Archivio Grafica Italiana
An online museum for Italian graphic design
An interview of Brunella Giacobbe with Nicola-Matteo Munari
archivio grafica italiana
Ph. © Nicola-Matteo Munari
archivio grafica italiana
Ph. © Nicola-Matteo Munari
Why did you decide to establish the Archivio Grafica Italiana?
The project originated from the desire to promote what I call the ‘culture of quality’ that distinguishes the Italian graphic design production, which is too often overshadowed by product design. Italian graphic design has a great tradition that deserved to be studied and preserved. To the people who have never seen the real artworks, the archive offers the possibility to know at least their reproductions.

What kind of audience the Archivio is addressed to?
It’s mainly offered to students and young designers, but has been conceived for a wide international public. It’s already visited by students, teachers, professional designers, enthusiasts, and great masters of graphic design from all over the world.

What kind of designers will be included in the archive?
Italian designers who worked for both Italian and foreign clients, and foreign designers who worked for Italian clients or design firms. Anyone who made high quality projects contributing to the Italian graphic design heritage.
archivio grafica italiana
A promotional image designed for the Archivio Grafica Italiana, featuring a detail of a 1964’s poster
by Massimo Vignelli.

2016 © Nicola-Matteo Munari
Is it possible to contribute projects?
For sure. It’s possible to propose your own or other people’s projects, that will be studied to verify if they have the features to be included in the archive.

What kind of features a project should have to be part of the Archivio?
It’s impossible to give definitive directions because the collection is not founded upon stylistic criteria, but rather we will search for quality whatever is the form. The constant that distinguishes the projects that have already been published is to be the outcome of intelligence, culture, and competence, and of course this can be expressed in any form.

And what kind of projects would not be published?
Artistic works—rather than design projects—that are unsuitable to satisfy their communicative purpose. Ephemeral projects that are vulnerable to fashion. And visual communication but not graphic design projects.

Is there a project that you particularly appreciate among those that have been already published?
I chose to inaugurate the overview with a poster from 1964 designed by Albe Steiner for the Mostra della Ricostruzione (The Reconstruction Exhibition), because it symbolises a true reconstruction of the Country, including the reconstruction of the Italian graphics that finally left the former painterly character to became graphic design in all respects. (Furthermore, there are some unknown works that are unseen on the internet, that are an integral part of the collection offered by the Archivio.)
archivio grafica italiana
Detail of the homepage.
To this day, the archive counts
almost 350 projects.

2015 © Nicola-Matteo Munari
archivio grafica italiana
A view of the page dedicated
to designers. For now there are
80 designers in the archive.

2015 © Nicola-Matteo Munari
What is the time span that will be illustrated by the archive?
It begins in 1930s,* when the foundations of graphic design have been laid, and extends up today. There will be fore sure many projects from 1960s because that was one of the most prolific and significant decade in terms of quality, but I hope that the Archivio could also offer an interesting window on the contemporary time. (Recently, I have started to thinki about opening the archive to poster art from late 19th and early 20th century, because even if it’s not design, it is relevant to understand the historical evolution in the approach toward graphics.)

 * 1933 in particular was a special year: the Triennale displayed the Futura typeface by Paul Renner, Antonio Boggeri opened his famous Studio Boggeri, Attilio Rossi and Carlo Dradi started publishing Campo Grafico magazine, Edoardo Persico redesigned Casabella with the assistance of Guido Modiano, who, the same year, also designed the Triennale typeface, the graphic layout of Domus changed too, and Mondadori started to publish Medusa book series.

What makes the Archivio Grafica Italiana different from other digital archives dedicated that are dedicated to graphic design?
The Archivio Grafica Italiana is the first one that has been purposely conceived and structured in order to offer an extensive overview of the Italian graphic design heritage. Moreover, unlike other archives bombing the visitor with images and data that don’t respect any quality standard, the Archivio only publishes a selection of high quality projects that are all provided with correct data and a short text that helps to observe the images in order to really understand the qualities of each work. It’s the thoughts expressed in the texts that make the Archivio different from other graphic design archives.
archivio grafica italiana
Preliminary sketch made in order
to define the layout.

2015 © Nicola-Matteo Munari
What do you think have prevented the opening of such an online archive, accessible to anyone, before you did it?
I don’t know, I think there was nothing to prevent it. I felt it as a duty because I think that it constitutes a useful and important cultural resource that should be accessible to everyone. Good design has a social importance and designers should dedicate themselves to the preservation and promotion of this cultural heritage. Unfortunately, in the past decades designers quite often forgot their social role and responsibilities, thus letting the cultural stature of our profession to decline and the quality standards to fall down. (Anyway, I have to say that there are now a few others excellent archives dedicated to national graphic design productions, which are structured in a similar way to Archivio Grafica Italiana. Canada Modern, in particular, is a very good one.)

Do you think that the quality of graphic design is generally lower if compared to the past?
No, I don’t think that is the quality of graphics to be lower, but its cultural significance. Probably, what has been generally loss among designers is the culture itself of the design discipline.

A last question. What are the most important benefits by establishing such an accessible archive dedicated to the Italian graphic design?
I believe that is of paramount importance to guarantee the highest accessibility to the best products of our tradition in order to be aware of our culture, to understand its quality, and to perpetuate it appropriately to our time. The Archivio can’t and doesn’t want to substitute the real projects that it reproduces, but wants to communicate their presence by showing the varied quality that distinguishes them separately and as a whole.
© Nicola-Matteo Munari

Published by Studio Pagina,
February 2016