Spring 2013

Milan’s anarchic Modernist

Alessandro Colizzi
Bruno Munari
Graphic design [EXTRACT]

Alessandro Colizzi explores the Futurist past of Bruno Munari, the eclectic, prolific designer-illustrator of Mussolini’s Italy.

In the years before the Second World War, the Italian Modernist Bruno Munari (1907-98) worked simultaneously as a painter and an advertising designer trying his hand at a wide array of media: illustration, photomontage, animation, book design, publicity, art direction, exhibition and furniture design. His work, though apparently founded on a fundamental rationality, is enlivened by an anarchic, humorous vein. Yet nowadays Munari is associated mostly with playful ‘illegible books’, work for children and his polemical best-seller Design as Art (Penguin Modern Classics).

Across a 16-page feature, Alessandro Colizzi plots Bruno Munari’s early career.

Cover of L’Ala d’Italia, April 1934.
Top: portrait of Munari by fellow designer Albe Steiner, 1941. Archivi Storici, Archivio Albe e Lica Steiner, Politecnico di Milano.


Spread from Tempo no.141, 1942, with military infographics showing the substantial loss of enemy (i.e. Allied) ships and planes. Biblioteca Comunale Centrale Palazzo Sormani, Milan.


Cover of La Lettura XXXVII 7, 1937. The illustration was created with a ‘tactile’ technique, using a three-dimensional assemblage of cut-out photographs, cardstock, fabric, and sandpaper. Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, Milan.



Though this approach was well suited to the children’s books and toys he created, it may have hampered his wider success as a graphic designer. Yet his commitment to the world of childhood and education, culminating in the creative workshops for children he established in the late 1970s, allowed him widespread, popular recognition that few other Milanese designers have attained.

Alessandro Colizzi, design historian, educator, typographer and writer, Montréal

Read the full version in Eye no. 85 vol. 22 2013


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. You can see what Eye 85 looks like at Eye before You Buy on Vimeo.

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