Branding & Marketing Pioneer
and World-Class Photographer
“The man behind some of the most memorable and controversial ads in history”
Oliviero Toscani, son of the first photojournalist at Corriere Della Sera, the main Italian daily newspaper, was born in Milan in 1942 and studied photography and graphics at the University of the Arts in Zurich between 1961 and 1965.
Internationally known as the creative force behind some of the world’s most famous newspapers and brands, he created corporate images and advertising campaigns for – among others – Esprit, Chanel, Robe di Kappa, Fiorucci, Prenatal, Jesus, Inter Football Club, Snai, Toyota, Italy’s Ministry of Labor, Italy’s Ministry of ‘Environment and Health, Artemide, Woolworth, The Italian Red Cross, Calabria Region and the Umberto Veronesi Foundation.
He has carried out campaigns promoting awareness of – and the need to address – major social issues including road safety, anorexia, violence against women, the degradation of the Italian landscape, osteoporosis, stray dogs and integration.
As a fashion photographer, he collaborates with newspapers and magazines such as Elle, Vogue, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Stern, Liberation and many others, as well as with many of these titles’ international editions.
From 1982 to 2000 he created the image and identity of United Colors of Benetton, shifting the communication strategy towards promoting messages of peace and tolerance, focusing attention on social issues such as AIDS, the death penalty, integration and equality. His work made Benetton one of the best-known brands in the world. In 2017, after a 17-year hiatus, Benetton called him back once again as director of communications.
In 1990, he created and was editor of Colors, the first global magazine in the world, and in 1993 he conceived and directed Fabrica – a research centre for creativity in modern communication – which he returned to direct in 2017. From 1999 to 2000, he was creative director of the monthly Talk Miramax in New York. In 2018, he created a 40-volume series: Oliviero Toscani – Photography Lessons published by RCS Corriere della Sera.
In 2005, Toscani founded La Sterpaia, a laboratory for modern communication research, which has carried out projects with both private partners and public institutions.
Toscani was one of the founding professors of the Mendrisio Academy of Architecture, in Switzerland. He has taught visual communication in various universities and written books on communication. After more than five decades of editorial innovation, advertising, film and television, now he is interested in communication creativity applied to various media, producing – with his studio in Tuscany – editorial projects, books, television programs and exhibitions.
From 2006 to 2010, he was artistic director of Music Box, an interactive music channel, for which he directed the cultural programme Camera Oscura. In 2014, for Radio Rai, he presented I am not objective, a programme that analysed cultural rituals in order to question banal clichés and old truths, an encounter between art and research that sought to offer the listener a new way of seeing the world /new perspectives. He has had a programme for Radio Radicale since 2014, called Made in Italy, where he deals with topics related to landscape, architecture, land use and urban planning. Since 2015, he has been a judge on Sky Arte’s talent show Master of Photography.
Since 2007, Oliviero Toscani has curated the Human Race project, an interaction between photography and video focusing on the different morphologies and conditions of human beings and representing all the expressions – physical, somatic, social and cultural – of humanity. Numerous exhibitions have taken place worldwide, including the one in Geneva, promoted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Toscani’s work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, in São Paulo (Brazil), at the Milan Triennale, at the Chiasso m.a.x. museo (in Switzerland) and in modern and contemporary art museums all over the world. His self-portrait is on display in the Corridoio Vasariano of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery.
He has been invited to numerous conferences and conventions, including The New Yorker’s “What’s next?” conference, in Orlando (1996), the World Economic Forum in Davos and Table of free voices in Berlin (both in 2006), Global Citizen Forum in Montenegro (2017) and Innovation Day in Munich (2018).
He has won several awards, including the Golden Lion (four times), the Affichage Grand Prix (twice), the UNESCO Grand Prix, the Saatchi & Saatchi Creative Hero award and many Art Directors Club awards from around the world.
The Academy of Fine Arts in Urbino awarded him the Il Sogno di Piero award. He received the title of Academic of Honour from the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence and the title of Academic of Merit from the Academy of Perugia. In 2017, he obtained honorary degrees from the Academy of Fine Arts in Brescia (Italy) and the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo (Mexico) and, in 2018, from the University of the Arts in Zurich. Oliviero Toscani is an honorary member of the Leonardo Committee and of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.
He is an exceptional and singular speaker in his field, whose energy and dialectics inspire the audience. This is why he is frequently invited to give lectures and key speeches in seminars and conventions .