Some remarks by Mario Piazza in the introduction to Armando Milani’s latest volume, Incontri, where the well known designer collects one hundred anecdotes that have marked his creative path. From Massimo Vignelli to Pelé, from Paul McCartney to Umberto Eco.
There are many ways to write one’s memoirs. And of all the categories of subjects eager to do so, graphic designers do not seem to excel. Perhaps they discount being a bit of a missed artist and make ampollosi moments of life that do not need to be. Minor happenings become sacred moments, self-productions (i.e., the opposite of the graphic designer’s craft) mark the top moments of one’s career. And then there are the stumbles of writing, which in a diaristic epic is no minor thing. Of course there are many remarkable achievements such as Leo Lionni‘s “cosmic somersaults“ in the book Tra i miei mondi. Un’autobiografia.
The title already makes a difference. Lightness becomes power, as in Piccolo blu e piccolo giallo. And irony is a happy presence. Humor, of a soberly Milanese matrix, which can be biting but at the same time controlled, is also a gift of Armando Milani. It is no coincidence that many years ago one of his (visual) ideas managed to warm the spirits of a large contingent of universally known graphic designers, prompting them to represent themselves no longer as masters of typography and image, but as protagonists of common life: the hardware store, the vegetable gardener, the plumber, the real estate agent. Thus A Double Life changed cheerfully the lives of eighty emblazoned graphic designers of the Alliance Graphique Internationale.
It may seem like a nonsensical game, but it can be read as a first step by Armando to mature within himself the desire for an autobiographical narrative. The book of books. And now with this smaller and seemingly sober book he surprises us us again, telling us something of his world, but to be read through the lives of others. It is the second stage.
One hundred encounters by work or fate. Unexpected or desired. Fragments and entanglements. A kick at a Melotti sculpture and a “Happy New Year“ on the beach from Paul McCartney. Saul Bass’s Russian grandmother and Henry Wolf’s Austrian grandmother. Ornette Coleman’s adopted mice and Esmeralda Dupont’s house birds. Vico Magistretti’s clothespins and cherries for Jack Nicholson. Pele’s goals and Muhammad Ali’s handshake. Alberto Sordi’s markets and Umberto Eco’s drunken sailors. Armando dancing with Mariangela Melato while his wife waltzes with Saul Steinberg.
This book is a whirlwind. It is no accident that the title Encounters is written half from left to right and the other from right to left. Like the ancient bustrofed scriptures. A ribbon unbroken, unwinding and rewinding, sowing tiles of a mosaic of life. And while these encounters may not be as picaresque as Georges I.’s Encounters with Extraordinary Men. Gurdjieff, in their own way they reveal to us an initiation into a way of understanding the craft of the graphic designer that is primarily the ethics of an encounter. The desire and the need to communicate. To unite writings and languages, often if only through the exercise of a glance. As, with his unmistakable calligraphy, friend and artist Vincenzo Agnetti prophetically predicted, “A word repeated became another word.“
Excerpt from the introduction in Armando Milani, Incontri, Milan, Lazy Dog, 2023.
- Incontri€ 29,00
Mario Piazza is a graphic designer and architect, working in Milan since 1982, dealing with editorial graphics, identity systems and exhibition design. From 1992 to 2006 he was president of AIAP. Since 1997 he has been a lecturer in Communication Design at the School of Design of the Politecnico di Milano. In 2009 he founded the Documentation Center on the Graphic Design / Museum of Graphics – Aiap, of which he is scientific head. He was creative director of «Domus» from 2004 to 2007 and art director and editor of «Abitare» from 2007 to 2014. He designed the image of Einaudi paperbacks. Author of several texts on graphic design, he has curated many exhibitions dedicated to visual communication and its history. In 2008 he received the Icograda Achievement Award.