Meet the maestros
Characterised by fine craftsmanship and the use of high-quality materials, Italian design has been leading the way for the past century.
To celebrate the return of Milan Design Week, today we’re present eight influential Italian designers we believe that everyone should know.
Italian designer and architect Piero Lissoni runs a design practice with offices in Milan and New York. He began his career in furniture design after receiving his degree in architecture from Politecnico di Milano and founded his own studio in 1986.
Studio Lissoni’s projects range from museum installations to private villas and outdoor wall lighting. Now with more than 30 years of experience, Piero Lissoni is the creative director for several worldwide brands including B&B Italia, Living Divani and Lema, for whom he has also designed an extensive range of products.
Often described as one of the founding fathers of Italian design, Vico Magistretti was born into a family of prominent Milanese architects. He joined his father's studio before he began designing furniture in the 1960s.
Believing that there is no excuse for bad design, he is celebrated for his sleek designs that fuse simplicity and functionality.
His works have been displayed in major design exhibitions throughout Europe, the USA and Japan, and are included in the permanent exhibitions of the world's most important museums.
Born in Milan in 1918, Achille Castiglioni was one of the most important industrial designers of the 20th century. He produced more than 150 products during his career and forged enduring relationships with Italian manufacturers such as Flos and Zanotta.
Until 1968, he worked in close collaboration with his brother Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, with whom he designed some of the most iconic pieces in Italian design history, including the Arco, Taccia and Snoopy lamps.
Known for his joyful and functional designs, interjected by witty details, most of the products Castiglioni designed were the result of intelligent experimentation. In recognition of the quality and enduring style of his designs, Castiglioni received eight Compasso d’Oro design awards during his 64-year long career. He died in Milan in 2002.
Born in the Italian city of Meda in 1950, Antonio Citterio studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano before embarking upon a career as a furniture designer.
Since 1972 he has worked with Italian and internationally renowned design companies such as Artemide, Flos, Kartell and Vitra, as a product and industrial designer. Some of his most well-known designs include the Grand Repos lounge chair and the ID Trim office chair.
A contemporary designer known for his unique style that bridges the visual language of Italy and Scandinavia, Luca Nichetto was born in Venice in 1976. His creativity was initially inspired by the famous Murano glassmaking industry, which employed members of his family. After studying industrial design, he joined a Murano based glassmaker before becoming a product designer for lighting brand Foscarini.
In 2006 he founded his multidisciplinary studio and five years later, in 2011, Nichetto opened a second studio in Stockholm, Sweden. Today, Nichetto Studio works with a variety of brands and clients from all around the world.
Mario Bellini, born in Milan in 1935, is an internationally renowned architect and designer. Focusing mostly on architecture since the 1980s, Bellini has designed many buildings including the Tokyo Design Centre in Japan, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, and the new Milan Convention Centre.
Mario Bellini has worked with various significant industrial companies such as Cassina, Yamaha, Artemide, Flos, Vitra, Fiat and Renault. The MOMA in New York holds 25 of Mario Bellini’s projects and in 1987 dedicated a personal retrospective exhibition to him.
After graduating in architecture at the Politecnico di Milano in 1929, Franco Albini began his professional career working for Gio Ponti in Milan. He worked simultaneously in fields of furniture, product design, architecture, urban planning, and interior design – merging traditional Italian craftsmanship with new forms of modernism.
A major figure in the rationalist movement, his sentiments translated into remarkably transparent furniture designs, which display a knowledgeable use of materials while presenting their internal structure and processes of production.
The grandfather of an Italian lighting design dynasty – Gino Sarfatti was born in Venice in 1912. He fell in love with lighting design when working as a salesman in Milan, after a client asked him to transform their beloved vase into a light fitting, and as they say, the rest is history.
During his thirty years of activity, Gino Sarfatti designed and produced over 400 luminaries and carried out non-stop research into innovation as regards typology, materials, production technologies, light sources, technical lighting effects and design aspects. He founded the iconic lighting company Arteluce in 1939.
Gino Sarfatti’s descendants have stayed involved in the lighting industry, his son Riccardo founding Luceplan and his grandson Alessandro is now running lighting company Astep. We’ve taken a closer look at Gino Sarfatti’s story in our journal.
Discover more Italian designs in our Italian design guide or shop from the selection below.
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