Italian design studio and maker of home accessories and lights
Danese (established in 1957) is recognized as an influential Italian design studio, publisher, and maker of design objects and home accessories during the second half of the 20th century. Launched as a collaboration among innovators with early input from designers Bruno Munari (1907-1998) and Enzo Mari (1932), Danese was a design laboratory and publisher that explored the integration of art, design, content and the expressive potential of materials.
Founder Bruno Danese (1930–2016) first launched the design firm DeM (Danese e Meneguzzo) in 1955 with his close colleague the artist Franco Meneguzzo (1924–2008) with the objective of making artisan productions of ceramics. read more
Bruno Danese and his wife Jacqueline Vodoz found Danese
In 1957, after only two years since the founding of DeM, Bruno Danese decided to approach a serial production process and to increase the range of materials beyond ceramics while still maintaining an interest and adherence to an artisan production method. To that end, he teamed up with his wife, Jacqueline Vodoz (1921–2005), to establish the Danese design studio. The initial approach of the studio was to be a synthesis between the world of art and that of industrial design; a design laboratory and publisher in which the eventual production of an object was a cultural option, but not the main driver.
Influence of the Bauhaus movement in Danese
One of the inspirations for Danese’s workshop was the Bauhaus movement. Originally proposed by founder Walter Gropius in the 1920s, the Bauhaus proposed pairing crafts and the fine arts in a new design approach that would combine beauty and usefulness while attempting to apply industrial production with an artistic vision and ultimate functionality.
By the late 1930s, the Bauhaus movement had contributed greatly to promote a particular kind of design that emphasized clean lines, simple forms and functionality in direct contrast to the ornamentation that had dominated much of 19th century aesthetics. Though many of the key figures of the European Bauhaus movement had scattered throughout the world in the years approaching World War II, in Italy younger designers like Danese, Munari and Mari, were keen on reviving that original energy of the Bauhaus movement. Their dedication to this design vision permeated every element of Danese’s work and even influenced the design of Danese’s studio, which was equal parts workshop and gallery.
A particular approach to design and production, focusing on the creation of small objects
Shortly after its launch, Danese continued to work closely with Franco Meneguzzo and started a collaboration with the talented designers Bruno Munari and Enzo Mari. From its beginnings, the main focus of the studio was to create small design objects and furnishing accessories instead of furniture (a much more profitable market), to apply standardized production procedures to the creation of the design objects, and to pay special attention and interest in games and books for children—reflected in creations such as Mari’s 16 Animals children’s puzzle or Munari’s Falkland pendant light. For Danese the design object, as opposed to furniture, was more closely linked to the domestic context as an element of taste and personality, influencing the atmosphere of a room and participating in the communication between people.
Two 1958 Danese creations reflect the experimental nature of this design laboratory, and both represent symmetrical production philosophies to unexpected product designs. One is Enzo Mari’s Putrella tray, made out of welded sheet metal, and the other one is the creation of a series of ceramics designed by Franco Maneguzzo in 1958. Whereas Meneguzzo’s ceramics were produced implementing an industrial production process suitable for small production series, Mari’s iron Putrella trays were produced by using an industrial semi-finished product as raw material to be modified by skilled craftsmanship, through the welds were made by workers who had nothing to do with traditional artisan crafts.
That same year, in 1958, Danese started an important collaboration with Bruno Munari with the objective to create smart design objects that would be accessible to a large public. To that aim, Munari designed a series of folding plastic lamps, with opalescent fiberglass and aluminum, which were inexpensive to make and easy to ship. And, in 1959, Danese published one of Munari’s seminal works, Portable Sculpture, in an edition of 1,000. This sculpture set a tone of intellectual playfulness, as it consisted of a folding artwork made out of a cardboard-cutout that was portable and could be packed in a suitcase for travel.
Over the years, Danese produced a number of designs that reflected an ongoing passion for collaboration, exploration, and small production series. This energy persisted until May 5, 1991, when Bruno Danese and his wife Jacqueline Vodos decided to conclude their 34-year experiment and sold Danese to the French furniture company Strafor-Facom.
Some prominent Danese product designs
16 Animals children’s puzzle (Enzo Mari, 1957), Putrella tray (Enzo Mari, 1958), paper sculptures “Scutlrura da viaggio (Munari, 1959), Maldives bowl (1960), Falkland pendant light (Bruno Munari 1964), Tongareva bowl (Enzo Mari, 1969), Paro and Ovio glasses (1983), Arran trays (Enzo Mari, 1960), the Formosa wall calendar (Enzo Mari 1963), Trinidad carafes (Enzo Mari, 1969), Atoll fruit bowls (Enzo Mari, 1965), and the melamine Java container (Enzo Mari, 1965 and 1968)
Danese as a publisher
In addition, Danese published many books and graphic works with different authors and designers. Among these are the ones that it published in collaboration with Bruno Munari such as: Libri illeggibili (1949), ai Negativi-Positivi (1950), Proiezioni dirette (1952), Ricostruzioni teoriche (1956), Proiezioni dirette (1959), Struttura Continua (1961-1967), Xerografie (1967), Negativi-Positivi (1970-1984), Prelibri (1979), and Ricostruzione teorica di un oggetto immaginario (1984-1985). And with Enzo Mari such as Il fioco della Favole (1967), and Sulle Facce, Carta de disegno (1978).
Last updated: April 8, 2020
For additional please visit:
“Danese Milano – History.” Official company site.
Marco Sammichele, “Addio a Bruno Danese.” Corriere della Sera – Abitare, 29 November 2016.
Larry Weinberg, “What to Collect Now: Danese Milano.” Interior Design, 20 April 2018.
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