This essay reflects upon the role that the exhibitionary and photographic representation have played at a crucial stage of the definition of the international image of Italian design. Focusing on some shows organized in the period between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1980s – including the famous exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, at MoMA in 1972. Comparing the representation of Italian design offered by exhibition catalogues as well as by specialised magazines such as Casabella and Casa Vogue, the essay aims to highlight the role that exhibitions and photography had in the construction of the iconography of pop and radical design.
The historical contact between electronic technology and design, established at least since the fifties of the twentieth century, has not yet been investigated in depth, unlike what happened to art, music, media. Without specific literature on the subject and starting from archival sources, the text provides the first track of a story poorly documented in its beginnings and little known in its developments, revealing a piece of this connection. Looking at IBM Italy´s activity in the field of exhibitions and museums – from exhibitions at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan in 1959 to an Exhibition Tour in 1984 to introduce the personal computer – it suggests that the politics of this American corporate, dedicated mostly to technological innovation and mainly driven by commercial logic, found in Italy for over two decades features that are more distinctly cultural and design oriented. This happened also thanks to exhibit and communication.
The Exhibition Design research group, formed in the late Sixties and consisting of several protagonists of Italian graphic design such as Giulio Confalonieri, Silvio Coppola, Franco Grignani, Bruno Munari and Pino Tovaglia, is an extremely interesting experience which so far has been investigated only partially, on the sidelines of the components’ individual biographies. The analysis of this collective experience provides an opportunity to reflect on the interpenetration between graphic and industrial design in a defining moment for the history of Italian design, on the role of research and experimentation in the dialogue with both the industrial companies and the community, on the responsibility of the designer toward the end user, on the use of the exhibition space as a place for meeting and cultural dissemination.