design and cultures 2 home

Postwar Reconstruction in Italy

Postwar Italy emerged as a dynamic design centre. The "Italian line" was a regional style that took off directly after the war in Italy.

"After 1955 design in Italy continued to play a strong role within that country's cultural life and its position in world trade. By the end of the decade the naive exhuberance of the early postwar period had been replaced by an increasing sophistication in its manufactured goods." Extract from "Design Source Book, A visual reference to design from 1850 to the present day" by P Sparke, F Hodges, A Stone and E Dent Coad, 1986, Macdonald & Co, Great Britain.

Some notable Italian Postwar designers:

  • Gio Ponti
  • Carlo Mollino
  • Erberto Carboni
  • Marco Zanuso
  • Gaetano Pesce
  • Arredoluce
  • Joe Colombo

Note: Make sure you get a copy of this week's handouts on design in Italy and Japan in the Postwar period. Some of that information may also be included in the test.

From the "Designed to Inspire" series @ Museum of Victoria - Design in Italy 1945-2000:

Italian design also had an effect in Australia: italydownunder.com.au/issueten/design.html


joe colombo (1930-1971)

Well known for his 1960's injection-moulded plastic furniture and lamps for Kartell. The Universale is the first chair to be made completely from one material, ABS Plastic.
Google Image Search for Joe Colombo



gio ponti - (1891-1971)

Founded design magazine Domus in 1928, then in 1941 quit 'Domus' to found 'Stile', an Italian art and architecture magazine. In 1947 Ponti leaves 'Stile' to resume the editorship of 'Domus'.

"Love architecture, be it ancient or modern. Love it for its fantastic, adventurous and solemn creations; for its inventions; for the abstract, allusive and figurative forms that enchant our spirit and enrapture our thoughts. Love architecture, the stage and support of our lives."

Those were the words with which Gio Ponti (1891-1979) began the 1957 collection of essays he published in Italian as Amate L'Architettura, and in English as In Praise of Achitecture. Ponti's spirit shines through his writing - joyful, generous and brimful of briò - as it did in all his work. Gio Ponti played many roles in his long career: architect, industrial designer, craftsman, poet, painter, journalist and, above all, passionate propagandist for design excellence. Everything he did was imbued with the exuberance of Amate L'Architettura and intended to encourage everyone to use good design as a means of enjoying la dolce vita - the colourful, sensual Italian good life". designmuseum.org/designerex/gio-ponti.htm



piero fornasetti

'design is what the italians do naturally. spontaneously. it is restraint, harmony, and balance. not to exaggerate or overdo. to be careful and rigorous'. piero fornasetti designboom.com/world/fornasetti

aldo rossi (1931-1997)

Architect, author. His book "l'architettura della città" was published 1966. designboom.com/eng/exhibition/rossi1.html

venini - glass designer designboom.com/world/venini/index.html


Postwar Reconstruction in Japan

"The progress of Japan after 1945 parallels in a number of ways those of Italy and Germany. As in those countries, it was on the basis of American aid that Japan made a bid to become a major industrial power. In that effort she focused her attentions less on heavy industry than on manufactured technical goods such as cars and electronic equipment.In the early post-war years Japan's products were crudely made and expressed no particular design policy.

The main aim at that time was to produce cheap, technically advanced products that could be sold in great numbers. To this end vast sums of money were invested in research and development and the companies concentrated on keeping ahead of the field on a technological level.

In the fifties Japanese products emulated their American counterparts for the most part, as the greatest need was to penetrate the USA market. As a result, many products looked as if they had come straight out of Detroit with their exaggerated forms and chrome details. However, the Honda company set an example of how to sell Japanese goods to the USA with its little 'Honda 50' step-through motor-cycle. It was developed in a form most appropriate for the Japanese market: it was small and with an open frame (unlike the Italian Vespa, which was much bulkier), given that it had to be ridden through rice fields and narrow alleys in Japanese cities. Honda needed to sell his bike to the USA if it was to be a financially viable proposition and he had therefore to compete there with the heavy American motor-bikes and the Marlon Brando/James Dean image that went with them. He promoted it as a 'fun' bike for all age groups, appropriate for use on short outings such as going shopping or going to the beach, and the idea quickly caught on. Honda broke into the American market on a massive scale.

It was clear that Japan not merely had to find a style for her products but she also had to market them aggressively if she was to find the much needed international outlets for them. From the late fifties onwards, therefore, design became an intrinsic part of both the mass-production and mass-marketing of Japanese products.

