Italo Lupi, legendary graphic designer (interview)

from Steven Heller, ridiculously prolific design writer and Italophile. (Married to extraordinary Italo-American designer Louise Fili)

Italo Lupi and Italian Graphic Design are synonymous. Born in Cagliari in 1934, he lived in various places in Italy before residing in Milan, where he graduated from the faculty of architecture at the Polytechnic University. His design career began in concert with Mario Bellini and Roberto Jewelers as three co-art directors for the Office of Development La Rinascente, the department store. Lupi’s skills included signage and exhibition design in the early ’60s. This was followed by an “intense collaboration” with Domus where he was design director. At Abitare he was director of graphics and later and then editorial director.

Among his other concurrent feats, he designed the image of the Milan Triennale and communications for IBM/Italy. Lupi has designed graphics and signage for large exhibitions at Palazzo Grassi in Venice, the Papal Stables at the Quirinale in Rome, the National Gallery of Parma. His most recent book, Autobiografica Grafica (Edizioni Corraini), is a memoir of design (an autobiographica), aesthetics and art — of the half century he has helped guide and influence Italian practice. I asked Lupi to tell me about book and the joys of designing.

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What prompted you to write an “autobiography” as opposed to simply a monograph of your work?
An "autobiography" can make a book more attractive and intimate and it can sometimes avoid the boring reproduction of your works by introducing life stories.

You’ve been defined by your amazing work on Domus andAbitare. What most stands out for you as the highlight of those magazines? Is it the illustration? Photography? Editorial decisions?
The most fascinating thing, working for Domus at first and then forAbitare, was the opportunity to imagine a real direction and a logical order of complex issues. My degree in architecture from the Politecnico of Milan, gave me the technical and disciplinary know-how to deal not only with graphics but also with exhibition layout which I have always been interested in. All the greatest former Italian designers had a degree in architecture and I followed this tradition. I believe that my curiosity aware of all the fields of design helped me to make Abitare become a well-informed and unconventional magazine.

There’s a lot you’ve done throughout your career, from graphic design to interior design. What do you want most to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered for a true mix of the two disciplines.

Who are the individuals that made the most impression on your professional life?
The person that made the most impression and that I loved the most is Achille Castiglioni with his forever young intelligence

What’s your “philosophy” about illustration? Or how do you work with illustrators?
I loved and still love very much photography and illustration. I believe that my editorial policy, very generous towards illustrators, helped many young talents (not only italian ones) to become successful and to increase their work.

Since everything in your book is about telling stories, What are the stories that you most enjoy telling?
The  most important stories are the ones about my juvenile years: this experiences conditioned all my cultural, social and political life.

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