Celebrating Post-War Italian Graphic Design and its Transatlantic Influence in NYC

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Walking into One Art Space on Warren Street, Massimo Vignelli’s 1964 Pirelli advertisement greeted me — you know the one, the red and pink duotone image of a joyful bike ride. It was a bright spot of color against a black-and-white gallery display featuring the names of influential Italian designers.

I was delighted to attend the launch event for “Made in Italy NYC,” an exclusive two-day event celebrating the rich heritage of post-war Italian graphic design and its enduring relationship with the United States. This two-day exhibition offered a unique opportunity to explore original pieces from significant Italian and American designers produced between the 1950s and 1980s. The exhibition drew from the collections of AIAP CDPG, the Milan-based Graphic Design Documentation Center of the Italian Association of Visual Communication Design.

Italian graphic design has a rare power that can still surprise us. Made In Italy NYC contains examples of the warmth, humanity and verve that excited designers half a century ago and continue to inspire today.

Michael Bierut, Pentagram

Beyond Vignelli: A Broader Connection

The iconic figure of Milan-born Massimo Vignelli often epitomizes the graphic design connection between Italy and the U.S., as he is renowned for his extensive body of work after moving to New York. However, this exhibition aims to illuminate the broader array of Italian and American designers who contributed to this vibrant exchange post-WWII. Many of these designers are well-known in graphic design history, while others have recently been rediscovered, highlighting the depth and diversity of this cross-cultural design relationship.

The exhibition and accompanying book feature work by a stellar lineup of designers, including Massimo Vignelli, Heinz Waibl, Giulio Cittato, Bruno Munari, Roberto Mango, Mario, Dagrada, Albe Steiner, Bob Noorda, Giulio Confalonieri, Anita Klinz, Ferenc Pinter, Balilla, Magistri, Max Huber, Milton Glaser, Bruce Blackburn, Saul Bass, Ivan Chermayeff, Leo Lionni, Paul Rand, John Alcorn, Silvio Coppola, Franco Grignani, Alfredo Mastellaro, Claudia Morgagni, Enzo Mari, Giovanni Pintori, and Walter Ballmer.

The event focused on four areas of this cross-cultural design conversation: Italian Designers Who Worked In The U.S., Italian Designed Book Covers For U.S. Authors, U.S. Designers Who Worked In Italy, and Influential Italian Graphic Design.

This book and exhibition is a celebration of all things Made in Italy, exploring the rich and untapped vein of Italian graphic design with rarely seen and published work.

Bryan Edmondson, SEA

Designed by SEA in collaboration with Pentagram, the exhibition presentation was visually striking and intellectually engaging. SEA, a London-based brand agency, is renowned for its powerful ideas and meticulous attention to detail, making it an ideal partner for the project. Pentagram’s storied history and global influence added another layer of expertise to the exhibition’s design.

The event was proudly supported by Fedrigoni and Monotype, two industry giants whose contributions have been invaluable.

Fedrigoni, synonymous with excellence in specialty papers since 1888, is the global leader in wine labels and premium papers for luxury packaging. Their commitment to sustainability and quality is reflected in their support for this exhibition, which aligns with their dedication to art, design, and creativity.

Monotype, with a library of over 150,000 fonts, provides the tools for creative expression through type. Their support celebrates the post-war Italian graphic design period, when typography reached new heights, showcasing the innovative and poetic forms of expression that define this era.

The Italian Association of Visual Communication Designers (AIAP) meticulously curated the exhibition’s content. Founded in 1945, AIAP promotes design culture and preserves Italy’s design history through its Graphic Design Documentation Center, which houses over 100,000 artifacts.

More than an exhibition, “Made in Italy NYC” was a collaborative event celebrating the creative synergy between Italian and American graphic design, honoring the legacy of past masters and bringing to light the lesser-known contributors who played pivotal roles in this dynamic exchange. The evening was about appreciating the global influence of Italian design and its profound impact on visual communication. The cherry on top was the beautiful, limited-edition metallic-covered book I gingerly placed into my bag as I left the venue, beaming into the warm summer air.

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