Over one hundred years of experience, four generations, a unique passion
For over one hundred years Conti’s family has been committed to the art of printing combining tradition, experience and innovation with creativity and great respect for an artisanal craftsmanship. The history of Conti Tipocolor is closely connected with the history of Italy, particularly with the social, political and economic events that affected the family members all throughout the 20th century.
Today, at the fourth generation of its history, Conti still manages the business directly maintaining its cultural heritage over the years. Currently, Roberto Conti is the president of Conti Tipocolor with the close support of his brother and cousin, Fabio and Giorgio, all actively involved in first person in the business.
Culture, passion and dedication are the driving forces that lead Conti to compete in national and international markets, offering high quality products with a particular attention to details.
The story of a Florentine Printer
A humble start
Conti’s roots can be traced back to the unification of Italy (1861), when Niccolò Conti, a strong man of humble origins, gains his own freedom after years of heavy restrictions, becoming the first primary school founder and teacher in Calenzano. At that time, this area, located in the surroundings of Florence, was based on a rural subsistence economy, backwardness and a high rate of illiteracy affecting approximately 90% of the population. Against this trend, Niccolò encourages his son Italo to study, hoping that one day he would embark on the same academic path. But Italo, inheriting from his father the passion for knowledge and culture, decides instead to set up a typography thanks to his wife Argia Landini’s finances. It was 1906 when in Santa Croce Square (Florence), Tipografia Italo Conti opened its doors to produce “luxury and commercial prints for private and public businesses”. However, the future of the company is inevitably influenced by the political situation in Italy in early 1900s. In 1915, during the first World War, Italo has to move to the North of Italy to fight in the trenches but due to a serious lung infection, he will have to go back to Florence a few months later. Here, after the birth of his third son Enzo, Italo dies leaving the typography in the hands of his wife Argia. Thanks to her incredible persistence, she manages to keep the business -at that time moved to Rifredi, a flourishing industrial area in Florence- alive and bring up the kids by herself. In the 1930s, insurmountable difficulties threaten to drive the typography into bankruptcy, and Argia is forced to give away the majority share to one of her wealthy relatives. In the meantime, Aldo, Giorgio and Enzo, the three sons of Argia and Italo, start to work in their family business. But once again Conti’s family is dramatically involved in the wartime events of the Second World War. While Aldo, as the first-born son of a fallen soldier, is exempted from serving in army, Giorgio has to leave for a mission from which unfortunately he will not come back. In the meanwhile, the third son Enzo, called up for military service in Florence, is also working in the typography showing a natural charisma and strong entrepreneurial skills. After a while, Argia, attracted by the personality of her son, decides to nominate him as her natural successor.
A natural and innovative entrepreneur
In 1949, despite the enormous difficulties left by the Second World War, Enzo manages to repossess the property of the typography that now is called Argia Conti & Sons. In the following years, the Italian graphics industry experiences a boom and Enzo is increasingly fascinated by the sophistication and the quality of typographical works. Attracted by art books and Florence’s cultural treasures, he decides to shape the business towards high-quality art book printing.
To develop the growth potential of the company, Enzo starts travelling to Heidelberg in Germany where he invests in new and innovative printing presses, crucial for the future success of the typography. In the 1950s, the firm, currently working with the Italian publishers Le Monnier, Sansoni, Nuova Italia and Vallecchi, starts to expand also in international markets offering prestigious books and thus attracting international investors. In 1955, in the same plant, Tipocolor is founded and financed by the publisher Sansoni, Reynolds American and Argia Conti & Sons typography as a minority partner. High-quality suppliers such as the bindery Stianti and Zincopatia Altimani in Milan for the procurement of the printing plates, are selected and also monotype prints are preferred over the more commercial and affordable linotype. Tipocolor has now 150 employees working in a state-of-the-art plant that produces books for national and international markets. In this regard, important international partnerships with Mc Graw Hill and Thames & Hudson are established, and the American and English editions of the Art Encyclopaedia are printed in-house. At the end of 1960s, the publisher Sansoni is struggling financially and asks the shareholders to liquidate the company. But Enzo Conti, thanks to his strong determination and the support of his family, is ready to acquire the entire typography.
The rise of Conti Tipocolor Spa
In 1968, Enzo and Aldo Conti launch Conti Tipocolor Spa by merging Argia Conti & Sons. The plant is then moved to Calenzano, where Conti’s family was originally located. Here, Enzo continues to invest buying two large format presses and some machines for the bindery that is now a real and modern in-house department. To ensure the profitability of its investments, Conti Tipocolor starts producing school textbooks for the growing market of educational publishers such as De Agostini and Nuova Italia, and also packaging for pharmaceutical companies. Enzo is now supported by his brother Aldo and his nephews Italo and Giorgio who drive the company to new opportunities. In the 1980s, Conti Tipocolor is ready to embrace new important technological innovations both for the printing and the bindery departments. At the end of the 1980s, Enzo’s eldest son Roberto, who joined the business after his business studies, initially works in domestic sales with his cousin Italo, and later he will start Conti expansion towards international markets, mainly targeting museums and publishing houses in US and UK. Roberto knows English and is keen to travel to see different business realities and approach new customers, essentially what it takes to fulfil his father’s dream to expand the family business worldwide. As the Italian market narrows due to the concentration of publishing companies, Conti decides to gradually replace the large format with the medium (70×100), more appropriate for art books’ production. Since then, the domestic market’s demand decreases while exports massively increase to the extent that nowadays represent 80% of the firm’s sales.
At the end of the 1990s, Enzo decides to retire at the age of 80, leaving an enormous cultural heritage to be preserved across generations. For over 60 years, Enzo, as a visionary leader, has been the fulcrum of a family saga connected to the social, political, economic and industrial aspects of Italy.
Today Conti Tipocolor is managed by Roberto with a special pride and entrepreneurial spirit transmitted by his father. His brother Fabio, entered in the business in the 1980s, handles the administration of the firm, while their cousin Giorgio is the technical director of both the printing and bindery departments. Despite the financial difficulties of the Italian market, Conti is consolidating its brand value in international markets to exploit all its present and future potential. In 2014, straight after her graduation in Management at Florence University, Roberto’s daughter Marta has joined the Sales department. And after 2 years, also Fabio’s son Lorenzo has taken part of the family business in the technical department. Fabio’s daughter Lucia will join the firm in September 2019 with a strong international business background. Conti has recently turned 110 years and it is now at the beginning of the fourth generation.