When Drinks Meet Design: the Story of Campari

Food and beverages are about more than the product: they are also about style. And few companies have a more iconic style than Campari, which made design part of the brand from the beginning.   

History of Campari

Gaspare Campari was born in Lombardy in 1828, the tenth child of a local farmer. By the age of 14, he was working in a local bar, making drinks. In his 20s, he formulated a bitters-style aperitif and sold it throughout Italy. In 1860, he invented the recipe for a new aperitif, containing more than 60 herbs, spices, fruit peels, and other secret ingredients. 

In 1867, Gaspare opened a bar in Milan, near the famous Duomo. Cafe Campari soon became a hub for the artistic and cultural life of the city, and his proprietary cocktail increased in popularity among the fashionable set. In 1904, the first Campari production plant was opened in Sesto San Giovanni. 

In 1920, the first of the iconic Campari cocktails were invented and published to the world, including the Negroni and the Americano. The same year, Campari began to incorporate art and design into their brand. Leonetto Cappiello created the first famous Campari poster, the Spiritello wrapped in an orange peel, that remains iconic to this day.

The Art of Campari

Over the years, Campari has celebrated legendary design in every aspect of their business. Davide Campari, Gaspare’s son, was an early visionary in advertising and marketing. In 1931, he commissioned futuristic artist Fortunato Depero to design a bottle for the new Campari Soda, a pre-mixed cocktail to be sold from vending machines. Davide requested a bottle made of Bordoni glassware, with no label. Instead, the words “Campari Soda” and “Special Preparation, Davide Campari & C. MILANO” were to be embossed on the glass. The lack of a label made the distinctive red color of Campari a signature of the brand, and Depero designed the iconic conical bottle, first modeled in wood, to further make the new product stand out from the competition.

Fortunato Depero's design.

In 1931, Depero also collaborated with Campari on a collection of advertising art, featuring design, posters, and poetry, to be launched with the Manifesto dell’Arte Pubblicitaria Futurista. 

Campari has built an amazing legacy of art and design, commissioning posters, bottles, branded objects, glassware, and advertising from the leading visionary artists of every generation. The company has even had television advertisements directed by cinematic legends like Tarsem Singh and Frederico Fellini. 

Today, the art and design legacy of Campari is featured in a museum in Milan, the Galleria Campari, located in the original Campari factory. 

Campari Today

Today, Campari is available in more than 190 countries around the globe, and the company owns more than 45% of global liquor sales. The original Campari aperitif is still made with Gaspare’s secret formula, unchanged except that the original carmine dye was discontinued in 2006. It is consistently rated as one of the best cocktails in the world by publications like Wine Enthusiast, Proof66, and classified as “Unforgettable” by the IBA Official Drinks list. 

In 2010, to celebrate their 150th anniversary, Campari commissioned artists Vanessa Beecroft and Tobias Rehberger to create limited edition art labels, and they have continued creating limited edition art labels every year since, fostering and deepening the connection between Campari and art.

BY FORTUNATO DEPERO N.1
The first label was inspired by a black and white ink sketch made on paper in 1928. It was a graphic study made for Campari, closely recalling aperitif time, revisited and re-colored, presented on a green background with the color red in strong evidence.

More images of the art labels can be found here.

Campari’s commitment to celebrating and cultivating art and design throughout its long history is one of the signatures of the brand, and it has created iconic images that have captured the imaginations of generations of consumers. By constantly working with the leading artists of their time and embracing futuristic design, Campari smartly cultivates an image that is both classic and legendary, while remaining fresh and fashionable. It’s a lesson that other brands have struggled with, but Campari has been perfecting it for 100 years. 

At grapefrute, we celebrate beauty in all its forms, from the natural lushness of flowers and fruit, to the pure elegance of perfume bottles and cosmetics packaging. We know that great products become legends because of the care and attention to detail from every member of the team, from the quality of raw materials and ingredients, to the care of product managers and new product developers, to the meticulous design of packaging and marketing experts. If you want to build great teams or be part of iconic brands, contact us today.