In Memoriam: Italo Lupi (1934 – 2023)

We remember Italian creative Italo Lupi: an architect and graphic designer who left his mark on brands and institutions in Italy and globally

Italo Lupi portrait
(Image credit: Courtesy ADI)

Italian designer Italo Lupi died in Milan on 28 June 2023; the news was shared by his son, writer and editor Michele Lupi. ‘Architect, art director and right man, he has worked all his life away from the clamour, fighting against the desire to shock at all costs,’ wrote Michele.

Italo Lupi: a great master of visual and graphic culture

Italo Lupi Triennale 1982

Italo Lupi, manifesto 16a Esposizione Internazionale di Triennale Milano, 1979-1982 © Triennale Milano

(Image credit: Courtesy Triennale Milano)

Born in Cagliari, Lupi studied architecture at Milan's Politecnico before working as an assistant at Achille Castiglioni's studio. Between the 1970s and 1990, he was art director of Domus and Abitare.

Lupi was best known for his graphic design work, which he created for a range of clients in fashion, design and culture. Among his best known works are logos for Miu Miu, Fiorucci, Tokyo Design Centre, bike manufacturer Cinelli and Milan's Fondazione Vico Magistretti, as well as Turin's 2006 Winter Olympics. Among his accolades were three Compasso D'Oro Awards.

Most recently, he had curated an exhibition of Saul Steinbergs’ drawings at the Triennale in Milan, and his relationship with the institution dates back to the 1960s, when he worked on exhibition designs, identities and posters for the International Exhibitions.

Miu Miu logo

(Image credit: Italo Lupi)

His work was influenced by history and architecture, and among his inspirations he cited Massimo Vignelli, Achille Castiglioni and Saul Bass. Throughout his work, Lupi was able to distil these inspirations (purity, humour, cinematic drama) to create the distinctive style that made him unique.

‘The word creative has haunted us for years,’ he said in an interview to Italian journalist Antonio Gnoli pubished by Italian newspaper La Repubblica in 2015, and shared this week by Michele. ‘Not that it was wrong. But inflated, yes. And used as a soft powder to embellish the professions of advertisers, graphic designers, architects, photographers, communicators. The image I can offer of myself calls for a certain discipline in work. Not giving up reasoning, without however running away from the unusual, the fabled, the unpredictable.’

Italo Lupi 1988 poster

Italo Lupi, manifesto 17a Esposizione Internazionale di Triennale Milano, 1988 © Triennale Milano

(Image credit: Courtesy Triennale Milano)

Lupi had been fascinated by the arrangements of words and signs on a page ever since he was a child. ‘I was attracted by the composition of the page: the letters, the margins, the spaces, the paragraphs. It was as if my mind was freed from thoughts and prejudices, happily travelling across that forest of sign,’ he said.

The tributes

Italo Lupi installation for Triennale 1979

Italo Lupi, progetto espositivo 16a Esposizione Internazionale di Triennale Milano, 1979-1982 © Triennale Milano

(Image credit: Courtesy Triennale Milano)

‘We remember Italo Lupi, a great master of international visual and graphic culture,’ reads a note from Triennale remembering the designer. ‘For over 50 years, his projects have defined the story of our institution through installations and visual communication projects developed with extraordinary sensibility and elegance.’

Saul steinberg Triennale

The exhibition Saul Steinberg Milano New York at Triennale Milano, 2021, curated by Italo Lupi

(Image credit: Gianluca Di Ioia, courtesy Triennale)

Tommaso Sacchi, Milan's culture assessor, said in a tribute: ‘With the death of Italo Lupi, we lose a protagonist of international architecture, design and graphic design. An elegant and generous man who has made a decisive contribution to the Italian design culture. A unique professional, who Milan must be proud of.’

Stefano Boeri, who had worked closely with the designer throughout his collaborations with Triennale, said: 'Ciao Italo, your sensitivity, your grace, your elegance have been a gift for Milan and for international graphic and visual culture.'

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.