Armando Milani: A Lifetime of Design with Purpose

In graphic design, few names resonate with the depth and conviction of Armando Milani. His mentor, Albe Steiner, instilled in him a profound respect for the ethical dimensions of design, shaping his approach to serving the community. In his Graphis Journal intro, Giuseppe Liuzzo, a distinguished graphic designer and educator, offers an intimate glimpse into Armando’s world—a world where images speak volumes, and a poster becomes a narrative of peace. Armando’s career is not just marked by his famous “Peace vs. War” dove or his letter to Greta Thunberg; it’s defined by a relentless pursuit of understanding and a passion for teaching that transcends the conventional. In a career spanning over six decades, Armando continues to be a beacon of inspiration, urging us all to reflect on our destiny through the power of visual storytelling.

Introduction by Giuseppe Liuzzo, Graphic Designer & Coordinator of Graphic Design BA, IED Milano

Talking about Armando is always a stimulating challenge. His uncanny skill and proficiency in visual communication make words superfluous, as his images convey concepts and stories with stunning clarity. However, I want to talk about the human behind these images or at least give you my perspective on him. Armando stands out as one of the rare masters who, despite his successes, maintains an eternal student-like curiosity. This innate thirst for knowledge drives him to engage anyone in conversation, in any social context, with a constant desire to understand the evolution of the world. This understanding flows into his outstanding visual works, which are transformed into astonishing concepts and stories. A vivid memory is linked to a hot Saturday afternoon, when together we created the iconic poster of the hummingbird, a symbol of “Speak vs. React,” completing a triptych started by his famous “Peace vs. War” dove adopted by the UN in 2002. I remember that a rare light shone in his gaze, reserved for a few individuals, and it was fascinating to observe him collecting images and ideas: that poster was already taking shape in his mind, and he longed to share it with the world with the passion of a neophyte and the wisdom of an expert. His charming yet determined words still ring out as we collaborated with students on the design of the emoji tic-tac-toe game poster, a visual transposition of his letter to Greta Thunberg. Despite his vast experience and deep knowledge, he listened very carefully to all of the young students’ ideas, asked them questions, and only after having obtained the answers did he share his thoughts. His teaching and professional methodology go beyond the simple “method,” highlighting his commitment to having others explore their past to stimulate them to reflect on their future. Armando is a friend who embodies his involvement in his own story, guiding you towards contemplation of your/our destiny. He remains constantly attentive to global events and sensitive in representing and communicating them. Despite the passage of time, he retains a young and fresh mind, standing as a beacon to which one turns to learn how to design a perfect visual metaphor. Through his EcoHumanity initiative, he has given the world a vital and broad concept, interpreting graphic design as a narrative tool to significantly improve society. For such a friend, the words “thank you” may never be enough, but I offer them nonetheless with deep gratitude.

Excerpt Interview with Armando Milani from Graphis Journal #379

What inspired or motivated you to have a career in design?

I started studying design in Milan in the 60s and was lucky to have Albe Steiner as a teacher. From him, I learned the importance of ethics in design. We should dedicate our work to the community—not only to the privileged classes. That’s why over the last 20 years, I’ve dedicated my work to humanitarian and ecological issues, being absolutely aware that a designer does not have the power to make statements or political decisions to change things.

What is your work philosophy?

Our aim must be to communicate with people in the right way, give them the right messages, induce serious reflections, and even send them some hope. That hope should not only be a suggestion but a daily commitment from every person.

Who is or was your greatest mentor?

I have already mentioned my mentor, Albe Steiner, who taught me the basics of graphic design and the ethics of using it correctly. I’ve also met other very interesting people on my professional path. I worked in Milan with Giulio Confalonieri, a real master of strong and synthetic images that are mostly in black and white. Then I worked with Antonio Boggeri, a man who made Italian design history from the 40s-80s, working for the greatest firms in the Italian industry. He introduced me to the Bauhaus style and the Swiss school.

Who have been some of your favorite colleagues or clients?

I have had a lot of clients in my long career. Among the most important ones—Ciga Hotels and Lancia Automotive—I remember with gratitude all of the companies and institutions I worked with: IBM, Olivetti America, Xenon New York, Centro Diagnostico, and Bottega Veneta in Milan, United Nations in New York and Geneva, the European Parliament in Brussels, and Floriade 22 in the Netherlands. I’ve also designed hundreds of logos, packages, posters, and books.

What interests do you have outside of work?

I like to collect all my design works, and one I love more than others is the book No Words Posters. I asked 100 international designers to send me a strong, communicative poster about the issues they wanted to talk about without using any words.

Armando Milani was born in Milan in 1940. He studied at the Scuola Umanitaria with Albe Steiner, from whom he learned to apply two important values in design—ethics and esthetics—to improve and enhance the quality of human life. It became his design philosophy, which he has manifested in his work for the last 60 years. Starting in 1965, Armando collaborated for two years with Giulio Confalonieri and three years with Antonio Boggeri. In 1970, he opened his studio in Milan, where he focused on packaging and corporate identity projects. In 1978, Armando was invited to collaborate for two years with Massimo Vignelli in New York, and in 1980, he opened another studio in New York where he designed books, logos, and visual identities for well-known brands, resorts, and cultural centers. Some of his best work includes his iconic “Dove of Peace” poster for the United Nations and his “Future” poster for the European Parliament. In 2010, Armando began his first Dialogues in Design workshop series at his olive mill in Provence, France, with Massimo Vignelli and the Rochester School of Design. He continues to do workshops there and around the world at a variety of prestigious universities. Armando is now dedicated to designing posters and promoting his collection “EcoHumanity,” spreading messages about peace, tolerance, freedom, and the environment. His work can be seen in numerous one-man exhibitions. Most recently, he was invited to appear at Dubai’s prestigious Design for Climate Change Conference in December 2023. Armando has been an AGI member since 1984.

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To read more, purchase Journal #379 here and view the digital edition now.

Author: Graphis