He received the ADI’s Compasso d’Oro Award for his career in 2008. Michele Provinciali provides an alternative trend to the late rationalist approach typical of the postwar period in every art form. He is expressive, poetic, experimental, abnormal, and refined in every art form.
Even now, his concepts and methods of application are “beyond.” Born in Parma in 1923 and graduating from Urbino in 1947, he obtained a study grant at Moholy-Institute Nagy’s of Design in Chicago in 1951. In 1955, he returned to Italy, where he was awarded the first Compasso d’Oro Award – a watch for Solari- and dedicated himself to the aesthetic leadership of prominent newspapers and publications and the most active Italian enterprises during the fertile age of productive reconversion.
With the help of notable graphic designers of the day, such as Pino Tovaglia, Giulio Confalonieri, and Ilo Negri, he founded the CNPT Group. Meanwhile, he worked with Michelangelo Antonioni, Gio Ponti, Vico Magistretti, and the Castiglioni brothers (developing the titles for various films).
Provinciali created his studio in Piazza Castello, Milan, where the famed brothers of Italian design worked, and Aurelio Zanotta found him in 1964 to begin an ideal and productive cooperation. His innovative corporate catalogue effort was dubbed the “manifesto” of industrial design.
When Zanotta launched its store in Monza in 1967, Michele Provinciali developed the corporate logo. Combining poetry and design was a free, rigorous symbol with a “zed” based on the curl’s mirror-like symmetry. This was the beginning of a golden era for Zanotta. The top international designers worked for the company under the direction of the legendary Provinciali. Then he was in charge of Zanotta’s whole aesthetic direction and image coordination.
Graphics – Means of Expression
On the other hand, graphics remain Provinciali’s prefered means of expression: the experimental magazine Imago, Stile Industria, and, beginning in 1963, Vittorio Gregotti’s Edilizia Moderna. Meanwhile, from 1971 to 1975, he was a lecturer at the ISIA in Urbino. His artistic interventions, which alternate between sculpture and painting, are remarkable and always done in silence. Findings collected on Adriatic beaches, such as fragments of chalk, ice cream sticks, plastic bottles bent by the backwash, railway tickets, and sparkling wine stoppers, were frequently hidden by collage and explorations packed with intense emotion.
Provinciali arranged them into a continuous dialogue infused with the enchantment of ‘things’ and a clean style that exhibits poetic guilelessness and communication power that reaches the heart, as in a well-known book whose graphics he designed: New York-arte e persone by Ugo Mulas. Provinciali was also a brilliant traveller: “a trail in Persia is named after him,” says Francesco Ramberti, co-author of the last biography-honouring the great teacher, who died in March this year at the age of 88. Gangemi Editore was the publisher. “I gather common items… those which are always seen but never looked at,” he says on the front cover.