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The design world doesn’t enjoy an infinite literature like the adjacent worlds of art and architecture do; there isn’t a bumper harvest of publications to regularly keep students, professionals and devotees up-to-date. The freshest and most interesting updates, apart from unusual cases, come from sector magazines.
In Italy it is these variously titled magazines that have had leading roles in the debate on the subject of design both in a stage of being excellent monitors and in the more active role of an outright press gallery. It’s hardly necessary to be reminded of the role of Domus and Gio Ponti. This monthly magazine, now directed by Stefano Boeri, from 1928 to the mid-Seventies – with two short breaks – brought the climate of international design to Italy, becoming in the post-war period the reference publication for the Italian design which is admired throughout the world.
The same is true in the case of Casabella, which started off as a magazine about “a beautiful home”, was at the middle of many transformations, paid attention to design with Ernesto Nathan Rogers and then became the definitive radical design publication from 1970 when Alessandro Mendini became editor; he continued the debate on Modo (which he founded in 1977) and then on Domus (1979 – 85).
Another magazine over 40 years old is Abitare, which was founded in 1961 by Piera Peroni, edited for years by Franca Santi Gualtieri and since 1991 by Italo Lupi, who was its art director from 1975 to 1985. It is perhaps this magazine, of those mentioned so far, that approaches interior design most effectively (another magazine in the group that talks about tasteful living but with greater value on single pieces of furniture is Case da Abitare).
On design itself, Interni has followed an interesting path which stands out for certain columns such as those for young people (edited by Virginio Briatore); next to these high-sounding titles there are other magazines which have their reference viewpoints in the trade.
But not just limiting themselves to the trade viewpoint, with their graphics and services from magazines to public, they carry out the excellent function of updates on the topics of distribution, economy and trade show tendencies; we’re talking about DDN Design Diffusion News, which has been going since the early Nineties, the Giornale dell’Arredamento (an “historic” source of information on the sector) and b0x, which only started in 1999. Other historic names are Ottagono – which started life as a shared project between eight companies and after years of numerous monographs and a three-monthly rhythm became two-monthly and, more recently, monthly -,Gap Casa (this as well came into being to talk about sales and distribution and has recently recorded a target evolution by wide circulation). In the architectural field there is Area, Arca, Lotus…
To these specialist publications must be added a plethora of publications from the big publishing houses which approach design and furniture albeit with a wealth of photos and information more like an illustrated magazine or shopping guide. These are the monthlies like Casa Amica, D casa, Elle Decor, AD…
If one has to think of giving advice to students about reading some of these titles – in the certainty of having left out some – one would be inclined to not make a definitive choice (even if a subscription to a prestigious title is always welcome). It would be more interesting to read a crossover in order to achieve more tailored information. An example? You can read reviews of the magazines out at the moment on a site such as www.design-italia.it and choose whether to buy it, consult it or not, according to the subjects it deals with. For specific research, design work, scenario building or overviews on current designers, magazines remain the best available tool.
SPD Academic Supervisor