30 March 2021
On taking in the title, Icone (Icons), for a fraction of a second one’s mind wanders and one prepares oneself for a story about those design products that have made Made in Italy famous the world over. However, a glance at the subtitle and through the first few pages of this slim volume soon reveals that for once it is not objects that are the icons here but the human element of design. The Italian companies. All (unsurprisingly) family-run. Icone by Giovanna Mancini, a journalist on Sole24Ore, is an accurate and timely account of the people who conceived those products, really wanted them and then created them. The people who continue to design then, even today, fuelling not just one but ten stories that serve as a paradigm for how Italian “savoir-faire” came into being, developed and is forging a path to the future.The stories of Alessi, Artemide, B&B Italia, Caimi Brevetti, Cassina, Driade, Gufram, Kartell, Molteni&C and Zanotta unfold through time and space, told in a journalistic yet passionate and personal style that manages to fully render the powerful meaning we ascribe to the word ‘icon’. These are authentic and meaningful stories that lay bare the common threads: founders as mythological figures, brilliant ideas underpinned by ongoing research and experimentation, forms and materials that are frequently disruptive and pioneering, the spasmodic search for cutting edge production qualities and technologies. All immersed in a historical, cultural and social context that evolved along with and especially thanks to those very companies.
What sticks most in the mind, after this short but powerful read, is that particular, almost romantic thirst for excellence that all the protagonists filling these pages experienced, for which they fought and thanks to which Italian design companies have become a globally-recognised symbol of excellence.
In her introduction, Domitilla Dardi, design historian and curator of EDIT Napoli, identifies word of mouth as the vehicle for passing on the knowledge that made Italian design great; there is also an interview with Daniel Libeskind as the final cameo, stipulating “Design, the sceptre is still in Italian hands.”
Icone. Mito, Storie e Personaggi del Design Italiano
Ed. Luiss University Press