Franco Grignani won the Golden Palm for Advertising in 1959 together with Necchi.

The Palma d’Oro was a prize introduced in 1950 and awarded by a jury consisting mainly of representatives from the advertising profession; in its early years, the prize always went to companies such as Olivetti, Barilla, and Pirelli, thanks to their graphic designers’ inventive solutions and refined taste.

The 1955 edition of the prize did not take place, because of the profound disagreement emerging in the advertising professional community about the criteria employed in the jury’s decision-making. In particular, what was put into question was the excessive importance given to “graphic forms and artistic values”, considered independent from any link with “advertising commercial goals” and with psychology, tastes, class provenience, cultural and social backgrounds of the audiences to whom the advertising message was addressed.

As a result of these polemics, in 1956 the rules of the prize were changed, thus giving more emphasis to the campaigns’ “effectiveness in terms of sales and notoriety obtained by the product or service advertised”.

In 1959 – within the 2nd National Advertising Week – the jury of the 9th National Advertising Award (“9° Premio Nazionale della Pubblicità”) assigned unanimously the Palma d’Oro to Necchi, a factory from Pavia at the forefront of “good design” for their sewing machines (the ‘Mirella’ model was so inspiring that it became one of the only sewing machines ever to be on permanent display at the MoMA in NY). Necchi, originally one of the most important foundries in Europe, had started the production of sewing machines in 1919. Twice winner of the Compasso d’Oro (the oldest and most authoritative world award for industrial design), in 1954 and in 1957, in 1960 it was able to produce a sewing machine every 24 seconds, counting on a network of 10,000 Necchi stores around the world.

In 1959 the advertising experts did not fail to praise Franco Grignani’s graphic work with the “Award to the advertising artist” (gold medal), as it had “never degenerated into abstractionisms that were inessential to the purpose of the advertisement or not perfectly accessible to its public of potential buyers”.

Franco Grignani and Dino Villani, Palma d'Oro to Necchi, 1959
Franco Grignani and Dino Villani, Palma d’Oro to Necchi, 1959 [*]

While commenting on Grignani’s graphics, attention was drawn also to the way in which the “form of the machine” was never isolated but constantly accompanied by the “human form” of a woman (in this regard, the historic artistic collaboration between Franco and his wife Jeanne is well known, especially for successful advertising campaigns such as the one for Necchi).

As Simona de Iulio and Carlo Vinti have recently underlined, actually – examining the advertising messages created by graphic designers who collaborated with in-house departments of large industries during the 1950s and 1960s – one can see that often it is the product itself which reigns supreme. The graphic designers’ creations tended to represent production more than consumption, and corporate attitudes more than consumer needs. In this particular case, it is evident that Necchi’s advertising management together with the prestigious contribution of Franco Grignani was able to “correct” that trend.

In November of the same year, to underline the recent significant recognition, Franco and Jeanne Grignani received together – amid vivid cheers – the “Advertising Garter” award (premio “Giarrettiera pubblicitaria“), promoted by the Italian Advertising Artists Association (AIAP), for “the exemplary contribution made to advertising graphics, and the echo that his artistic activity has aroused also abroad”.

In this ironic clip from 1962, Franco Grignani is presented as “the one who forces us to look at his posters”.

“La Settimana Incom” (Industria Corti Metraggi Milano) was an Italian newsreel, distributed weekly in cinemas from 1946 to 1965.

[*] courtesy of Daniela Grignani
[**] Italian Ways
[7] AIAP / CDPG Centro di Documentazione sul Progetto Grafico, courtesy of Lorenzo Grazzani

[featured pic from AIGA Eye on Design, courtesy of Team EOD]

[this post is not CC BY-NC 4.0 due to some adaptations from The Americanization of Italian Advertising during the 1950s and the 1960s]

[some infos also from “La Pubblicità”, n° 10 & 11, 1969]