Italian design vs. Swiss design: an exhibition at the ADI Design Museum

ADI Design Museum hosts an exhibition produced by the Museum and Repower, dedicated to design in Italy and Switzerland, with Italo Rota as creative director

Switzerland and Italy are two neighboring countries that are quite distant in terms of economics, history, culture and relations with design. “Testa e Croce: le convergenze parallele del design svizzero e italiano” (“Heads and Tails: the parallel convergences of Swiss and Italian design”) is the title of the exhibition dedicated to these similarities and differences, running at the ADI Design Museum until February 5, 2023. The exhibition, curated by Italo Rota, is produced by ADI Design Museum and Repower, with the patronage of the Swiss Embassy and the Swiss Chamber – Camera di Commercio Svizzera in Italia. Italo Rota also served as creative director; moreover, the Italian section is curated by Alessandro Pedretti, while the Swiss section is curated by Riccardo Blumer.

Exhibition opening; photo courtesy of ADI Design Museum

Italian culture and Swiss ingenuity: research and design ethics

In the Italian material and visual culture, the protagonists are often designers and companies, and products derive from a constantly evolving cultural research. Therefore, research produces both expressive value and social quality; from the great names in design of the last hundred years, to the great classics of furniture, unusual and surprising objects, a vast landscape of relationships and images.

In the images, from left to right (and from top to bottom), Stackable coffee set, Riccardo Schweizer for Pagnossin, 1970-72; Desk set, Bruno Munari for Olivetti, 1960, ashtray by Giorgio Soavi for Olivetti, 1965, pen holder by Bruno Munari for Danese, 1957, Synthesis ashtray, Ettore Sottsass for Olivetti, 1973, desk organizer 4643, Pio Manzù for Kartell, 1970; curved laminated plywood chair by Enzo Strada for Barovero, 1953.


In the products of Swiss ingenuity, transformed by use into standard models, style is not related to aesthetics but to an ethical conception of production. Production is linked to durable materials typical of the country, wood and aluminum; anonymous objects acquire the value of symbols: think of the Victorinox pocket knife, watches, Toblerone, Caran d’Ache pencils. The names that emerge – Max Bill, Sigfried Giedion, or the Helvetica typeface – give a picture of timeless quality.

In the images, from left to right (and from top to bottom), Potato peeler, stainless steel and wood, produced by Econome; Pressure cooker, metal, produced by Sigg; Metal tricycle, produced by Wisa-Gloria-Werke AG since 1970.

Discover the ADI Design Museum, a new Design Museum in Milan

Historical and emerging design

“We have compared two entities,” explains curator Italo Rota, “to discover two parallel worlds from which to pick objects to build new interiors and equip our backpacks. In the near future we will probably be a little less Italian and a little less Swiss, but objects will always reveal to us their distant and mysterious origins.”

But i wanna keep my head above water 2022, Federica Di Pietrantonio, Giovani Designer Italia section

The exhibition is complemented by two themed islands – Giovani designer Italia, curated by Erica Petrillo, and Giovani designer Svizzera, curated by Laure Gremion – illustrating contemporary design in the two countries.

Rrreefs 2021, Marie Griesmar, Ulrike Pfreundt & Hanna Kuhfu, Giovani Designer Svizzera section

Testa e Croce. Le Convergenze parallele del design svizzero e italiano
Until February 5, 2023
ADI Design Museum
Piazza Compasso d’Oro 1, Milano

Related Articles


Agape: 50 years of excellence

“In realtà, volevamo fare dell’altro” (“Actually, we wanted to do something else”) is the title of the exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of Agape, a company founded on the banks of the Mincio River in 1973.

Read more »