Antonio Zanussi established the household appliance firm in Pordenone in 1916. It was initially a workshop for repairing stoves.  His sons and Guido and Lino took over on his death in 1946, and under them, the firm began its rise. 

The 1950s – household appliances

The manufacture of refrigerators started in 1954, followed by washing machines, dishwashers, television sets and other household goods. 

The firm set up a design department in the 1950s. Its innovative designs included an 18-inch (45cm) wide dishwasher. 

Stove from 700 program by Gastone Zanello, 1960 and Black refrigerator collection by Roberto Pezzetta, 1986
Stove from 700 program by Gastone Zanello, 1960 and Black refrigerator collection by Roberto Pezzetta, 1986

Gino Valle Designs

Gino Valle designed its 1958 cooker and kitchen appliances in the 1950s. He grouped into units and created them with neat housings and controls. With their crisp modern lines, Valle’s product designs helped Zanussi gain a reputation for innovation.

Zanussi Product timeline on company website.
Zanussi Product timeline on company website.

Gastone Zanelto 1958 – 1981

From 1958 to 1981, the company’s design department was headed by Gastone Zanelto, who introduced the concepts of modularity and dimensional co-ordination, thus heralding the advent of built-in models. 

During this period, Lino, the driving spirit, died in an air crash in Spain in 1968 at a miserable time for the company, which was soon caught up in the national industrial strife starting in 1969. The firm, which was an outstanding example of the Italian post-war miracle, ran into trouble just as the economy did and began to accumulate losses. 

The firm’s designs up to the mid-1980s tried to be unobtrusive. In its late 1980s, the Wizard collection included more visually assertive objects for the kitchen. Designed by head designer Roberto Pezetta, the Wizard refrigerator was unsuccessful in Britain and withdrawn. In 1984, Zanussi merged with Electrolux.

Electrolux Merger

This provided it with the necessary funding to re-establish its reputation for ground-breaking designs, such as the jetsystem washing machine (1985), which automatically adjusted its energy consumption to the load’s size. 

Roberto Pezetta Colours oven and refrigerator Zanussi Design
Roberto Pezetta Colours oven and refrigerator Zanussi Design

As part of the Electrolux Design Families Strategy, in 1987, Pezzetta designed the post-modern Wizard’s Collection, which was considered “a cornerstone in household appliances design history”. During the 1990s. Pezzetta also created several experimental prototypes for “a new generation” of “bio-design” appliances that combine “emotion, style, ergonomy”, including the award-winning Oz refrigerator and the Zoe washing machine. 

Zanussi Oz refrigerator and Zoe washing machine protypes
Zanussi Oz refrigerator and Zoe washing machine protypes

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Earle, J. (1975). Italy in the 1970s. David & Charles.

Fiell, & Fiell. (2000). Industrial design A-Z. Taschen.

Neumann, C. (1999). Design directory Italy. Universe.

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