Meet a Mintie: Francesco Bongiorni

Italian designer Francesco Bongiorni lives in Spain and illustrates the covers of everything from the New York Times to Frankenstein. He is an incredibly talented “ideas guy” and we are thankful to have him drop in on a Minted challenge from time to time! Today he talks with us about the advantages of living abroad and travelling and how his work takes him into the minds of people all over the world. Thanks for taking a minute to let us get to know you Francesco. We look forward to seeing what you submit next!

When did you first realize you wanted to be an illustrator?
After graduating in painting in the NABA, wich is an art Academy in Milan. I realized that the really “traditional” art world was not for me. I always have been somewhat scared of a white paper. Working as an illustrator helps me as I have to use my skills to accompany something: an article, a book, a cd label…

How would you describe your style?
Conceptual, strong and elegant. My goal is always to represent a concept as best as I can. I don’t really worry about the style as much as I do with concept.

What is your normal workflow or process like?
I definitely work better when I have less time (that’s pretty strange!). I like to work under pressure and with adrenaline. And this happens very often… The first time I made an illustration for the New York Times, the art director gave me just a few hours to do everything!

I’m pretty sure many of the procrastinators among us can relate, myself included! If you do it at the last minute, it only takes a minute, right? What tools, techniques, and mindsets do you find absolutely essential?
I have always been very eclectic and I always try to mix every technique and every media. I am fascinated with different media so I try to put different solutions in my work. To do that, I take advantage of digital media to mix different mediums in the same image. In a single image there could be “painted wooden boards”, engraving, burnt paper, and different fine art techniques… My aim is to get a unique and strong image, made with very different images.

What are the easiest and the most difficult aspects of the design process?
To me, the easiest part is to think of the concept. To do that, I try to relax and really let my mind work by itself without imposing any rule or path. Sometimes the most difficult part of this process is to work on different and demanding projects at the same time. It is hard to put a project aside and start working on another one, especially if they came from different places and you need to keep in mind that you have to adapt your point of view to “this one” or “that one.”

How does living in Madrid influence your design?
Living abroad really helps you “open your mind”. Even though Spain and Italy are really close, there are some big differences and the differences, somehow, stimulate and keep your mind fresh. I really like to travel because every different place in some way gives you something and influences your work. I recently travelled to Bosnia and after that fascinating trip I noticed that my images were changing. I started using some colors which I had neved found useful before, and in some cases, I draw some elements from the photos I took.

What are the places in your hometown that you would recommend a visitor check out?
I am from Milan and to me, one of the most magical places in Milan is the roof of the “Duomo” which is the cathedral of the city. You can see all the of city surrounded by piles and piles of amazing stone statues. It is like coming in contact at the same time with the past and future. The eternal beauty of the cathedral’s pinnacles and the far away, tiny people, running and living their lives.

Where do you go for design inspiration?
I don’t know why but sometimes I find the best inspiration when I am lying down on a bed or on a sofa (I am not sleeping, I swear!). When you are totally relaxed with your eyes closed you can leave your mind to play by itself, and it will show its gratefulness by giving you some great ideas.

How did you come up with the idea behind your ice-breaker design? We are all obsessed with it!!
Actually, I was painting a wooden board and suddenly the varnish started to become covered with cracks. I was very fascinated about this unexpected surprise and I thought it really looked like ice. Sometimes you get the inspiration when you are not looking for it and these inspirations can really be the ones you appreciate most!

It really is an awesome design. I can’t wait to order it as a ‘Congratulations!’ card. It would be perfect for someone having just graduated or received a promotion.

Your New Yorker and NYTimes illustrations are incredible… Do you like doing political things and is it hard being in Europe to understand the American perspective?
I like to interpret political articles, especially the ones about the Middle East. One of the aspects I like most about my work is that I have to “adapt” my language and my style to different people. When I work for an American client I have to forget about being Italian and I try to think of how Americans see. What is the American collective imagination and what objects should be represented?  I have to do the same with Italian, English, Australian, Spanish and German clients! This is one of the most exiting things about my work. To get into someone else’s mind!

Testing, testing - The New Yorker

The Clear Case for the Gas Tax - The New York Times Illustration for the Sunday Review of the New York Times about gas tax and environment.

How long do you normally have for these?
I normally have two or three days to work on illustrations like these, but sometimes, I have to be much quicker. The New York Times sometimes give me just hours to prepare an image. That is really difficult because I am not a native English speaker so I have to translate the article first, prepare some sketches and do the final. But luckily I really love to work with high pressure!

There is so much thought behind your work! “Can’t remember what I forgot” and “Zen” are just a few that come to mind. How do you brainstorm the ideas behind your designs?

Can't remember what I forgot - New York Times


I always try to isolate the core of the concept. Even the most complicated concepts have a “nucleus”, so first of all I take out the useless information and all the details until I get the point of the article. Then I start expressing the concept with really simple sketches. Step by step, I isolate a good concept as I put aside all the details.


Thanks again Francesco!!

Find more of Natasha on her blog.

  1. lori

    Very inspiring interview! Your work is awesome! 🙂

  2. Olivia

    Great interview. Love your work, Francesco!

  3. Melanie Severin

    Great to get to know a bit about you and your work, Francesco – your illustrations are amazing (I love how clever and thought-provoking they are!)

  4. Jessica Y

    Great interview – love how conceptual and interesting your designs are!

  5. Yolanda

    Nice to meet you Francesco… wonderful interview. I remember seeing Ice-Breaker and wondered WOW who did this. Your work is unique and very conceptual… good luck to you !

  6. Pingback: illustrating with – francesco bongiorni « Eastwing Blog

  7. Kim Dietrich Elam

    Welcome to Minted, Francesco – it was great to get to know a little about you and your amazing work!

  8. Pingback: Meet a Mintie: Francesco Bongiorni « NABA Painting and Visual Arts/What's going on?

  9. Hailey

    It was great to ‘meet’ you Francesco! Loved reading your interview.