The world tour of the best Italian design

Milton Glaser, famed graphic designer and cofounder of New York magazine once said, “There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”

Created in Italy – an aptitude for the impossible, showcases over 30 innovative pieces representing some of the most notable examples of contemporary Italian industrial design and technological innovation. Organized by the Istituto Italiano di Cultura (Italian Cultural Institute) of Melbourne and produced by the Directorate General for Cultural and Economic Promotion and Innovation of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the exhibit was conceived by the Director of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura of Melbourne, Angelo Gioè. Angelo engaged the best names of Italian industrial design: Mario Trimarchi (designer), and Odo Fioravanti and Giulio Iacchetti (curators) – all winners of the prestigious industrial design award Compasso d'Oro – as well as Francesca Picchi (curator). The exhibit has been touring globally for a year and will continue to travel for another year thanks to consular networks.

I had the pleasure of seeing this incredible display in the creative space at the LCI gallery, where it was presented in collaboration with LCI Melbourne and the Design Institute of Australia. I expected to see a coffee machine or a Vespa, objects more (stereo)typically Italian. Instead, I found fireproof material by Coex, biodegradable compostable bioplastics by Novamont, and a 3D multicolor printer by Eumakers, to mention a few. My jaw dropped with each design. 

Flexible Anakonda snakespeaker by K-Array

My favorite piece from the collection is a bendable speaker by K-Array. The number of sound engineering districts in Italy has risen, driven by the demand from musicians and engineers to meet specific acoustic and sound reproduction needs. K-Array designed the flexible Anakonda snake speaker, considered the first “folding” speaker in the history of sound dispersion. Designed in Florence, it is flexible, windable, crush-resistant, and truly innovative. 

Established in 1961 as a small mechanical workshop, Brembo specializes in the manufacture of brake discs and calipers.  Brembo quickly grew to be the official supplier to Ferrari and to leading car and motorbike racing teams. It pushed performance and lightness in design: their 2017 Formula E caliper weighs just 965 grams and is a monoblock machined from solid billet aluminum alloy. It is not only functional but also looks like an art sculpture. Brembo is a leader in the braking system industry, and their products are manufactured in Bergamo. 

High-performance braking system by Brembo

Bicycle seats can be uncomfortable to sit on, especially as each person has a different shaped body. Fizik produces a bicycle seat, Antares versus Adaptive saddle, to fit the individual body of a cyclist. What is more spectacular is that it is the first bicycle seat to be produced by a 3D printer. The seats are produced in the Veneto region. 

Created in Italy also displays recent designs and pieces that provide a deep dive into Italian history. One such piece is a scythe, an agricultural tool used to cut crops, dating back to the 1600s. Blacksmiths in Dronero, Piemonte, have mastered the craft of making scythes forged from iron. The scythes on display were produced by Falci and are an essential farming tool. Falci is the world leader in scythe making and operates in 54 countries. Carlo Pedretti, the chairman of Falci, explained that “there exists a whole chunk of the world in which farmers see manual tools as offering many advantages compared to machinery. The advantage of the sharp cut, for example, is that the grass recovers immediately and stays clean on the ground, ready to use as mulch. Since it does not transmit fungal diseases (unlike the triturated mulch produced by mechanical tools), it is excellent in periods of drought.” The scythes are thin, lightweight, yet sharp and adjust with the movement of the arm. 

As I wandered through the exhibit, learning about the designers, engineers, artists, and scientists involved in the works, I felt very proud to be of Italian heritage. Italians have a way of combining utility, ingenuity, and practical elegance.