The book review leads to creation 11 Arte come mestiere (Design as Art) / A book review by designer Naoto Fukasawa11.03.09
Arte come mestiere
Author: Bruno Munari (Laterza)
A book review by designer Naoto Fukasawa
This is a harsh book. Reading it was like being pierced through the heart. It is a painful book for those designers who seem to forgive the contradictions that arise between their thoughts (ideals) and practice (reality).
Whether in design or art, finding the truth is not easy. I feel that there is always an intention that runs in parallel with the process of realizing a design, trying to explicate the reasoning and thoughts behind it. Even if the answer is too difficult to be found, the act is by no means burdensome. Rather, it a fascinating endeavor, even euphoric. That’s why we read books written by the pioneers in the field. We sympathize with them through tracing the roads down which they traveled and where they got lost, though learning about their experiences and the words that gave them their insights. Written by the great Bruno Munari, the father of delicate and detailed design, this book can only be seen as a warning to today’s designers.
In order to read this book you must be a designer, or someone in the field, who has given considerable thought to design or art. This is because the meanings of the simple words he uses differ from the vernacular. Even though people recognize “artistry” as the embodiment of the values and desires of daily life, the moment they encounter the word art their thinking separates from that daily life and shifts to an abstract generalization. In some cases a definition can establish preconceived notions that obstruct the path to genuine understanding. This book is a warning to the many designers who unknowingly yield to stereotyped design and art because of their preconceptions.
Munari touches upon the book’s association with Japan in its introduction. He even says that he was guided by Japanese artists and artisans during production of his work, guided by the way problems in planning were solved, the essential values, the concept of utmost simplicity, and the fact beauty is just one result of these elements. I can’t help but notice, however, the ironical fact that his strongest criticism is aimed at contemporary Japanese design, the very thing which has most influenced him. Many readers will probably feel they are being criticized in the chapter titled Stylist. But Munari is not criticizing Japan alone. He is warning us of the “styling” trap into which designers all over the world tend to fall.
This book also provides detailed analyses, complete with examples, of the meaning of design and art in fields such as visual design, graphic design and industrial design. It will forever be a design textbook that fully acknowledges the thoughts of designers and shows them a path from which they must never stray. (from AXIS vol.104 July/August 2003)