Guest post: San Diego design students brand an Italian town.

Ron Miriello gave a presentation entitled How We Stay Curious as Designers—seven insights about design and life at the last AIGA San Diego Y Conference. He shared a project where he turned to students at San Diego City College to help brand his adopted hometown of Radicondoli in Italy. In this guest post, Ron observes what happens when two distinct cultures meet. (If you have a post that would be of interest to the membership, please contact with your ideas.)


The village of Radicondoli (Siena) sits on a hilltop, surrounded by forests rich with unique wildlife and spectacular views of Tuscany. Forestry and sheep farming fuel the local economy and authentic traditions of Tuscan life persevere. It is in many ways the same as hundreds of other small villages that dot the Italian peninsula. At the same time it is different and distinct, as each region in Italy has its own history, secrets and struggles to evolve in the rapidly changing 21st century. Radicondoli – known for its farm-to-table food – is in a geothermal region where clouds of steam rise from the hills, marking the location of modern geothermal power stations.


Now this particular town  is about to become more distinct and modern than most, through a unique collaboration with a California college design program based on the innovative idea of adopting this small Tuscan village to hone its design and marketing talents.

Working as a graphic designer, I live part-time in this mountain village located 40 minutes west of Siena. I had been looking for a way for my adopted home to evolve with the youthful energy and vitality of my other home, San Diego, California. I believe there’s a beautiful relationship between tradition-less America and tradition-bound Italy. We can see in each other what we don’t see in ourselves, and we learn from each other.

I approached Professor Candice Lopez, who heads the graphic design program at San Diego City College, and her colleague Professor Sean Bacon, with the idea of turning Radicondoli into a “client” for her design and multimedia students. The objective was to challenge them to invent ways to increase awareness and interest in the town through design. “Our advanced level students immersed themselves into this project. Ron counseled them on what makes his beloved village special: geothermal phenomena, the music and cultural festivals, rich artistic traditions, and an ‘island in the clouds’ storyline. Then passion and ideas started to flow. We skyped with the village and really got to know each other. It was an inspired way for my students to solve real communication problems, to make international contacts and most importantly make a difference with their ideas,” said Lopez.


Thus a medieval village of less than a thousand people may soon have its own Wikipedia page, a GPS app, an integrated website, street banners, a signage system, a new brand identity and retail packaging. Maybe just as important, a new generation of young designers might have the opportunity to meet their “client” in person: a future reunion is planned, in what could very well become the best branded little village in all of Tuscany.




Words: Ron Miriello
Radicondoli photos:  © Ron Miriello
Student photos: © Alicia Lopez

More stories about the project:

Italian Ways

San Diego City Times

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By AIGA San Diego Tijuana
Published July 18, 2014