The Italian Icons of Sixties Design

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This article was written exclusively for Peroni Nastro Azzurro by Elisabetta Rizzato, the creator of ITALIAN BARK – a travel and design blog showcasing the best work inspired by and made in Italy.

The Sixties were a crucial decade for the history of Italian design and it is in these years that many design icons we see and buy at present for our homes were created. The Sixties were full of great industrial development in Italian history, so much so that it was known as the period of "Miracolo economico italiano": a strong growth of the automotive industry, an increased use of household electrical appliances and a large increase in population. This decade was also characterised by a cultural revival with many new anti-conformism and Feminism movements flowing in Italy - as well as in the other Countries- in the mass popular movements.


These were also the years of Pop Movement: starting from Britain in the ‘50s, then in the United States in the ‘60s, a great cultural swing flowed in Italy during the Sixties. This was the decade of The Beatles and Andy Warhol, of anti-conformism, of a new freedom in cultural expression.

This was translated into design with new forms and materials, into bright colours, but also into a new care towards the objects of daily use. Finally, design came to everyday objects which were reinvented in new shapes, reflecting Pop style: chairs that invite you to relax, bright colours, plastic objects. Design became Pop-ular!

During the ‘60s plastics and polyurethane were introduced in furniture design, leading to the creation of innovative forms: a typical example is Sacco by Zanotta, a design icon with a contemporary design, which has seen several imitations over last few decades and is still popular in the world of interior design. 

Sacco by Zanotta Armchair. Image Courtesy of Design Best


The Sixties were the most active and influential years for many of the Italian design icons of the present day. To better understand the importance of Italian design during these years, just think that in 1961 it started the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, which is still one of the most respected and popular design events in the world. Sixties Italian design was also exposed at MOMA - Museum of Modern Art - in New York in 1972, with the exhibit “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape”.

Some of the most important and popular Sixties Italian design icons can be seen below: 

Image courtesy of Elisabetta Rizzato

1. Arco lamp, designed by Castiglioni brothers for Flos in 1962: with its steel stem, marble base and clean lines it is still a trendy lamp today.

2. Joe Colombo creations: well known for his pipes, he designed iconic pieces of furniture like the Universale Chair for Kartell, the first injection-molded plastic chair which can easily change into different shapes.

3. Pop-Art design by Gufram, with the red couch Bocca and the famous Pratone.

4. Olivetti inventions designed by Ettore Sottass: the most imfluential being the Tekhne and Valentine typewriters.

5. Bruno Munari’s designs for Danese, such as the famous Falkland lamp.

6. Vico Magistretti’s pieces for Artemide, Cassina and Oluce, for example the Eclisse table lamp.