A brief history of “Smemo” – Il Post

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In 2015, Treccani prepared an exhibition that gathered the most representative objects of Italian design year after year. The chosen object for 1978 was the first edition of Smemoranda, or “Smemo”, an agenda created amateurishly and without commercial ambitions by a group of university students, which would sell hundreds of thousands of copies a year. . After 45 years last March, the company created to produce them went bankrupt, and on Tuesday the Smemoranda brand went up for auction.

To create it in the late seventies, the creators entrusted a small printing house and initially distributed it only to specific places, such as schools and factories. The proceeds were used to finance parts of the Proletarian Democracy, a radical left-wing Italian political party founded in 1975 by writer and activist Mario Capanna. Also for this reason, “Smemo” was long considered a “left-wing cause”.

The origin of the name Smemoranda is unclear. In a 2016 interview, Nico Colonna, one of the creators, explained it by saying that it was like “a kind of ‘gerundive'” that “crosses memory, agenda and amnesia, or a small memory that justifies the use of agenda”.

It was a unique item for its time, or “revolutionary,” as the people who invented it defined it in various interviews. In fact, all diaries were somewhat similar in those years, with exceptions such as the Vitto diaries, a series of school diaries published from 1949 to 1980 by the Catholic publisher AVE, which featured comic stories by Italian cartoonist Benito Jacovitti. Most diaries had plain colored covers, were strictly lined paper, and were designed for very traditional uses such as marking hours and homework.

On the other hand, “Smemo” featured some unique aesthetic features, starting with the use of squared sheets of paper, which at the time were exclusively for counting, not writing down thoughts. The program also featured articles, opinion pieces and essays on a variety of topical issues that placed some emphasis on values ​​such as environmentalism, solidarity and pacifism.

The intention was to flip through a sort of magazine, more than a regular journal. Among the students who participated in the project were also Luigi Vignali, Michele Mozzati and Nico Colonna: in the following years the first two adopted the pseudonyms Gino and Michele and became famous above all as the authors of the famous television comedy program Zelig. However, Colonna would become president of Smemoranda, a school products and stationery company that would produce the diary for the next 45 years.

Diaries produced by Smemoranda have been used by hundreds of thousands of students over more than four decades and have hosted the contributions of various personalities associated with the world of culture, entertainment and entertainment such as Federico Fellini, Roberto Benigni, Giampaolo Pansa and more recently Michela Murgia, Chiara Gamberale, Aldo Nove, Guido Catalano and Sfera Ebbasta.

In an interview given to Republic in 2019, Colonna compared “Smemo” to the forefather of social media because it “was passed around among classmates to have a catchphrase, a signature, a slur”. The comparison is obviously an exaggeration, but it does a good job of explaining how these journals have become part of the habits of many students.

Caterina Balducci, who worked for 16 years as head of editorial products for the Smemoranda brand, says that although recent years have been characterized by a general decline in interest in paper products, diaries have continued to attract the interest of hundreds of thousands of people. : «we continued to sell an average of 300 thousand every year».

Over the past 45 years, the formula adopted by “Smemo” has remained more or less unchanged: “There has always been a ‘theme of the year’ around which designers and writers have been asked to write something.” One of the most epic and successful certainly remains “Con il cuore e con la mente” from 1995, while one of the simplest and most effective “Ciao!” from a few years ago”.

– Read also: Memoranda will no longer be Memoranda

In most cases, the authors invited to collaborate felt a certain liking for the brand, also because they all owned “Smemo” during their school years; therefore, it was not necessary to insist too much to convince them: «I got very little no and brought home a membership that seemed unthinkable: writers, designers, award-winning athletes, music and film stars, YouTubers and creators of today. Every time I suggested writing an article, the response was “Smemo!” and you understood that the romanticization of the high school years did not leave anyone indifferent.” Balducci says that “Virtually everyone, from Fellini to Sfera Ebbasto, has gone through Smem, just to understand the time span and the different registers. And I would also like to remember an email from a semi-unknown Zerocalcare, who wrote to us in 2011: “So, did you like the drawings?”».

To describe such a distinctive and original product, although several knock-offs have actually flourished, Balducci uses what he considers “one of the most overused and insufferable phrases on the web”, but it gives a very good idea of ​​what it was. as. “It was “Smemo”: “a diary that makes you laugh but also makes you think”.

Over the years, Smemoranda expanded its activities into other industries, such as the distribution of school supplies and the production of television programs. Last year, after more than 45 years of activity, the company went bankrupt after several years of crisis, and this week the brand of famous diaries will be auctioned.

Balducci says that the biggest regret is that this product has enjoyed some success, still has a strong and valued identity and, despite its long editorial history, is still able to keep up with the times and in some cases to influence the public debate. Last year, for example, former League senator Simone Pillon considered the 2023/2024 edition of “Smemo” dangerous because of the importance it attached to gender issues.

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