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EditorialeID: 0601

Designers and writing in the twentieth century

“AIS/Design. Storia e ricerche” n. 6, dedicated to the theme “Designers and writing in the twentieth century” is now online.

In recent years we have witnessed a renewed acknowledgment of the value of writing for designers, and the issue of the critical use of writing as related to design and as a design mode has emerged on several levels. Taking the observation of this interest in writing as a point of departure, Issue n. 6 of the magazine intends to reflect on how writing was practiced by designers in the twentieth century, and on the many different ways it has been used for both personal and private, operational, theoretical-critical, historic, programmatic, educational and pedagogical purposes.

Norman Potter, in his essay What is a Designer? (1969), wrote that “[d]esigners use words constantly and in direct relation to their work” and that the “ability to use words clearly, pointedly, and persuasively” is a relevant, though often underestimated, aspect of a designer’s work. Designers, however, have used and relied on the support of the written word not only in relation to their strictly professional work. Historically, writing has been for designers an indispensable tool for the theoretical development, construction and popularization of the discipline. Starting in the nineteenth century and increasingly throughout the twentieth century, designers have written about their own work and that of others; they have advanced programmatic manifestos and written texts that have become essential to the discipline; they have founded and directed magazines, fostering the critical debate; they have published books and educational textbooks. The writings of the most illustrious figures, which have become classics, continue to influence new generations of designers, scholars and critics. It should not be forgotten, moreover, that in Italy in particular, the design culture has always demonstrated a marked propensity for theoretical and critical debate, and many Italian designers are renowned for their prolific, assiduous and passionate production of writings, and for their direct involvement in editorial projects that have had a strong impact on international commentators, scholars and designers.

The articles we have gathered here examine the objectives and the ways in which designers have embraced the medium of writing, concurrently or within their design practice, or for the purpose of advancing thought, criticism or divulgation; they also explore the language, the wording and the editorial formats chosen by designers for their texts and consider the influence of these texts on the education and on the profession of designers.

Some of the articles examine writing as a form of personal reflection for figures of designers such as Giancarlo Illiprandi, Gabriele Devecchi, Anna Maria Fundarò, researching heretofore unpublished documents and archives. As the experiences of these designers demonstrate, however, writing is rarely an exclusively personal or private event. More often than not, writings are motivated by the need to manifest, present and assert an idea of design before a community or an audience of readers, as shown in the articles that examine the work of Pierre-Louis Flouquet, Charlotte Perriand and Bernard Rudofsky, highlighting the relationship that exists between the content and its presentation. In addition to asserting and promulgating the discipline of design, designers have relied on writing and editorial mediation for critical intents, to undermine apparent certainties, to problematize and open vistas onto the culture and the interpretation of design as a discipline, as witnessed for example by the case of Alessandro Mendini and his experience with Domus Moda.

Apart from the articles dedicated to individual figures of designers, other articles in this issue take a more ample point of view, sometimes examining texts by different authors connected by their choice of theme – colour as a design tool –, or addressing the key issue of writing as an integral aspect of the education of a designer – the experience of the Information Department at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm –, or focusing on the exquisitely linguistic aspects of design writing, especially in Italian.

The theme of writing is also addressed in two reviews dedicated to the autobiography of Leo Lionni and to the book La moda nei discorsi dei designer by Alessandra Vaccari, while the other reviews discuss two exhibitions organized at the Triennale Design Museum – the seventh edition of the museum itself, Il design italiano oltre le crisi, and the exhibition Ugo La Pietra. Disequilibrating Design.

On the occasion of the release of this issue, a new contribution has been added to the section “On Design History” of the AIS/Design society website: a re-reading of the Charter of Graphic design (La Carta del progetto grafico) by one of this document’s main proponents, twenty-five years ago, Giovanni Baule.

Questo articolo è stato pubblicato in AIS/Design Storia e Ricerche, numero 6 settembre 2015

Fiorella Bulegato

A graduate architect and associate professor at the Università Iuav in Venice, in 2006 she earned her Ph.D in industrial design and architectural technology at the Università di Roma La Sapienza in Rome. From 2010 to 2014, she was a researcher, and from 2012 to 2014 deputy director of the Undergraduate Programme in Industrial Design at the Università degli Studi della Repubblica di San Marino. She has written essays and articles in specialized magazines, and has been responsible for the documentary and iconographic research for many exhibitions and publications. Her publications include: “Il design degli architetti in Italia, 1920-2000”, with E. Dellapiana (Electa, Milano 2014); “I musei d’impresa. Dalle arti industriali al design” (Carocci, Roma 2008); “Michele De Lucchi. Comincia qui e finisce là”, with S. Polano (Electa, Milano 2004); the index and complete list of works in the book by S. Polano, “Achille Castiglioni tutte le opere 1938–2000” (Electa, Milano

Maddalena Dalla Mura

Maddalena Dalla Mura (Udine, Italy, 1974) carries out research in the fields of design and graphic design history and museum studies. With an MA in Preservation of Cultural Heritage (2000), in 2010 she received her PhD in Design Sciences from the Università Iuav di Venezia. She has since collaborated with the Design and Museology research group at the same university. From 2012 to 2015 she collaborated on several research projects at the Faculty of Design and Art of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, where she has also taught Languages and Theories of Visual Communication. Since 2016/2017 she teaches Design history at the Università degli studi di Ferrara. She is associate editor of the design history journal AIS/Design: Storia e Ricerche. / www.maddamura.eu

Carlo Vinti

Carlo Vinti is a researcher in the field of the History of design and visual communication. He is an assistant professor at the Università degli Studi di Camerino (School of Architecture and Design “E. Vittoria”). After earning his PhD at the School of Advanced Studies in Venice (2006), he became an adjunct professor and research fellow at the Università Iuav di Venezia. Since 2009, he has coordinated the project titled Comunicare l’impresa (www.houseorgan.net) with Giorgio Bigatti. He is currently an associate editor for the AIS/Design. Storia e Ricerche online journal and member of the editorial board of Progetto Grafico magazine.
His publications include: Gli Anni dello Stile Industriale 1948-1965 (Marsilio, 2007), L’impresa del design: lo stile Olivetti (Loccioni 2010), the chapter “A Historiography of Italian Design” (with Maddalena Dalla Mura) in Made in Italy: Rethinking a Century of Italian Design (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), Grafica Italiana dal 1945 a Oggi (Artedossier Giunti, 2016), as well as several essays and articles included in books, catalogues and periodicals. In 2012, with Giorgio Camuffo and Mario Piazza, he co-curated the 5th edition of the Triennale Design Museum in Milan, TDM5: Grafica Italiana, and the exhibition catalogue (Corraini).

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