked on a new kit design for Roma. In the 1978/79 season, the club made its debut in the redesigned kits that soon earned the nickname — Ghiaciolo (lollypop). Gratton took the traditional Roma colors and created a simple gradient that quickly made the new kits stand out.
However, at the time, this did not become a hit of sales. But this should not be viewed as a failure from the modern-day perspective. Remember, those were the 1970s. Pouchain produced various Roma merchandise, and the marketing vision was brilliantly brought to life. The product was designed beautifully, but the problem was that this idea was a bit ahead of time. The general audience was not that excited to spend their money on those fancy little things in the newly created fan stores. Let those players score the goals and bring trophies! Aesthetics can wait. Add to this the fact that consuming power was way more humble at the time, and there are plenty of objective reasons why Gratton’s work was not instantly recognized with a fair amount of praise.
As it often happens, appreciation comes decades later. When Gratton died from COVID-19 the last year, his name was brought up again, and there were dozens of tributes written and said. Roma’s iconic kits, designed by Gratton now have a different value. Nostalgy does its thing. Kit collectors and casual football fans now see his works as a valuable piece to be added to their collections & wardrobes. The price tags are solid, but hey — it is worth it. The branding was simple, but the vision of Gratton was way ahead of his time.
Before the 2020/21 season, Nike and Roma presented the new kits. The home kit featured the iconic lollypop gradient as a tribute to the club’s history and its famous late 1970s kit. Of course, it did not look as good as the original one due to the slightly different colors and logos of sponsors, but the tribute itself was a nice gesture to see.
Gratton should be remembered as a visionary artist that took the risk and stepped into the area others would not even imagine stepping. His legacy remains strong and lives in the retro kits and streets of Rome. When you walk around the streets of Rome, you will see plenty of stickers and little graffiti's, featuring the iconic Lupetto.
“The Lupetto should be almost a basic symbol. Something we can recognise almost from birth, that can be reproduced by anyone, anywhere. It’s that simplicity that makes it so lasting” — Piero Gratton