By the sixties and seventies Japan had found her own style and Japanese goods were all given a complex "high technology" look. The plethora of knobs, controls and complicated graphic details on the surfaces of its hi-fi equipment, cameras and other consumer durables was matched by the bewildering chrome details on its automobiles. The emphasis was on low-cost, technological sophistication and value for money, and Japanese goods began to flood the market, both in the USA and in Europe, on the basis of these criteria.

The Japanese company that emphasizes design most strongly is the electronic equipment firm Sony, whose products are aimed at a slightly higher sector of the market than those of its competitors. Within the Sony organization the design department has a higher profile than in most Japanese firms and it plays a more sophisticated role in the development and sale of its products. The model for the Sony style was less that of Detroit symbolism than of German 'good form'." Extract from "Design Source Book, A visual reference to design from 1850 to the present day" by P Sparke, F Hodges, A Stone and E Dent Coad, 1986, Macdonald & Co, Great Britain.

Some notable Japanese Postwar design pioneers from the book "12 Japanese Masters" by Maggie Kinser Saiki:

Chapter I: The Father of Japanese Graphic Design

Yusaku Kamekura (1915-1997, Niigata) Uncompromising perfectionist, visionary and the profession's first undisputed leader, he worked all his life to shape it.

Chapter II: The Pioneers and Organizers

Kazumasa Nagai (b. 1929, Osaka) Co-founder and long-time director of the Nippon Design Center, for 50 years he has expressed the wilderness within his soul and the concerns of the age.

Kiyoshi Awazu (b.1929, Tokyo). A powerful and comprehensive thinker whose work has defined decades, he is the most inclusive designer of the twelve, active in every medium.

Ikko Tanaka (1930-2002, Nara)
A founding father, he consciously referred to the classics of his culture, beautifully expressing Japan to the West and vice versa.

Mitsuo Katsui (b. 1931, Tokyo) He has led graphic designers in the discovery and exploration of higher technology since the early '60s, always expressing the power of life.

Shigeo Fukuda (b. 1932, Tokyo) Internationally known for visual magic, he confronts our tendency to imagine, rather than see.

Chapter III: The Internationalists

Tadanori Yokoo (b. 1936, Nishiwaki) Best-known designer in Japan, also cultural critic, writer and actor, commenting on the modern human condition by juxtaposing images familiar, funny, and haunting.

Issey Miyake (b. 1938, Hiroshima) World-renowned textile innovator, he enchants an international clientele with ancient techniques from around the globe and original, state-of-the-art technologies. dept.kent.edu/museum/exhibit/japan/japan.html

Eiko Ishioka (b. 1939, Tokyo) Unfazed by all conventional limitations and internationally active as a graphic, stage, film set, and costume designer, she has broken all the rules and succeeded in every endeavor.

Chapter IV: The Pragmatists

Toshiyuki Kita (b. 1942, Osaka) Cross-cultural designer, in Italy he has manufactured furniture inspired by traditional Japanese life, and in Japan produced unconventional lacquer ware and washi lamps with ancient methods.

Koichi Sato (b. 1944, Tokyo) A graphic designer with a scientist's mind, he visually questions and defines his nation's and humanity's place in the world.

Takenobu Igarashi (b. 1944, Hokkaido) Graphic, product, and land-art designer, sculptor and artist, he works both in the East and West, determined to connect with the world on more than a superficial level.
visibilitypr.com/html/focus/clients/pop/graphis_08.html and .artmagazine.co.uk/reviews1.htm

Tokyo Tower

"In the postwar boom of the 1950s, Japan was looking for a monument to symbolize its ascendancy as a global economic powerhouse - it was also looking to build a television and radio relay tower. Looking to the occident for inspiration, the Tokyo Government decided to erect its own Eiffel Tower". (Note spoonbending gets a mention!) metropolis.japantoday.com/biginjapan/biginjapaninc.htm

Shiro Kuramata (1934-1991)




"G" Mark

Design awards established in Japan in 1957.

"The purpose of "Good Design Award" (formerly "Good Design Selection System" by Ministry of International Trade and Industry-sponsored until 1997) can be summarized as "attaining the improvement in qualitative of lives and the advancement of industry through design." However, the subjects to attain this purpose, for example what should be put its priority or what role is expected to design, change according to time to time. "Good Design Award" has changed the structure flexibly in response to such subject.

The pace of "Good Design Award" is also recognized as a milestone of design and industry of Japan."



Sony's History: www.sony.net/Fun/SH/


retrokat.com quite nice sites

all graphics, text and design: copyright retrokat.com 2001-4

Note: If you personally hold copyright to any images or other content herein and wish it to be removed or credited, please email me on kat@retrokat.com and I'm more than happy to do so.