Matthew Renzi

Strange, but not a stranger.

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Renzi Family Crest

Overview

As I began putting this project together, I realized I didn't know too much about my family's history. That said, this project became both fun and educational.

On the Renzi side, my great grandparents immigrated from Rome, Italy to Philadelphia, PA during World War I, which is where my grandfather was born. He was one of four, and the first to be born in the United States. Shortly after his birth, my great grandparents packed up and moved to Yonkers, NY (outside of NYC), where they met up with additional family members before eventually settling in sunny Buffalo, NY, where my family (and I) have remained. Both my great grandfather and grandfather were draftsman, and after my grandfather joined the army and served in the Korean War, he returned to Buffalo and began working at Bethlehem Steel. Although my grandfather died before I was born, I've learned that he was a master of puns, enjoyed scotch and family get togethers, and worked hard to support his wife and four children, one of whom was my father.

When I was younger, I remember family gatherings being loud (loud is actually an understatement), energetic, and social. Of course, no family gathering would be complete without food. My grandmother was a great cook, and always had a fresh supply of pizzelles to go around (an Italian cookie) no matter the event. My grandmother was 1 of 17 children and was born in Waycross, GA, but you would never know she wasn't Italian—her cooking was always on point and she talked with as much vivacity as the rest of the Renzi clan. In addition to food, my cousins and I would play Bocce (a staple yard game), sit on the porch and talk, build forts in the field next to my grandmother's house, or make up games in her basement.

Research and Visuals

Thinking about food, I thought pizzelles and meatballs would be good options. Pizzelles always come in interesting and unique designs, and I haven't seen many outside of my grandmother's house (maybe an Italian restaurant here or there). Likewise, meatballs and sauce have been my father's pride and joy as far as his heritage goes, and it was only a couple of years ago that he finally let me in on the family secret to making meatballs. Cooking wasn't just about family—it was about pride, too.

As the memories began flooding back, I thought of some additional visuals:

  • Gifts (birthdays, holidays)
  • Cooking utensils and items (silverware, breaded steak, meatballs, lasagna, sausage)
  • Bocce and horseshoes
  • Church and prayer (wine, communion)
  • Writing, art, sewing / crocheting, music (accordion, drums, piano)
  • Landscaping and gardening
  • Italian flag (green, white, red)

Family Crest

Breaking these items down, I found a picture of the Bethlehem Steel sign (the business has long since gone out of business, but the building remained abandoned in Buffalo until very recently), which had a teal-green and orange-red color palette. I thought this would be perfect to match the "Italian pride" factor of the crest. Most Italian meals, in fact, intentionally include green, white, and red for this purpose (tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, for example).

I played around with different patterns and icons, but ultimately decided on a Buffalo image to represent my entire family's roots (the icon of which is composed mostly of circles, with organic legs), a pizzelle as a testimony of my grandmother's kindness and love, meatballs as a symbol of sustenance, pride, and secrecy, and the criss-crossed pen and calligraphy pen, as a testament to my great grandfathers as draftsmen, my father as an accomplished author, and my mother as a promoter of education and self-seeking. The "Know Thyself" statement was a shortened version of "To thine own self be true"—a quote from Shakespeare that my father continually reminded me of when making choices in the world.

Lastly, for the typography, instead of going Gothic, I thought a Script font was a bit more friendly, welcoming, soft, and personable.

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