Franco Grignani was born in 1908 in Pieve Porto Morone, in the province of Pavia. Already when he was eighteen and nineteen he was taking part in the events of the second generation of Futurists. He was frequently published in the single-editions of Il Torchio addominale, edited by the students' association of Pavia University. In 1933, with his work Introspezione, Grignani was among the two hundred exhibitors in the Grande Mostra Nazionale Futurista in Rome, together with artists co-opted by Marinetti.
In 1934, in the Le Tre Arti gallery, in Foro Bonaparte, Milan, he took part in the show Scelta Futuristi Venticinquenni, subtitled Omaggio dei Futuristi Venticinquenni al Venticinquennio del Futurismo. Almost all his paintings from this period have been lost. From 1935 onwards he abandoned any figurative references and devoted himself to experimentation, also with the use of photography which allowed him further developments: all researches that led him to appreciate Abstractionist and Constructivist avant-garde ideas. Having abandoned his studies in the faculty of mathematics, in 1929 he decided to move to Turin where he studied architecture; having completed his studies he moved to Milan where he devoted himself, as an "experimental studio", to designing exhibition areas and graphic design without, however, forgetting his art researches. In all these activities he pinpointed problems common to visual communication.
He was called up by the army at the beginning of the Second World War and, as an officer, he was entrusted with overseeing a course of aeroplane watching, and this experience channelled his future activities towards experiments in visual analysis. In 1942 he married Jeanne Michot who for years was to effectively back him up in the realisation of important advertising campaigns: for Pirelli, Montecatini, Zignago, Necchi, and many others.
At the end of the war, he returned to his activity as a graphic designer, while also devoting time and attention to his art experiments in which he inquired into aspects of texture, sub-perception, blurring, distortion, moiré and induction (1949 and the early 1950s).
Franco Grignani always rejected the aims and means of traditional painting; he undertook his work in seclusion, but it was absolutely rigorous and coherent, analytical, meaningful, and verifiable through the theories of Gestaltpsychologie. His painting was an immense and varied series of experiments that ranged from optical techniques to spurious mathematics without, however, divorcing himself from a constructive freedom that was sensitive and receptive to new intuitions.
However, his plans for exhibitions were faced by the incomprehension of the art world which considered his work not to be art. His meeting with Lorenzelli was to give him the possibility of showing the results of his various researches, and so began a long collaboration on exhibitions.
The two sides of Grignani, however, were parallel: since the 1950s he had undertaken communications for Alfieri & Lacroix, and he was also art director, selector, and author for the Pubblicità in Italia directories from the beginning of the 1950s to 1985. He created covers for Penguin Books Ltd. and was art director for Dompè Pharmaceuticals' communications.
From the early 1950s he was a member of the AGI, Alliance Graphique Internationale, and of the International Center of Typographic Art, New York, ICTA.
In 1957 he curated the graphics section of the Milan Triennial. In 1964 he designed the Pure Virgin Wool Mark which was, according to opinion polls, the most significant trademark ever produced.
In 1965 he was invited to be a speaker at the first World Congress for human communications, Vision '65, in Carbondale, Illinois, together with such personalities as Max Bill, the geodesic architect Buckminster Fuller, the philosopher and sociologist Marshall McLuhan, and Roger Stevens, arts councillor for President Johnson.
He was part of the Typomundus XX/2 jury for twentieth century graphics communications, and also a member of the jury of the Biennale de l'Affiche, Warsaw, in 1970. Invited by many universities from the English-speaking world, he always refused to leave Italy.
In 1967 he was elected an honorary member of STA, the Society for Typographic Art of Chicago and, in 1972, he took part in the Venice Biennale in the experimental graphics section. Despite his solitary research, Franco Grignani was one of the people who most influenced the studies and inquiries into visual perception, as well as the Op Art currents of international graphics.
In 1975 the City of Milan organised a retrospective show of his work at the Rotonda della Besana in which were to be seen more than one hundred and fifty works. From then on he devoted himself almost exclusively to art: his areas of experimentation ranged from permutations to dissociations, periodic tables, psycho- plastics, hidden diagonals, and symbolic and hyperbolic structures. He devoted himself to demanding exhibition projects: in Venezuela, 1977, and in Italy in 1979 and then throughout the 1980s.
At the beginning of the 1990s he began a collaboration with Arte Struktura, and also created a series of designs for the gallery's art editions.
In 1980 NABA, the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, asked him to become part of its teaching staff. This was the start of a long experience of teaching, though this was united to an incessant activity of research and with the creation of increasingly complex mathematically-based works.
At the end of 1998 a degenerative illness forced him to be confined to bad and, on 20 February 1999, he died in Milan, his adopted home. Still today, an NABA department is named in his memory.