Bruno Munari’s work is as vast as it is extraordinary. A multidisciplinary creative, he was a designer, illustrator, educator, inventor and researcher who profoundly contributed to the arts with his radical approach to the creative process.

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I am most fascinated by his work with books and in particular his series of ‘Libri Illeggibili’, unreadable books that he first produced himself as handmade single copies in 1949 and that are now being mass published worldwide.

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Munari saw these little books as research experiments, an exercise intended to push the possibilities of communication and design – he ”had taken the idea-book to its utmost limit” (Maffei, G. 2002. Munari’s Books). A firm believer in the democratisation of art, Munari stripped these little square books of all elements that traditional publishing dictated a book should have – title and author on the cover, text and images in the interiors, etc. This opened up new possibilities in terms of communication and made them accessible to all regardless of cultural background, language or age. In fact, these are enjoyed both by adults and children who can’t read yet and find these books fascinating. 

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In place of written text and imagery, Munari used the book object itself and its materials to tell a narrative: different coloured stock of varying weights and finishes were cut and ripped in different shapes or sometimes a piece of thread running across the pages acted as a guide for the reading experience. As such, “the dynamic images opened up new sensations and rhythms, pointing the way towards hitherto unexplored horizons in terms of readability and knowledge” (Maffei, G. 2002. Munari’s Books). 

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If you want to know more about these and the rest of the books Munari wrote and illustrated, I highly recommend Munari’s Books by Giorgio Maffei and one by the man himself: Design as Art (Penguin Modern Classics).

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