TDM 5 : Grafica Italiana @ Salone Milan 2012

TDM 5 : Grafica Italiana @ Salone Milan 2012

The Triennale Design Museum’s 5th Major Exhibition titled  “TDM5: Grafica Italiana”,  continues its engagement with the promotion and enhancement of Italian creativity, extending its research to an art that has always been viewed as minor or instrumental and giving it back the independent role it deserves.

More than a thousand works are on display presenting an incisive vision of Graphic Design in Italy during the 20th Century.

Seeking to bring earth and sky together, Fabio Novembre devised a large rainbow for the Triennale, which he extended out along the sides of the De Lucchi bridge to the Museum, a multicoloured welcome just over the exhibition’s threshold.

Carlo Vinti, the historian of the curatorial team, says: “We wanted to narrate a piece of the history of Italian production; graphic designers have been at its centre, being active players and an integral part of the history of Italian design, helping to build Italy’s economy and society.” Giorgio Camuffo adds, “The time really had come to focus on this discipline and I am happy that the Triennale believed in this project. Graphic design is not a servant of [industrial] design, as the stereotype would have us believe, but a driver at the heart of cultural processes.”


After the Triennale’s previous exhibitions about “Contemporary Graphic Art (The New Italian Design, Spaghetti Grafica and Graphic Design Worlds), the decision to focus this year’s event on Italian graphic art, visual communication and their history is an important step to enrich and finish off the overview and promotion of Italian design. A process in which Triennale Design Museum has been engaged in for years.

“It is really hard to exhibit graphic design because it is totally intangible. We live with it every day and when it came to reviewing and putting together the first 100 years of Italian graphic design we had to cope with its huge complexity. A designer might produce a chair every year but a graphic designer produces “a chair” every three days. Graphic design has a specific role to play, that of conveying knowledge and giving messages visual form”, says Mario Piazza.

TDM 5: Grafica Italiana, pays tribute to the creativity of Italian graphic design and is an excellent opportunity to illustrate events, figures and phenomena that have accompanied and supported the cultural, social, economic and political development of the Nation, and to make this wealth of design known and accessible to non-specialists as well.

A detailed look at the history of Italian graphic design and its traditions which, by connecting past and present, offers an occasion to increase critical awareness of new and existing products and tools of visual culture that are now commonplace in our daily lives.

Graphics are an essential chapter in the history of Italian design. Besides communicating, interpreting and translating reality into visual forms, the discipline has played an important role in forming the identity and culture of modern Italy.

Organized loosely into nine sections, Fabio Novembre did a brilliant job with the exhibition design, which consists of radially projecting walls organized around a demi-rotunda.

The exhibition has nine sections and the material is displayed on open cubes, with no protective glass, prompting the desire to reach out and touch or leaf through the illustrated books and magazines — Tropico del Cancro, Permanent Food and even the outstanding cover of a 1954 Linea Grafica — the leaflets, in-house publications, bottle labels, and packaging.

The exhibits are grouped by types and areas, as a sort of map of the most significant graphic works: Letters, Books, Magazines, Culture and Politics, Advertising, Packaging, Visual Identity, Signs, Films and Videos.

A very wide range of materials, from printing letters to brands, from magazines to leaflets, from brochures to encyclopaedias, from instruction books to major urban signs, from labels to the first attempts at video graphics. Materials that offer a direct, straightforward picture of the graphic designer’s work, while also revealing fairly unusual dimensions that are usually known to a close circle of specialists.

More than a thousand works have been displayed in Via Alemagna by three exceptional curators — Giorgio Camuffo, Mario Piazza and Carlo Vinti — who have developed their own visions of the Grafica Italiana project to offer visitors a lively and all-encompassing vision of the history of these flat — if only in form — 2D artefacts.

The Triennale presents an incisive vision, which is no easy task given this art’s multiple facets in its recent history — it suffices only to think of the work produced in the second half of the 20th century by masters (less acknowledged than Gio Ponti and Vico Magistretti) such as Michele Provinciali, Massimo Vignelli, Pino Tovaglia, Bob Noorda, Albe Steiner and Franco Sassi who portrayed and “dressed” not only design products, brand identities, magazines and books, making icons out of them, but also applied graphic art as an educational tool for children and developed it for infrastructural information such as the signage for the metro and airports — sometimes a more immediate and global form of communication than an alphabet

They have supported the success of some of Italy’s leading companies, they have worked in key areas of cultural life, and their work has significantly reflected the political, economic and social changes of 20th-century Italy.

Erroneously considered “a 2nd-class discipline” because subject to another’s success, graphic design pervades our everyday lives more than we realise , from the newspaper we buy in the morning to our cinema and train tickets.

Certain critics may argue that printed matter will have totally disappeared by 2043, but graphic design has managed to evolve and transform itself in the digital age, becoming a core feature of the web. A whole host of information can be packed into a carefully devised visual design that sums up a universe without the need for a pay-off in words.

Good graphic designers develop keys to the world they are describing. Whatever the object being communicated, it must always be accompanied by the communication components that best convey it.

The exhibition design for these both transient and eternal 2D works is by the eclectic Fabio Novembre who, on this occasion, abandoned his usual use of black to ride on a surge of colour. For the press conference, the designer even wore a vibrantly multicoloured Truffaldino-like suit.


At the exhibition’s press conference, Novembre drew on the words of Truffaldino in Servant of Two Masters, taking of the audience while reciting the end of Goldoni’s play in Venetian dialect. Bravo!

The TDM5 Catalogue was entrusted to a group of graphic designers who had to bring together a larger world of graphic designers.

Left Loft accepted the challenge along with its gutsy publisher, Corraini, for which graphic design has always been a pet focus and consuming passion.

The book takes on the difficult task of uniting the vast production by Italian graphic designers from the past century to the present. Like the exhibition itself, the Catalogue has also been divided into nine sections : Letters, Books, Magazines, Culture and Politics, Advertising, Packaging, Visual Identity, Signposting, Film and Video.

A colour for each section and a spectrum of colours is created on the three sides of the book to set off a collection of graphic works that offers an important insight into the customs and history of Italy: not only posters but a vast selection of materials ranging from typefaces to trademarks, magazines, leaflets, brochures and books by major Italian publishers, coordinated image manuals, signposts, product packaging and the first examples of video graphics.

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