Italy and desing: a success story

A springboard towards innovation and internationalization

Italy and desing: a success story

Claudia Astarita


Milan has recently hosted the Triennale, the first institution for design and for the artistic and creative world in Italy and abroad.

As highlighted in a recent report published by Symbola Foundation, in Italy, the origin of design dates back to the 20th century. In particular, the 1950s saw the establishment of the first design school led by great masters like Zanuso, Castiglioni, Albini and Scarpa. Soon, Italian design products became popular not only in the Bel Paese but also abroad, accompanied by a number of prestigious events and news. For instance, the 10th Triennale hosted a specific section on industrial design; the first journal devoted to industrial design "Stile e Industria" was launched and ADI foundation (Association for Industrial Design) established a Great national and international Prize for design. Notwithstanding these great achievements, 1961 was the most crucial year for design in Italy. In fact, that date marked the establishment of a milestone for design: the Milan Furniture Fair (Salone del Mobile), attended by a significant number of visitors from all over the world.

In 1972 Italian design landed in the US, where the New York MOMA Museum decided to show some Italian design pieces, which were outstanding for excellence and innovation.

A couple of decades after, Italian success has been challenged by a number of new players. The most relevant ones today are China, Japan and South Korea, which are all investing a lot in the design sector. Nevertheless, Italian design has nothing to fear. The talent of Italian designers is popular around the world and the productive system in Italy based on industrial districts allows the creation unique products, linked to their territory.

The design sector plays a pivotal role in the Italian economy. It produces 4,4 billion Euros, equivalent to 0.3% of Italian GDP. Furthermore, there are 29 thousand companies involved in the design sector, which have much contributed to employment and national economy even during the years of crisis. Thi sis the reason why it is fair to say that design can be a springboard for innovation and internationalisation Italy should be proud of.

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