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This article is a critical account of the process and modes of a research study conducted by the author and dedicated to the entrepreneur and designer Gino Sarfatti and to his lighting manufacturing company, Arteluce. Despite its relevance at the moment of its development, this story – which took place in Milan between the late 1930s and the first half of the 1970s – has mostly been overlooked since the company closed in 1974. Twenty years later, in 1994, the author had the opportunity to begin exploring Arteluce and Sarfatti’s work in greater depth: begun within the context of her MA thesis, this exploration developed into the publication of a long article and finally, in 2012, of a monograph. At a distance of several years, the research into the case of Sarfatti-Arteluce gives the author an opportunity to reflect on the use of sources. On the one hand, the article discusses several issues concerning the use of oral history and information pertaining to collecting practices; on the other, it considers the use of the digitization process and its relevance to the work of the design historian.
Is there such a thing as a design language? The rapid growth of design in Italy beginning in the earliest decades of the past century, witnessed the concurrent rise of a specific language that appeared in the writings of the authors of industrial design (artists and craftsmen), as well as those of its theorists (designers and ideologists) or even critics (art critic authors).
This paper is meant to appraise design literature from a historical perspective, through the linguistic analysis of texts by its most important exponents (Ponti to Rosselli, to Munari and Mendini). The goal is to discern the main linguistic features of one of the most representative productive fields in twentieth-century Italian civil life.
The expected goal is twofold: to begin, as is the case with other disciplines, a study of the linguistic and expressive forms that arose from theoretical changes in the field of design, and to gather into a Glossary the terms that become typical of the design language.
Thanks to the description of the distinctive features of linguistic expression in writings on and about design, we wish to contribute to the definition of the individuality of the design discipline, which reflects the syncretism of the specific activities involved in it: from the different phases of industrial production, to design theory, which has always relied on artistic and aesthetic approaches of its time. This analysis bears in mind the principle that a language used to explain and illustrate a practice in perpetual transformation such as design, is itself “living matter”.
The full version of this entry is available only in Italian.