We were saddened to learn of the death of Italian designer Piero Gratton, the visionary father of many of Italian football’s most famous club crests, who passed away on Friday at the age of 80.
Whilst you may not be familiar with the name Piero Gratton, you will certainly be aware of his work and the mark he left on the design of European football.
Serie A shirts have always had a romantic draw on international football supporters and those of us who love Italian football have a lot to thank him for.
Born in Milan in 1939, Gratton worked as a designer in Italian television circles before his agency was asked to create a new image for AS Roma, who until that point had found it impossible to trademark the ancient she-wolf symbol of the eternal city.
In what was to become his most admired creation, Gratton focused on the head of the wolf to produce the iconic “Lupetto” badge you will still find etched on walls across the city to mark the club’s territory.
The little-wolf with red eyes was born in 1978, at the same time Italian clubs and sportswear firms were waking up to the possibilities and potential income lines available through merchandising, thereby stealing a march on rival European leagues.
Gratton’s partnership with the Giallorossi would continue with his input into the club’s so-called “lollipop” shirt by Pouchain, which rumour has it is about to receive a rework from Nike ahead of the 2020-21 season.
City rivals Lazio‘s eagle symbol was also given a stylised Gratton update, and whilst it was soon to be replaced, the design would provide the basis for some of the club’s most popular and individual kits.
Away from Rome, further wildlife inspired logos were produced for clubs including Palermo and Udinese, as well as Bari’s distinctive “Galletto” crest, worn by David Platt during his time in Puglia.
With his influence on Serie A established, UEFA called on Gratton to give the Italian-hosted Euro ’80 an authentic look and his creations were so well-received that European football’s governing body commissioned his services to design their own logo in 1983.
Aside from his work in football, he produced work for other sports including athletics and cycling, as well as a catalogue of corporate designs.
As news of his death was confirmed, AS Roma led tributes to Gratton saying;
“Today is a sad day for all Romanisti. Piero Gratton, father of Lupetto and author of pages of history linked to our identity, has left us. Piero will always have a special place in the heart of all of us”.
Piero Gratton understood how important history and identity is in sport and his genius was to distill design down to simple imagery that could be easily reproduced and adored by fans.
His influence leaves an indelible mark on Italian football.
May he rest in peace.