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Masseria Canestrello Artisanal Pasta

My family from my mother’s side has acquired farmland by way of cattle trading, an activity my great-grandfather pursued over a century ago with a good degree of success. Fast-forward to today my mother’s farm “Canestrello” is celebrating its 100 years anniversary, which is a milestone we wanted to celebrate with something special considering the fact no one of us will be present the next time the century turns over.

Canestrello and its surrounding areas have been known for their durum wheat (the bread and pasta making cereal to be clear) for centuries, this tradition has been maintained through our family’s history and is a source of pride to the present day.

The idea was simple and ambitious at the same time, turning a portion of our durum wheat into pasta to celebrate this beautiful crop which has defined our family and Italy too as pasta and pizza conquered the world. At face value this proposition seemed quite reasonable, that is if you don’t consider that given the type of product a “limited” production would require four metric tons of raw material to be transformed into roughly two metric tons of high-quality “artisanal” pasta. Some kind of family project, definitely up there with a kitchen remodel.

On my end I would contribute marketing, branding, and communications, which are my areas of competence, by building the brand from the ground up starting only with a name and a geographic location.

The project began with a qualitative and quantitative market survey that I developed with Survey Monkey. The objective was to investigate attitudes towards “artisanal” pasta—a small batch gourmet version of the product we are used to consume in its industrial form via commercial brands such as Barilla, De Cecco, or whatever your supermarket carries—as well as the types of shapes people favored in what I referred to as the Hit Parade of pasta. A mailing list was generated via Mail Chimp within our family and friends to create a pool of prospective customers, contact was made, the questionnaires disseminated, and soon enough we had a snapshot of what roughly 250 people thought about our idea. Not only the survey gave us an understanding of the attitudes regarding “artisanal” pasta, but it also informed our decision of what types of pasta (remember we are producing two tons of the stuff) and in which quantities we were going to produce it.

My sisters tackled all productions aspects, stuff like moving truckloads of wheat, finding the mill, and ultimately finding the pasta maker that would accept such a small order, since two tons in the pasta business is considered somewhat of a test production.

On my end I had to design the logo, develop a brand identity, including a package that had to be produced into two separate sizes, one for long and one for short pasta. As expected a Website to present the initiative had to be created together with some labels and a few other corporate identity materials

Project images

Moving forward we will simplify the packaging to control cost, likely we will move to a labeling system to go over the cellophane bag, eliminating the cardboard box altogether. Hopefully this solution is not only cost-effective but also more eco-friendly as well.

Packaging label only solution


During my collaboration with the FILA brand—an Italian sportswear brand with an elite image here in the US—was going through several momentous changes.

At time the company had licensed a US company to produce FILA branded athletic footwear for the US market which quickly became so successful as to overshadow the Italian main brand for sales volume here in the US. This amazing success prompted the Italian management team to cash-in on the success by arranging to re-purchase the licensing rights from the US holder as well as their operations, which would later be integrated with FILA’s (far smaller) US operations.

The “original” Italian FILA had a niche “country-club” appeal, which made it desirable but not very popular in the mainstream market. While the US footwear operations had leveraged this Elite Euro appeal to target inner-city youth, which by then was revolving around the Rap and Hip-Hop culture being amplified nationwide through the popular MTV video channel.

A daunting task was at hand, how to integrate two radically different companies (one operating in Turin, Italy and the other in Baltimore ,USA) which shared the same brand identity but had implemented radically different strategies to achieve their success.

During my tenure as International Director of Advertising I worked to integrate both operations, merging (when possible) the communications efforts, and centralized the marketing operations with a brand management team that was based in the US and would serve all worldwide subsidiaries and importers for advertising and marketing materials. The objective was simple, centralize production to control the message and positioning, cut costs by avoiding duplication on ads and marketing materials produced in local markets.

To me the problem wasn’t creativity (FILA was a cool brand with lots of athletes as testimonials), the problem was logistics. How do I quickly involve all the stakeholders (subsidiaries and importers) in the production of advertising campaigns so that their input could help us make the most of the high production dollars we were spending in the US? It’s important to understand that this was happening in a pre-internet world, where instant communications were only happening via the telephone and fax.

THE FILA M-Squad advertising campaign

The M-Squad print advertising campaign.

30″ TV advertising

THE FILA CAGE advertising campaign

The CAGE print advertising campaign

30″ TV advertising

The Canvas story

This project is the typical startup story, an idea around which a whole brand needed to be invented. The idea was looking to improve on the successful coffee retail chains, not just a lounge with free WiFi, but by adding an art gallery and performance space to turn the space in a multi-discipline gathering place that could feed all the senses.

The first item of the list was naming, a simple catchy name that would immediately create a link between coffee and art, quite a challenge given the complexity of the concept and the fact that gourmet coffee was already a congested segment. The first name we proposed was “SMART – Art so fresh it’s never seen a museum”. Like SWATCH but with the added value that SMART also made the conceptual tie with art from young (inexpensive) artist. Art that is freshly made, like a good coffee, not something you’d see hanging in a museum. This meant art accessible to everyone, not just to the affluent collectors, what a perfect name! SMART.

To our bewilderment the client didn’t feel the name captured the essence of their concept, so back to the drawing board, feeling your best idea had just succumbed.

After a taking a break and resetting our creative clock we developed CANVAS Café and Gallery, to identify the space as place were interests, passions, lives combined to create. The space were all of this was to happen had to be aptly called THE CANVAS, and it stuck. The name was chosen.

Being a “concept” much of the brand identity was developed fairly quickly and without the opportunity of further refinements, also everything was on a shoestring budget, which never helps.

The client tried to develop the concept into a franchise and sadly after several years of operations the project was wound down.

Through the years The Canvas became an anchor for neighborhood activities in the University district of San Francisco, with many loyal customers and hosting well attended art openings, music concerts, and poetry readings. I remember reading many posts from longtime clients that were bemoaning the loss of one of their favorite hangouts.


Los angeles city college district

Over the past seventy-seven years LACCD served as educator to more than three million students. Affordable, accessible and practical, the LACCD offers opportunity to all.

Our rebranding initiative intended to showcase the district’s new direction towards sustainability and innovation.

Our doors are wide open for a diverse student population eager for skills, knowledge and upward mobility.

LACCD educates almost three times as many Latino students and nearly four times as many African-American students as all of the University of California campuses combined. Eighty percent of LACCD students are from under-served populations.

Ethos Factory has helped develop several aspects of the new brand identity and communications. Here are some categories of the work we produced:

Corporate Identity

Logos; Naming; Corporate Identity Study.

Corporate Communications

Resource Recovery Initiative; Websites; Technical manuals; Digital slide shows; Merchandising.

Retail graphics

Window displays; Building graphics; Store design.

Project’s Gallery

Creative Strategy Presentation

Banner Ads for the Hilton Group

I developed these campaigns for the Hilton Group with iProspect’s Fort Worth office. The challenge we to create something new and fresh for a group that deploys hundreds of online campaigns globally every month, and to do so for their most valuable brand Waldorf Astoria among other things. To make things more interesting I had to comply to stringent branding guidelines and was also given a short turnaround time, I am glad to say the client was pleased with the outcome.

Online Boutique Concept

For this  concept site I developed the user interface, copy strategy, art direction, and all the graphic navigation elements . The site was produced with two programmers and was used as a prototype to illustrate the overall concept and simulate the shopping experience.

Click on the image to see some screen grabs of the site, you can also access the concept site here and navigate it.

Please note that given the demonstrative nature of the site, most of the functionalities are mocked-up and only one collection and one product simulate the complete purchase flow.