10 Design Icons Compasso d’Oro awarded

It was 1954 when Gio Ponti had the idea of establishing an award to celebrate the excellence of Italian design, which in those years was taking its first steps. He was joined by la Rinascente department stores, which organized it until 1957, and by Albe Steiner, Marco Zanuso and Alberto Rosselli, who conceived – the first – and created – the other two – the prize: a golden compass, in fact, inspired by the instrument used to measure the golden section. The reference is poetic but also functional: the products worthy of this important recognition had to – and still must – reach and represent perfection, both aesthetic and of technological research.

Since 1958 the award has been entirely managed by ADI, the Association for Industrial Design, which announces it every two years and which since 2020 has opened the Milanese doors of the Design Museum, where all the winning products are collected and exhibited.

Awarded designs

If we wanted to list all our favorite Compasso d’Oro awards we could write a book. The following is, instead, a chronological selection of 10 design products awarded this important recognition and made iconic and recognizable, a first list aimed at telling the story of the “Compasso” – as we users of the sector often call it – through the pieces that have won it.

1970: CASSINA, Soriana

An icon as much stylistic as it is technological, it was designed by Afra and Tobia Scarpa in 1969 and since then it has been one of the most desired upholstered items for high-end interior design projects.

The rounded and abundant shapes are the result of a careful research and study of materials, always improved and today also sustainable, able to be shaped to achieve a timeless aesthetic.

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1979: OLUCE, Atollo

Emblem of the table lamp par excellence, since 1977 Atollo has been the quintessence of simplicity that becomes aesthetic perfection.

Three elementary geometries – the cylinder, the cone and the hemisphere – overlap to compose one of the most loved icons of Italian design in the world, capable of detaching itself from the stylistic trends of the moment to be always current and well integrated in any environment.

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1994: KARTELL, Mobil

Function makes design, and it does so with impeccable clarity, simplicity and effectiveness.

Available in several variants, both in terms of finishes and dimensions, Mobil is an office storage system that is well suited to the dynamism of an active and flexible workflow. The wide selection of configurations to choose from, also makes it an ideal product for the bedroom and able to be used both as a bedside table and as a chest of drawers.

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1998: ALIAS, Laleggera

Monobloc chair born from the creative flair of designer Riccardo Blumer who managed to combine solid wood on the outside with the polyurethane foam with which the chair is filled. The result is a product that brings together the best of both worlds, creating a traditional and innovative, light and solid, sinuous and natural piece.

Since 2009 she has been welcomed in New York within the permanent collection of the MOMA.

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2014: MAGIS, Spun

Art or furniture? Both! Spun has overturned the rules of “traditional” design – which sees chairs made of legs, seat and back – and has created an original, ironic and playful piece.

A sculpture when not used and a seat when in use, it is a design spinning top on which to discover new sensations and look at the environment around us from a new perspective. It can be used both indoors and outdoors.

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2014: DAVIDE GROPPI, Sampei

With an extendable stem and the possibility of reaching up to 4.40 m in height, Sampei is the meeting point between a floor lamp and a suspension lamp.

Poetic, slender and extremely refined, it illuminates any space with an elegant light thanks to the adjustable and dimmable lighting body placed at the highest point of the lamp. An outdoor version is also available to purchase.

2020: FLOS, Arco

Compasso d’Oro Career Award for a product that, with its name and its design, has been the forerunner to a category of lamps – arched, in fact – born from the need to have a suspended luminous body not bound to a system and at a fixed point. The idea of Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni dates back to 1962 and this year was celebrated with a new version, available on request and in a limited edition, with a crystal base.

Fun fact: Arco is the first design object in history to have obtained the recognition of copyright, like a work of art.

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2020: FLOU, Nathalie

Elegant, comfortable and functional, Nathalie was also awarded the Compasso d’Oro Career Award.

It is the first modern padded bed with completely removable covers; the headboard can be reclined and, thanks to the side bows, allows the pillows to be stored underneath, for a more refined and elegant aesthetic.

Born in 1978, it still remains an unprecedented design icon, a watershed in the history of bedroom furniture.

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2022: B&B ITALIA, Serie UP

The most recent Compasso d’Oro Career Award in this roundup was awarded no more than a few months ago. Iconic series designed by Gaetano Pesce in 1969, it is best known for the UP5_6 armchair conceived as a tribute to women: generous and abundant in shape, it recalls a mother’s womb as represented in the prehistoric goddesses of fertility.

The spherical pouf tied to her body, as well as an additional comfort element, has the metaphorical value of representing the woman with her ball and chain, sometimes a prisoner of herself.

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*Bonus, because we are Italians and we have a thing for motors

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1959: FIAT, 500

Small, compact, well thought-out: the 500 has been recognized as the emblem of the transposition of the excellence of technological research into a widely distributed product.

Conceived to optimize form and function, avoiding economic and dimensional waste, today it is celebrated above all for having marked a turning point towards a new way of enhancing functionality with design.

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