The new Italian design

Young designers are inquisitive and free of dogma, they know how to navigate beyond the postulates of the past and they are not afraid to experiment and take risks: Silvana Annicchiarico, the historical director of the Triennale Design Museum, takes us on a tour through new design in Italy.

For almost 15 years I have been systematically working with young designers and their creative projects and careers. Since as far back as 2007, while working on the opening of the Triennale Design Museum (the first “mutant” museum in the world, dedicated to Italian design) and the consecration of the history of Italian design, I have felt the need to map and highlight the work and the talent of new generations. With the help of Andrea Branzi, an exceptional curator, we organised a detailed and systematic exploration of a sector that is not easy to define. As well as an exhibition, what emerged was a kind of manifesto. At the time we maintained that design in the 2000s was positioned in - and operated from - a paradigm that was decisively different from that of the period of the “Masters”. The main objective was no longer to create complete, functional and defined products, but rather to produce processes that represented one’s own ability to imagine, create and innovate. 13 years have gone by since then, and things have, in part, changed.

Undoubtedly COVID-19 has played a significant role. However there are other factors. Even before the epic fracture that the pandemic set in motion also in the world of design, for some time there had been strong signs of change and a growing need to redefine the roles of design in a world that was - and still is - undergoing dizzyingly rapid change.

The youngest designers, for example, are expressing growing frustration with a standardised and homologated idea of design, at the same time rediscovering the functional and expressive potential of hand-made items and the arts, focusing on the uniqueness of objects or designs even when they are partially engineered or created digitally. Globalisation is showing signs of age, delocation is no longer beneficial, and Made in Italy can once again be both a promise and a guarantee instead of just a meaningless label or an easy marketing tactic. Now the spotlight is on a rethinking of economic and productive systems, and the redesigning of spaces, movements and relationships. There is an innovative attitude that is not far removed from that of the post-war period. At the time the focus was on reconstruction, now it is on invention and innovation. There are specific names on which to focus. They are inquisitive, free of dogma, they know how to navigate beyond the postulates of the past and they are not afraid to experiment and take risks. They are united by a common inclination for moving beyond confines and fostering hybridisation.

For example: Tip Studio takes waste and places it at the centre of design; Giuseppe Arezzi re-explores ancient artisan traditions for original solutions to the demands of modern life; Antonio Facco theorises on the grey area between art and design and explores the teachings of the Masters, beginning with Vico Magistretti, adapting them to the contemporary scene; Ilaia Bianchi uses modern materials and techniques to return to that age-old tradition that assigned apotropaic powers to objects, rendering them symbols of fertility and vitality; Federica Biasi brings together the far and the near, seeking to infuse her designs with meaning as well as function; beginning with humble objects such as bricks or tiles, Guglielmo Brambilla creates expressive universes that render the ordinary surprising and unexpected, in a similar manner to the work of Flatwig Studio rub by Francesca Avian and Erica Agogliati, who - through Ondula - create a collection of furnishings and accessories from corrugates sheets used to cover roofs.

Then there are those who take on the role of attentive observers of daily life, even of its most marginal aspects, such as Matteo Di Ciommo or the exuberant Sara Ricciardi, who creates sensual objects that walk the line between crafts and industry while also practising social design and taking a stance as a “social aviator”, helping citizens to overcome the dilapidation and squalor of abandoned places, or those of the likes of Andrea de Chirico, who through a politically aware approach seeks to create networks of designers who share small locally produced products while aiming at addressing the world.

All this without forgetting those that work on innovating processes and technologies, such as the Mais Project firm run by Matteo Mariani and Isato Prugger, or Giovanni Avallone, Jacopo Gervasini and Paolo Cassis’s Caracol Studio, who - with their Additive Manufacturing 4.0 Centre - present themselves as a paradigm for the new direction that design has taken in recent years, through research, experimentation and contamination. There is a challenge that awaits all of these figures, which is to emerge from the emergency by designing objects, processes, furnishings and venues that better protect health, safety and sustainability without foregoing beauty or sacrificing sociality.

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