Compasso d’Oro (established 1954) is one of the oldest and most revered awards of the design industry. For more than a half century, the Compasso d’Oro, or “Golden Compass,” has bestowed praise on leading innovators in the field. Originally inspired as a means to promote international attention for Italian design, the award has grown to become a gold standard for those successful in the industry.
The inspiration for the Compasso d’Oro stemmed from Italian designer and architect Gio Ponti, who teamed up with iconic Italian department store La Rinascente to recognize and promote the leading Italian designs and generate cultural and economic value. Its main purpose was to emphasize Italian design quality. The goal in establishing the award was to boost international awareness of design trends among Italy’s leading craftspeople. read more
The logo of the Compasso d’Oro is based on the form of the compass created collaboratively by Albe Steiner, Alberto Rosselli, and Marco Zanuso. They took as their inspiration the compass created by physician and artist Adalbert Goeringer, who developed his tool following the concept of the golden ratio.
The successful launch of the first edition of the Compasso d’Oro resulted in a deluge of submissions for the second edition of the award in 1955, and the prominence and growth of the award continued to increase over the remainder of the decade. Included among their early recipients were Gio Ponti himself (1954), Marco Zanuso (1954–1955), Franco Albini (1958), and Vico Magistretti (1959–1960), all leading designers of their time who set benchmarks and expectations for future winners.
The award passed from the hands of La Rinascente to the Associazione per il Disegno Industriale (ADI) in 1964 and continues to seek out the most important contributions to design in each year’s iteration. According to the ADI, the selection criteria for the awards are as follows: “The products [are] selected taking into account the originality, the functional and typological innovation, the production processes adopted, the materials used and the formal synthesis reached. Particular attention is paid to products that express respect for the environment, public and social value, care for the usability, the interaction and the concept of ‘design for all.’”
To date there have been more than 300 award winners and thousands more who have received honorable mentions for their efforts. In many regards, in addition to recognizing contributions to design, the Compasso d’Oro award can also be seen as tracking the trends and advances in materials, techniques, concepts, and cultural context within the design field. In 2001, the ADI Foundation curated a collection of historic award-winning designs, and in 2004 the Ministry of Cultural Heritage of Lombardy declared this collection a crucial portion of Italian national heritage.
Last updated: January 23, 2019
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