I remember it quite well. It was at the end of high school and I was trying to figure out what I would do. I always had a passion for art and design and I was seriously taking into consideration the idea of applying to a fine arts college. So, to help me find some motivational information, my uncle gave me a book. It was Munari’s “Design as Art” (literally “Art as Craft” in the original Italian version). Soon I discovered a new world. Munari radically changed our approach to art. He abolished the image of the so-called “artist-diva” and in its place created the designer.
Munari is an icon of the 20th century Italian art scene. Born in Milan in 1907, he went on to have a profound influence on the art, graphic, and design trends of his century. When combined with his creativity and extraordinary talent, his drive to improve communicative practices led him to experiment with movement and light and to investigate the development of creativity in children.
While still a teenager, Munari joined the Futurist art movement. In 1930 he created the series “Useless Machines,” which built on, but also took a step beyond, Futurist concepts. The “Useless Machines” were basic geometrical templates held together by thin ropes that formed three-dimensional structures. These inert objects were guided by the flow of the wind.
In the late 1940s Munari founded MAC (The Concrete Art Movement). Its goal was to bring together traditional art with new technical and industrial design. In his series of “Unreadable Books” (1949) Munari made words disappear in order to leave space for the reader’s creativity.
In the post-war period Munari’s artistic exploration led him further away from the influence of the Futurist circle. His prolific activity ranged from experiments in art as environment, such as “Concave-Convex” [Concavo-convesso], to artist’s toys. Even today a toy remains one of Munari’s most famous works. In 1953 Munari’s visionary creativity transformed an anonymous block of foam rubber into an adorable creature and Zizi the Monkey was born. Zizi went on to win the greatly esteemed Compasso d’oro design prize in 1954. Munari continued to use foam rubber for his projects and in the 1960s it was the material for his Falkland Lamp, an object that soon became a symbol of 1960s Italian industrial design.
Munari’s interest in the connections between children’s creativity and design principles can also be seen in his print graphics. The seemingly simple concept behind children’s books such as “Bruno Munari’s ABC” and “Bruno Munari’s Zoo,” actually involves a stunningly sophisticated use of spacing and color.
We cannot call Munari just a designer; his multifaceted and extremely creative personality slips away from any labeling. For sure, he taught us to look at life as it is: an incredible artwork.