The History of Made In Italy Design


It was in the second half of the 1800s, after the unification of Italy, that industrialization in the Belpaese took off, even though it was still based on agriculture and a bit behind on the technological-productive plan. Various industries took off, including the metallurgical, chemical and mechanical industries. However, it was the automotive Made in Italy industry at the turn of the century that really earned a top spot in the industry internationally, thanks to Fiat, which was founded in 1899, which was the driving force in its industry. Speed, with the emergence of the automobiles and aviation, was an indispensable part of the Futurist movement that was born in 1909 thanks to the poet and writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.


Five years later, Antonio Sant’Elia wrote The Manifesto of Futuristic Architecture in eight main points where he listed the foundations for an “evolving Italy ”, where he stressed that the nation’s beauty and functionality should be enhanced. It was in 1915 when Giacomo Balla and Fortunato de Pero applied aesthetics not only to all aspects of life, but also to furniture and home styling, by signing the Manifesto of the Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe. In 1992 came another vital artistic movement for Italian design: the Novecento italiano, an art movement in which art was created for Mussolini’s propaganda, led by art critic Margherita Sarfatti: from painting the tendency passed onto interior design and furnishing, returning a sense of order to the center of artistic and design philosophies. There was a balance and purity of form, in sharp contrast to avant-garde, especially futurism. Gio Ponti was surely one of the greatest protagonists of this movement thanks to his creativity, which earned him fame for his brilliant vision and multidisciplinary abilities.

Between 1927 and 1930, the third Biennial of Monza and the fourth Triennial marked the coming of modern Made in Italy furniture design. The rustic style abandoned the traditions and the first protagonist of the furniture industry and Italian design emerged; The first furniture brands of the Belpaese were born, and accessories became real and iconic. In particular, Domus Nova, comprising of a line of furniture designed by Gio Pointi and Emilio Lancia, was designed to be accessible to all; simple yet refined. In 1993, the fifth Triennale of Milano was held for the first time, at the Palazzo dell’Arte at Sempione Park in Milan. Among the leading companies of the time, the Olivietti soon became the driving force of Made in Italy design, marking the beginning of a relationship between two cultures, where architects and artists, in collaboration with technical departments began to embark on a journey of experimentation with innovative materials and a new concept of furniture.

In 1936, the rationalist aesthetic passed from architecture to furnishing, which, still remained liked to the traditional processes. The word “style” began to be used, and the idea that furniture was a tool to be produced in a series became popular. Wood became obsolete in favor of new materials such as chrome tubes, aluminum alloys and glass. Furniture and household objects became of great consumer interest in every social class between the 1950s and 1960s. Experimentation and collaboration between designers and companies were ready for innovation. Italian design was consolidated and became famous throughout the world.


Bruno Munari was another great protagonist of Italian design, famous for creating the Campari logo. He also designed the Pavoni coffee machine in collaboration with Enzo Mari, which together with the Piaggio Vespa, the Fiat 600 and the Olivietti calculator, quickly became the most important icons of Italy. Even lighting became important during this time, when items such as the funnel lamp, designed in 1953, and built by Luigi Caccia, became famous all over the world. In 1956, the company Rimadesio, famous for its high-quality doors, was established.


In 1961, the first furniture exhibition in Milan, the Salone del Mobile was held, which has since become a point of reference for designers and architects from all over the world. The biggest in its field with its 2,010 exhibitors, 201 thousand meter-squared exposition center and 350,000 annual visitors. Coinciding with this first exhibition, the magazine Abitare (meaning living), was born. Thought of for a cosmopolitan public, yet with Italian taste approved of by the Belpaese, today Abitare represents one of the most prestigious and influent magazines in the field of architecture and design.

Design in Italy and around the world was focused on finding a perfect symbiosis of form and function, i.e., a harmonious integration between technological-functional aspects and aesthetic-formal aspects. Design means project. Design means to move forward. Design is awareness of the present and imagination of a future. A technical , scientific, sociological and humanistic discipline. A careful look at the world that revolves around an idea, this is what design means. This is the Italian design.