Italian Design, The Production of Art

When talking about Italy, a series of words will appear in most people’s heads: opera, fashion, leather shoes, pizza, pasta, football and of course, supercars. It is fascinating that on that piece of boot looking peninsula, came out so many world famous things. The Italians are not only love life, but also full of creativities, inspiration and passion.

Although Italy was not very outstanding in early modern design development, after WWII, especially after the 1950s, Italy became the most vivid place in modern design, the Italian designers’ extraordinary creativity hugely enriched the content of modern design. From 1960s POP design till 1980s postmodern design, Italian designer were among the most important roles, and they still are.

The famous Italian novelist and art critic Umberto Eco once proudly stated: “If other countries had a theory of design, Italy had a philosophy, maybe even an ideology of design.” However, that ideology of design’s history was not that long. Because during WWII, Italy was one of the Axis Power nations, the whole nation suffered hugely from the war. After war, the nation literally had to build a new Italy on the ruins, and it was then that the Italian artists and designers quickly drew their long artistic tradition from their heritage and applied it on designing mass produce products, such as the Vespa scooter. At the Milan design triennial, Italy exhibited their start of modern design movement and “The Production of Art” became the new motto of Italian designers. The golden moment of Italian designed came in 1972 when the exhibition “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape” was held in Museum of Modern Art in New York, Italian design has secured a major role as one of the most significant players in design world. As a result of the successful achievement of Italian designers, Italy has formed a “design orientated” production method, very different from other countries “user orientated” way. They are especially good at limited production, high end products.

Many Italian designers started their lives as architects, they graduated from Politecnico di Milano or Politecnico di Torino. Not to mention that Gianfranco Ferre, the architect of fashion, was a graduate from Politecnico di Milano in architecture, as an example. Most of the Italian designers are multi-skilled, the same designer can come up with a top notch stylish Italian supercar, while at the same time, design a new interesting looking pasta.

Just like all the other nations, Italy also went though all kinds of movements in contemporary art and design, like Functionalism and Pop Design, but Italian designers were always able to come up with their own variations, Italian style. Unique from very commercialized American design or very traditional Scandinavian design, the Italian design is a combination of traditional craftsmanship, modern thinking, personal character, nature materials and new materials. Italian designers tend to treat design as an art and culture, and they are always on the frontline and the top of the pyramid.


In every Italian design piece, one can find that the designer is not only catching the trend and integrated the national character, but also presented his or her own personal taste and talent, and they like to name their own design. As the famous Italian designer Ettore Sottsass once declared: “To me, doing design doesn’t mean giving form to a more or less stupid product for a more or less sophisticated industry, design for me is a way of discussing life, sociality, politics, food, and even design.” He believed design, like art or poetry, served a spiritual and cultural mission in society, as well as in daily life. Practicality aside, Italian designs are showing designers pursuit, desire, dream and aspiration. In this high pressure and unfriendly society, Italian designers pointed out that furniture should not be just a device to rest or storing objects, it also serves as a device to help recover from the upset mind and provide a harbour of refuge. Many designers set “providing dream for the no-time-to dream world” as their design goal. For example, Italian designer Massimo Losa Ghini, named his armchair “La Mamma”, meaning that the chair is providing a sense of security, warmness and comfort. For Italian, design is more about designing dreams and feeling than objects. In their own word, design is the production of art.

One Response to “Italian Design, The Production of Art”

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforfts
    and I am waiting for your next post thanks once

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