Bruno Munari (1907-1998), born in Milan, was the enfant
terrible of Italian art and design for most of the twentieth century,
contributing to many fields of both visual (paint, sculpture, film, industrial
design, graphics) and non-visual arts (literature, poetry). He was twice
awarded the Compasso d’Oro design prize for excellence in his field.
Bruno Munari’s Design as Art is an illustrated journey into the
artistic possibilities of modern design translated by Patrick Creagh published
as part of the ‘Penguin on Design’ series in Penguin Modern Classics. ‘The
designer of today re-establishes the long-lost contact between art and the
public, between living people and art as a living thing’ Bruno Munari was among
the most inspirational designers of all time, described by Picasso as ‘the new
Leonardo’. Munari insisted that design be beautiful, functional and accessible,
and this enlightening and highly entertaining book sets out his ideas about
visual, graphics and industrial design and the role it plays in the objects we use
every day. Lamps, road signs, typography, posters, children’s books,
advertising, cars, and chairs – these are just some of the subjects to which he
turns his illuminating gaze. How do we see the world around us? The Penguin on
Design series includes the works of creative thinkers whose writings on art,
design and the media have changed our vision forever.
Design as Art is considered by many
as one of the most influential design books ever published. Design as art is
A collection of Munari’s essays on
various topics concerning design and art. if there is a distinction at all
between them, which Munari questions at the start of the book. these short
essays each two or three pages long, are grouped together under five areas;
designers as stylists, visual design, graphic designs, industrial design and
Munari said “the vase once had an
extremely common use. Most probably it was used for cooking oil. It was made by
a designer of those times when art and life went hand in hand and there was no
such thing as a work of art to look at and just any old thing to use. I”.
And this shows that Art and life
are inseparable. It was difficult to distinguish between the technology works
and tools used in daily life was to cut more than the use of art was not purely
Munari begins by saying:
“The designer of today
re-establishes the long-lost contact between art and the public, between living
people and art as a living thing. … There should be no such thing as art
divorced from life, with beautiful things to look at and hideous things to use.
If what we use every day is made with art, and not thrown together by chance or
caprice, then we shall have nothing to hide.”
This book shows me that a lot has
changed since the Classical and Renaissance eras. Art is no longer a thing for
the selected few. Instead, designers are becoming the modern-day artists, who
fuse his aesthetic beliefs with functionality, therefore creating objects used
by many effectively. Properly designed objects should make the user feels the
presence of the artist, who is bettering his life and encouraging him to
develop sense of beauty
This is a good book. It is
Interesting and not an easy read. It is a book that does need to be read
carefully and picked up again from time to time.
Bruno clearly shows how design can
be used as art, and he takes you through the initial design process, and then
through applications and critiques with care.
The writing style is lucid and
What I found was one of the most
brilliant explanations of the merit of industrial, graphics, and architectural
design I have come across yet. Munari’s very mid-century Italian humor pairs
well with his immense knowledge of the tradition of commercial design as an art
form. In many ways, Design as Art helped me learn to engage with everyday
objects as not just objects of utility, but expressions of culture and
Either way, Munari basically said
everything Dieter Rams wanted to say about design in a much more round-about
way, so kudos to him for that.
It is interesting to see the image
of design in the 50’s and the 60’s that are portrayed clearly by Bruno Munari
in this book.
Design in that period is more
related to engineering, architecture, mathematics, and physics. He introduces
us something new at that time which is design as art that becomes the norm now.
But, it’s quite technical and rigid explanation that we will find in this book
so might be a bit complicated to grasp
Throughout the book Munari keeps
going back to Japanese design, Asobi, Also means game, which he approves The
reason for this is that Japanese design is oftentimes exactly what I’ve
described above: it’s designing the object as the object itself, and not an
imitation of something else.
Munari said “What then is this
thing called Design if it is neither style nor applied art? It is planning: the
planning as objectively as possible of everything that goes to make up the
surroundings and atmosphere in which men live today. This atmosphere is created
by all the objects produced by industry, from glasses to houses and even
cities. It is planning done without preconceived notions of style, attempting
only to give each thing its logical structure and proper material, and in
consequence its logical form.”
That means, planning is just an
innovative style and application of art, a logic that rearranges things around
us from the smallest thing to the biggest thing in which all objects unite to
create a better life.
Another important element of
Japanese design is its close connection to the materials used–an intelligent
use of each material depending on its looks and properties. As a result,
Japanese design embodies the object with both, its function, and the properties
of the materials used.
Two pieces of wood. The same pieces
of wood can be served to anyone, regardless of their status, and regardless of
the occasion. They are simply designed, light and easy to make. They are cheap
and you can throw them out after a meal. The only prerequisite for their use is
to cut up the meat into bite-size pieces beforehand. Compare this to Western
cutlery. You can buy all sorts of knives, forks, and spoons.
They can be cheap, expensive,
steel, silver, funny, serious, light, heavy, and so on, and never mind the
various utensils and knives designed specifically for different dishes, whether
that be some Parmesan cheese, or a rack of lamb. Moving to a new house? You
better make sure you’ve bought all the various cutlery you’ll need. The Western
utensil is an explosion of complexity whereas the chopstick is an eating tool
reduced to its simplest form.