The bond between design in Italy and the US

Design agencies Sea and Pentagram have partnered to create a new book on this special relationship, which involved an influential crop of designers between 1950 and 1970

Poster showing a red illustrated apple cut open and with teeth and bite marks in the middle, as though the apple represents lips
El Prosper Restaurant poster by Silvio Coppola, 1969-1973, featured in Made In Italy NYC

Made In Italy NYC, a new publication by Sea and Pentagram, focuses on the post-war period, during which time Italy and the US were simultaneously becoming “promised lands” for business, industry and, of course, design.

Over the years, many notable figures within this world travelled between the two countries, forming a kind of cultural exchange that peaked in this era, and continues today.

Among them are iconic American graphic designer and illustrator Milton Glaser, who attended Bologna’s Academy of Fine Art in 1952 to study with Giorgio Morandi, and Massimo Vignelli, who followed his wife and fellow designer Lella Vignelli to New York in 1958 and eventually established his own successful practice in the city.

Spread from the book Made in Italy featuring a photo of an open door leading into a room with posters on the wall in the background on the left hand page, and a contents page on the right
Spread from the book Made in Italy featuring a pink and black high contrast print of a person on a motorbike on the left page, and a typographic poster with the words 'Cucina' and 'Cultura' arranged in a circle around a red ampersand

Honing in on this “golden age” of Italian graphic design, between the 1950s and 1970s, Made In Italy NYC presents a cross-section of work coming from the period. As such, the book is divided into four accessible chapters: ‘Italian designers who worked in the US’, ‘Italian designed book covers for US authors’, ‘US designers who worked in Italy’, and ‘Influential Italian graphic design’.

Readers can study the full gamut of the creative exchange between these two design powerhouses, understanding how they influenced one another, where they intersected, and where they departed. They can also peruse the projects of significant designers from this time, and though Massimo Vignelli is often cited as the most influential, featured names include Bruno Munari, Saul Bass, Paul Rand, and Enzo Mari, among many others.

Spread from the book Made in Italy featuring poster designs that repeat the words 'Deutsche Olivetti' in columns on blue, pink, green, and brown backgrounds
Spread from the book Made in Italy featuring abstract illustrated book covers

Throughout the book’s pages, the rich history of this relationship becomes clear, as well as the importance of Italy’s design heritage, from mid-century to the present day. Speaking on this, Michael Bierut, partner at Pentagram says: “Italian graphic design has a rare power that can still surprise us. Made In Italy NYC contains examples of the warmth, humanity and verve that excited designers half a century ago and continue to inspire today.”

The book is launching at a two-day exhibition of the work at New York’s One Art Space in May. Together, they offer “a celebration of all things Made in Italy, exploring the rich and untapped vein of Italian graphic design with rarely seen and published work,” says Sea founder Bryan Edmondson.

Shiny silver book cover that reads 'Made in Italy' and 'NYC' arranged so the common letters intersect

The book is supported by Fedrigoni and Monotype;;