Design Friday. Bruno Munari.

I was asked a few weeks back why is it almost all of my “Design Friday” posts deal with designers, or design companies from more than 20 years ago. Well there are a number of reasons for that. First I have always looked back at what was done by great designers from previous decades. You can’t move forward if you don’t know what came before you. Second, it is because most of the people who I have presented in this series of posts have left a huge legacy to the design world. These are people and companies that have influenced so many designers and design styles, that they really can’t be ignored. I will say this though, the 1 year anniversary of this blog is coming up next month, and with it there will be a change in the Design Friday posts. I’m not going to tell you what it is just yet but I think anyone that reads this will be pleasantly surprised. Now on with this Friday’s subject.

When I was a kid, my mom would read to me on a regular basis, and she kept almost every children’s book she ever bought for my brothers and I. One that stuck with me visually was Bruno Munari’s Alphabet. The illustrations, color, and letter forms were etched into my brain at an early age. Munari was once called by Picasso, “The Leonardo of our times”, and his body of work and genius reflects why Picasso said that.

Munari presence in the design world spanned so many decades of Italian culture – moving from the 1930’s through the 1990’s with ease and grace. He influenced various fields including painting, sculpture, industrial design, illustration, graphic design, pedagogic methods. Through out Munari’s career he was fascinated by infancy, and how children view and see the world. After the birth of his son Alberto in 1940, Munari developed concepts for generating an awareness of the world based on the visual world, and conceived experimental laboratories for children and continued to develop the Munari method.

As early as the 1930s, Munari had been trying out radical innovations in graphics and typography, but it was not until after World War II that he began to design and produce book-objects. His children’s books were simple, provocative learning tools. His books for adults, on the other hand, were useless objects, Unreadable Books, which were meant to challenge the very concept of a book. In 1950 Munari began to experiment with light projection through colored plastic to create colored-light compositions. The use of polarized light, special lenses and motorization enabled him to achieve more complex and variable results and led to the production of his first colored-light film, “I colori della luce”, from 1963 with electronic music.