The Compasso d'Oro (Golden Compass) competition and award for product aesthetics was established by Aldo Borletti at the Italian department store La Rinascente at the X Triennale (See Milan Triennali) in Milan in 1954. The store had been committed for many years to the promotion of standards of excellence in Italian design and the award was the first of its kind in Europe. The Compasso d'Oro also provided stimulus for the recognition of stylish modern Italian design at home and abroad, its early recipients amounting almost to a roll of honour of prominent designers and manufacturers in post‐war Italy. They included Marcello Nizzoli, designing for Necchi and Olivetti, Gino Sarfatti for Arteluce, Gino Colombini for Kartell, Franco Albini for Poggi, Roberto Sambonet for his own company, Marco Zanuso for Borletti, and Dante Giacosa for Fiat. Critiques of the early award‐winning products were to be found in the short‐lived Italian design magazine, Stile Industria. The Compasso's aesthetic inclination towards the prevailing international concept of ‘Good Design’ was acknowledged in awards such as those presented to the Danish Den Permanente (1958) and the British Council of Industrial Design (1960).
After 1959 the award scheme was managed jointly by La Rinascente and ADI (the Italian Association of Industrial Design), the latter organization assuming complete control in 1962. As with many other such design awards there were criticisms of the emphasis on aesthetics at the expense of social relevance. Furthermore, the jury was drawn from the confines of the Italian design world until the 1970s when it was broadened in outlook by the inclusion of foreign designers and others working in related fields. These have included the French cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard, the American industrial designer Arthur Pulos, the Russian Yuri Soloviev, design historian‐critics Fredrick Wildhagen and Victor Margolin, the French design ‘superstar’ Philippe Starck, and the Finn Antii Nurmesniemi.
The XVII Premio Compasso d'Oro of 1995 reflected the organizers' efforts to emphasize the international prestige of the award rather than the perception that it was a competition driven largely by the ambitions of a comparatively restricted circle of Italian designers and producers. Although entries were still accepted from individual designers and manufacturers, an initial selection of suitable products was identified by representative groups drawn from all over Italy. The criteria were also widened to include products designed by non‐Italians but manufactured in Italy, and vice‐versa. In addition a Young Design Award was instituted to encourage a younger generation of designers aged 32 years or less. See also Design Awards.
Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.