AIS/Design. Storia e Ricerche – N.11

Re-reading design histories:
the classics between the design of history and the history of design
edited by Fiorella Bulegato, Dario Scodeller, Carlo Vinti

“A classic is a book which with every rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading.
A classic is a book which even when we read it for the first time gives the sense of rereading something we have read before”
Italo Calvino, Why Read the Classics? (Boston-New York: Mariner Books, 1999; Milano:Mondadori, 1995 [1981]).

Issue n. 11 of AIS/Design. Storia e Ricerche proposes a critical re-reading of some “classic” texts on design history.
Six titles, chosen by the issue’s editors from among the stories published in Italy (or translated into Italian) between the 1970s and the early 21st century, will be assigned to various authors, upon invitation, for critical review. Furthermore, the editors invite other authors to submit historiographical articles on texts that, for various reasons, can be considered “classics” of design history.
This call for submissions therefore aims to bring together proposals for reinterpreting monographs and special issues of reviews that, thanks to the research methodology, the forms of writing adopted, and the relevance of the topics addressed, can be considered particularly meaningful for the history of design in Italy, in specific national contexts or at an international level.

Through critical re-examination of the selected writings and others that will be chosen by whoever responds to the call, this issue of AIS/Design. Storia e Ricerche proposes – without any pretense of exhaustiveness – to create a constellation of references, a collection of reinterpretations of some of the works that have contributed to shaping the very idea of the history of design.
We invite the authors of the proposals to adopt, in particular, two keys to interpretation in their review of the texts: one linked to the concept of “the design of history”, and the other to the idea of “classic”.

  1. The realization of an historical work requires the formulation of a project. Every history is constructed through a series of questions that the author conceptually asks of the material s/he is investigating. The type of questions and the way the author formulates them, the problems that such queries identify, the selection and the critical discernment s/he applies to the textual and iconographic sources, the way in which s/he sets them in relation with, interweaves, and makes use of the other histories, previous or coeval, all these constitute the foundations of the “the design of history”; this corresponds to the intention, to what the author aims to write about (and the reasons why s/he is writing), based on the range of documents available and by virtue of how deeply s/he was able to fathom them.

The contributions will critically examine the author’s agenda, the investigative methodologies underpinning the writing and will contextualize the text in the framework of design history studies. The editors also invite the contributors to consider that every rereading is also an act of reactualization and that this clearly involves a two-fold risk:
– giving greater weight to the meanings that works have for us today than to the meanings they had when they were published (for the authors and their contemporaries):
– while focusing on the research methods and the historical forms of writing, losing sight of the relationship with the subject of the study, that is, design considered as a cultural, social, economic-industrial phenomenon, and especially as a project.

  1. Instead, as far as the definition of “classic” is concerned, we willingly adhere to the one elaborated by Italo Calvino, who, referring to literature, upheld the usefulness of the classics by reason of their formative nature.

The “classics” – for Calvino – are “formative in that it gives a form or shape to our future experiences, providing them with models, […] terms of comparison, […] scales of value, paradigms of beauty. The nature of classics is built on their capacity to layer knowledge, “trailing behind them the traces they have left in the culture or cultures through “bearing with them the traces of readings that preceded our own, and trailing in their wake the traces that they themselves have left on the culture or cultures they have passed through (or more simply in the language or customs). It is bound up with the capacity to stimulate critical discussion, remaining unscathed, since “it is a work which constantly generates a pulviscolar cloud of critical discourse around it, but which always shakes the particles off.” Thus, according to Calvino, “a classic is a work which relegates the noise of the present to a background hum, which at the same time the classics cannot exist without. A classic is a work which persists as background noise, even when a present which is totally incompatible with it holds sway.” (Italo Calvino, Why Read the Classics, Boston-New York: Mariner Books, 1999 / Milano: Mondadori, 1995 [1981]).

