Even the origin of the word «design», which has its linguistic roots in the Italian «disegno», points to the historical influence and long tradition of Italian ingenuity.
Designing: creating great things
The Florentine painter, architect and art historian Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574) merged painting, sculpture and architecture under the term «arti del disegno», i.e. «the art of design». By this he meant the original conceptualisation of an image, in other words the design, which then led to the actual object. Anyone who masters the high art of design, he wrote, holds in his hands incomparable power and will create things with nothing more than pen and parchment which stand taller than all the towers of the world.
Unique items with simplified shapes
Giorgio Vasari went a step further and compared the inspiration of the artist who was in the process of designing to that of a poet. This comparison proved to be even more valid because the artists and craftsman of Vasari’s era worked on their own to create individual pieces or a series of just a few copies. In this context, design was for a long time likened to the simplification of shapes, leading to better utility, higher quality and more equitable prices.
A master of industrial design
The industrial revolution in the late 18th and 19th centuries brought the mechanisation of handcrafts which in turn, through mechanical mass production, led to a turning away from individually produced unique pieces. That’s why until 1945 the design of industrial products in German-speaking countries was not called design but rather went by other terms such as «product composition» or «industrial styling». Today, the term design refers first and foremost to industrial design, in other words creating a first model upon which to base the mass production of consumer articles. And here the Italians are the undisputed masters!
From Gaetana Aulenti (architecture) through to Achille Castiglioni and Vico Magistretti (industrial design), countless Italian designers made significant contributions towards establishing Italy as the international meeting place of creative generations in the decade between 1950 and 1960. In the world of architecture, names such as Ettore Sottsass, Studio Archea, Paolo Deganello or Alessandro Mendini stand for clear lines and fascinating use of shapes.
Italian style is characterised by a mixture of imagination and uncompromising design. This is not in the least due to excellent educational institutions including avant-garde schools for design, university faculties, exhibitions and other mediums of communication. The current panorama of the world of Italian design is thus quite diversified and dynamic, with a flexible marketing and manufacturing network and a whole series of enterprises which encourage young talent and help them to achieve success.
On the following pages, discover some fascinating, beautiful examples of the Italian spirit in interior design.