Why Italians do it better.

It was in the late nineties when I made my first experiences in design in collaboration with Italian native designers and creatives. I stopped by to work for Italian art director genius Luca Stoppini at Vogue Italy doing some exclusive typefaces for their library. At the time we finished this project I got quite settled in the beautiful historical center of Verona city in north Italy and I decided to stay. Here is why.

01. Renaissance.

At night, walking through the streets of an Italian historic center under the yellow street lights you feel the presence of something. A value imminent in every single detail and it includes also the people themselves. It is the remembrance of Renaissance spirit. It is part of Italy’s heritage and people are proud of it. It affects common persons just as it does artists or designers. Consequently, an artist is perceived as an integrated part of society not someone opposed to it.

02. Light.

Even in winter the air of Italian cities is pregnant with sun light. It is soaked up and spread by the humidity in the air. It surrounds contours with a shimmering halo and colors appear much more yellow and warm as they do in post Alpine countries. Even the human iris adapts itself over longer term to this bright light condition. As a result, the ability to differentiate subtle color shadings is higher evolved than in an eye habited to northern hemisphere.

03. Beauty as a Value.

Did you ever have the impression that people almost feel embarrassed speaking about beauty? Well, it is recognized as a value but always seems to be accompanied by lots of questions. Will this work also? Will this help us? Is it politically correct? Etc. Let me assure you you will not find any Italian citizen wondering if beauty might be anything else than just beautiful. It is a value in itself just like a precious raw material. And everyone loves it unaskedly.

04. Craftsmanship Attitude.

What may sound anachronistic at a first glance constitutes another point of strength in Italian design: the craftsmanship attitude. Love for the detail, fearless confrontation of fatigue derives from a historical inclination towards the art of creation by hand. If it is coupled to a visionary view of the future the results are overwhelming. Luxury brands as Bulgari among many others reflect just the tip of the iceberg of this Italian innate tendency.

«Non sono un uomo di cultura, non ho approfondito la storia dell’arte, o dell’architettura ma sento un qualcosa dentro che mi dice SÌ questo è bello, SÌ questo ha uno spessore, SÌ questo affascina … o con altrettanta facilità capire se è pacchiano, falso, artefatto, o peggio brutto. È un qualcosa che arriva dal fatto che siamo circondati dal bello, lo vediamo da quando abbiamo un anno di vita: forme, colori, suoni, luci ci formano.»

The Italian Renaissance Spirit

I admit some kind of daring theses. Everyone is invited to join discussion about them. You might also ask what all this has to do with the more modern points of view regarding design, as for example functionality in user experiences. But I have the impression that in this country it is in fact not felt as a contradiction, on the contrary. Beauty as a natural component derived from unconscious experiences made in the past by previous generations combines with contemporaneity and complexity of modern life admiringly. Italian luxury brands mirror in the shop windows together with ancient facades harmonically…

Photography: Stefan Seifert

Video at the Giardino Giusti, Verona, Italy: Antonella Iovino

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  1. June 13, 2019

    Well written piece Stefan, clear and objective and the fruit of considerable observation no doubt.

    • Stefan
      June 13, 2019

      Many thanks, John. Much appreciated!

  2. Antonella Iovino
    March 1, 2020

    «Il luogo, nel suo insieme, è divino. Ma la gente è terribile. […]»
    Così nel maggio del 1869 John Ruskin descriveva, con grande acume, il temperamento di una città come Verona.
    La sua luce e il colore delle sue pietre incarnavano più di qualsiasi altra città italiana destino e bellezza, lampo di fantasia mitica.
    «L’unico difetto del luogo è che è troppo ricco. Pietre, fiori, montagne: tutto richiede uguale attenzione. […]» attribuendo ai veronesi una incapacità di meritarsi tanta bellezza.

    • March 1, 2020

      Grazie, Antonella, per questo bellissimo commento! Molto apprezzato!

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