Milanese designer Giancarlo Iliprandi is a chameleon among Italian practitioners of his generation. Born in 1925, he has followed many directions since he came of age just after the Second World War, changing his studies from medicine to fine art to design while harbouring ambitions to be a writer. In a graphic design career spanning seven decades his approach and style has changed as radically and unpredictably as jazz musician Miles Davis, a near contemporary whose music he admires. His portfolio now displayed in *Note (Ulrico Hoepli), a 272-page book printed on Arcoprint 1 EW 140 g/m2 with Symbol Matt 300 g/m2 for the cover, embraces handcrafted, ideas-driven design, typography, punchy pop graphics, hard-edged illustration, editorial art direction and atmospheric watercolour reportage.
In conversation, Iliprandi has a sharp mind and a spirited approach to everything he encounters, and strong views about the world of graphic design education, the topic which began our conversation last summer, during Fedrigoni’s ‘Made In Italy’ exhibition in London. (The well received show travels to Edinburgh on 4 November 2015). I ask Iliprandi about the 1991 speech (reprinted in *Note) that he gave for international design council Icograda, in which he outlined the essential qualities of design. In this, he declared that design should be ‘formal, innovative and functional,’ but that this was not enough – it should be ‘cultural, ethical and educational’.
Iliprandi repeats his assertions. ‘A good service is not enough. Design should be something that makes life better, not just something you can easily buy and easily consume.’
Yet Iliprandi’s work is not difficult to enjoy and appreciate. His 1950s and 60s work – book and LP covers, posters and displays – reflects the look of ‘Milan Modernism’ with playfulness and practicality. Like many of his contemporaries, he was mainly self-taught, and necessity taught him to turn his hand to many different skills when they were needed – illustration, hand-lettering, collage and construction.