Swiss Style, Made in Italy: Graphic design on the border

Fornari, Davide (2014) Swiss Style, Made in Italy: Graphic design on the border. In: Mapping Graphic Design History in Switzerland, 27 February 2014, Bern.

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The exhibitions held at Triennale Design Museum in Milan (TDM5) and at the Museum für Gestaltung in Zurich (100 Jahre Schweizer Grafik) represent two milestones for twentieth century’s history of graphic design in Italy and Switzerland. In some cases the exhibitions were echoing each other: same authors and, in several cases, identical projects. The Milan exhibition welcomed visitors with quotations by two Swiss authors: Jan Tschichold and Lora Lamm. The Zurich exhibition featured some iconic works made for Italian design as Swiss graphic design, such as the illustrations by Lora Lamm for Pirelli. What is Swiss graphic design and what is Italian graphic design, then? A number of Swiss graphic designers have been active in Italy, either temporarily or permanently. Nevertheless institutions and critics have only recently started to highlight these authors “on the border”. If we look at these Swiss graphic designers as a whole – from Imre Reiner to Max Huber, from Aldo Calabresi to Felix Humm – they represent the most influential community of foreign designers in Italy, in some cases still active. Their clients cover a variety of Italian brands known worldwide: la Rinascente, Olivetti, Biennale di Venezia, Valentino, Alfa Romeo, Stefanel among others. Can these projects, all affected by the typically Italian phenomenon that makes graphic design an ancillary discipline of product design, be classified as made in Italy, or are they examples of Swiss style? This is the space for further research on the influence of Swiss graphic design beyond national and identity rhetoric.

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