Mario Piazza


Graphic Design and the History of Graphic Design in Italy

This talk will deal with the relationship between graphic design practice and history, with a specific look at Italy and Italian graphic design. The underlying thesis is that in this country graphic designers have tended to engage with the contemporary rather than with the past or with the history of graphic design – and it could be argued that in Italy graphic designers had instead a stronger relationship with the history of art. In the period when the International Style developed, Italian graphic designers were little interested in history, and were more inclined to authorial than to reflective and critical attitudes. On a diametrically opposite side stands typographic research. By the 1970s, however, as graphic designers began to conceive graphic design as a more technical and intellectual discipline, they became increasingly interested in history, in searching not so much for styles to follow as for approaches to renew. What emerged then was a reflection on the processes of making rather than on the types of representation. More recently, with the advent of the digital age, history has apparently become an atlas of moods upon which designers draw to experiment possible samples; a repository of creative inspirations and figures with which designers seem to literally become infatuated and can reverberate in the form of decontextualised styles – as in the case of Experimental Jetset’s infatuation with the work of Ettore Vitale.

Mario Piazza, graphic designer and architect, has been based in Milan since 1982, working on communication projects, corporate image and exhibition design. In 1996 he set up the 46xy design and strategic communication studio. From 1992 to 2006 he served as the president of Italian Design Communication Association – AIAP. Since 1997 he has lectured in graphic design at the School of Design at the Politecnico di Milano and worked as a researcher in the Department of Design. He was creative director at Domus magazine from 2004 to 2007. He was editor in chief of Abitare from 2011 to 2013, and has been co-editor and art director since 2008. In 2008 he received the Icograda Achievement Award.