This double register of criticism that we ask to be adopted for these critical reviews of the history of design (both those on invitation and submissions requested by call) can be summarized as follows:
– the first concerns the reconstruction of the historiographical perspective or the “historical project” elaborated by the author, in relation to the meaning the project took on in the context when the work was published, its critical reception, the reasons for its enduring value to the present day:
– the second concerns the interpretation of its nature as a “classic” – also using arguments other than Calvino’s and setting the work into relation with others to explore its relevance in the literature on the history of the project not only in terms of publishing success – and aims to shed light on the reasons why the selected work has become a “classic”, the formative value the work has assumed, the critical discussions it has generated over time, and, lastly, the new meanings it acquires in re-reading it today.

The 6 reviews assigned by invitation – and thus excluded from the submissions in response to the call – will be:

– F. Bologna, Dalle arti minori all’industrial design: storia di una ideologia, Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1972;
– “Rassegna” (Allestimenti/Exhibit design), 10, 1982;
– R. De Fusco, Storia del design, Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1985 (I ed.);
– V. Castelnuovo (a cura di), Storia del disegno industriale, 3 voll., Milano: Electa, 1989;
– S. Polano, P. Vetta, Abecedario. La grafica del Novecento, Milano: Electa, 2002;
– R. Kinross, Tipografia moderna. Saggio di storia critica, Roma: Stampa Alternativa, 2005.


All submissions (both by invitation and in response to the call) are subject to blind peer-review.
Deadlines are as follows:

  • June 4, June 13 2018: abstract submission; the abstract (max. 300 words) should specify the proposed review of a monograph or special issue of a journal that the author/s intend to submit for review and the reasons for the choice (max. 300 words); it will include the title, 5 keywords and a short biography (max. 150 words).The abstract may be in English (or English and Italian)
  • June 18, 2018: the authors will be notified of the editors’ interest in the proposal;
  • September 10, 2018: full paper submission, adhering to the journal’s editorial standards and including the abstract, keywords, author biography, images, and captions (see below “Types of contributions and preparation of the materials);
  • By October 22, 2018: authors will be notified of the peer-review’s outcome and of the eventual acceptance of their papers (changes or additional work may be needed in view of publication);
  • December 3, 2018: final paper submission.

All submissions should be sent to:
and cc:
For information and questions contact the editors at:


All proposed contributions must be original texts. Papers that are beyond the scope of the journal, that have previously been submitted to other journals or have already been featured (in any language), or that replicate texts published elsewhere, will be rejected without peer review.

The special issue dedicated to “re-readings” will depart from the journal’s usual fare (essays, research and microstories) and, instead, will be comprised exclusively of articles of max. 7500 words (including notes, bibliographical references, and captions).

Full papers will be accompanied by a short abstract (max. 150 words), a list of 5 keywords, and by a short biographical note (max. 150 words).

Style and preparation guidelines are available from:

To complement their contribution, authors can submit up to 10 images (copyright-free images or images for which authors have obtained the right/permission of publication), accompanied by full captions (including credits).



Questo articolo è stato pubblicato in Call for papers

Chiara Lecce

Chiara Lecce received her MA in Interior Design (2008) and her PhD in Interior Architecture & Exhibition Design (2013; with the thesis: “Living Interiors in the Digital Age: the Smart Home”) from the Politecnico di Milano. Since 2008 she has been engaged in teaching activities, in History of Design classes and Interior Design studio, at the Design School of the Politecnico di Milano, collaborating with professors Giampiero Bosoni and Ico Migliore. Since 2013 she has been managing editor of the scientific journal PAD (Pages on Arts and Design) and member of AIS/Design (Italian Association of Design Historians). She is the author of several articles featured in various design journals. She is currently research fellow and lecturer at the Design Department of the Politecnico di Milano, with a focus on exhibition design history and methodologies. In 2016 she was a tutor within the H2020 European project “Design for Enterprises”. Since 2009 she has been collaborating with the Franco Albini Foundation and with other Italian design archives, while continuing to work as a freelance interior designer.

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