Saturday, July 11, 2009
Bruno Munari wore many hats: a sculptor, painter, writer, filmmaker, educator and designer, he was equally passionate about his diverse interests and excelled at everything. In the Italian newspaper, Il Giorno he wrote, “The designer is the artist of today, not because he is a genius, but because he works in such a way to re-establish contact between art and the public, because he has the humility and ability to respond to whatever demand is made of him by the society in which he lives, because he knows his job, and the ways and means of solving each problem of design.”
Munari believed objects should be ordinary, without unnecessary embellishment, and that people would distinguish and value ‘real’ and ‘original’ products. He was convinced that progress was achieved through simplifying, not complicating. Though his designs were playful and elegant, that they were also useful and affordable was far from ordinary.
A collector and traveler all his life, he amassed anonymously designed goods from many different cultures and countries to inspire students of design. His personal collection includes humble items like a saw, a plastic sack, a music stand, a coffee pot, a bucket and a folding chair among other basic things. The items were selected because they are so embedded in utility that nobody knows who designed them. Munari, a recipient of the Golden Compass, the most prestigious design award in Italy, proposed awarding the medal to the ‘Unknown Designer’, who created products with purpose, user-friendliness and intrinsic value.
I lift my glass this week to the magic of Munari.