Compasso d'Oro - The world's oldest design award


The world's oldest design award

Fiat 500, the Vespa scooter, the Olivetti typewriter, the original Sacco beanbag chair and many more. It may seem like a completely random list of iconic products - but what they all have in common is that they have won Europe's oldest design award: the Italian Compasso d'Oro. For more than 60 years, the Golden Compass and the Associazione per il Disegno Industriale have marked excellence in innovation, quality, sustainability and aesthetics in design, and today the Compasso d'Oro is one of the most prestigious awards a designer can receive.
<span style="font-size: 24px; color: rgb(163, 143, 132);">What is the Compasso d'Oro / Golden Compass?</span>

What is the Compasso d'Oro / Golden Compass?

Compasso d'Oro directly translates to 'The Golden Compass,' and the Compasso d'Oro is one of the world's most prestigious design awards. The award was established in 1954 by the Italian Association for Industrial Design (ADI) to promote the best Italian industrial design and recognize design excellence in the field. Since its creation, the Compasso d'Oro has become a benchmark for designers and manufacturers worldwide.
The Compasso d'Oro award is given to products, projects and design concepts that demonstrate exceptional quality, innovation and sustainability. The jury of experts evaluates each submission based on a number of criteria that include originality, functionality and aesthetic value. Over the years, the award has expanded to include new categories such as communication design, service design and social design.
One of the distinctive features of the Compasso d'Oro award is its rigorous selection process. The jury, made up of designers, architects and other experts in their respective fields, evaluates each submission based on a series of criteria that include technical innovation, environmental impact and social responsibility. The evaluation is thorough and impartial, ensuring that only the best designs are recognized.

Image: An original Fiat 500 in the streets of Rome. Image by Jean-Pol Grandmont. License: Creative Commons 3.0
Winning the Compasso d'Oro award is a significant achievement for designers and manufacturers. The gold compass is a testament to a designer's good work, creativity and dedication to quality - and winning the coveted award is not only celebrated in Italy - it is also celebrated around the world as your design becomes a symbol of design excellence. Some of the most famous Compasso d'Oro winners include the Alfa Romeo Brera and Giulia, the Vespa scooter, the Olivetti typewriter and the Alessi coffee machine.
The Compasso d'Oro award also serves as a platform to promote the value of design and its role in improving human life. The award ceremony is attended by prominent figures in the design world and the winning designs are featured in exhibitions and publications. This exposure helps raise awareness of the importance of design and its potential to tackle social and environmental challenges.

Image: An Olivetti typewriter designed by Nizzoli Marcello. Image by License: Creative Comons 4.0
<span style="font-size: 24px; color: rgb(163, 143, 132);">The story behind Compasso d'Oro</span>

The story behind Compasso d'Oro

Founded as an award in 1954, the Compasso d'Oro was both founded in the same year and had the same purpose as the German iF Design Award; to promote and refine design techniques and the level of Italian design - but also to raise awareness of all that Italy designed after the war. It's no secret that Italy is a design country. Italian design has been celebrated for centuries and the country is responsible for some of the most innovative and imaginative designs when it comes to fashion, interiors and architecture. Whether you think of clothes, cars, lamps or watches, it's guaranteed that an Italian is behind some of the most iconic designs - think Gucci, Armani, Versace - Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo - Flos, Artemide, Luceplan - Panerai, Fendi, Breil - which is why La Rinascente, an association of high-end stores in Italy, designer Alberto Rosselli and architect Gio Ponti were already focused on spreading the Italian design spirit in 1954 when they invented the golden compass.

Image: Architect Gio Ponti in the 1950s with a design under his arm. License: Copyright outdated.
The Golden Compass was chosen as it represents the natural perfection of nature. The award itself and the award logo are based on a compass designed by Adalbert Groeninger in 1893 to find the Golden Ratio in nature - where the smallest piece on a line relates to the largest piece, as the largest piece relates to the whole line, as remembered from geometry lessons.  

Since the beginning of time, Italians have designed silhouettes that have impressed and shocked the rest of the world - from the Pantheon in Roman times to the great Renaissance painters, and from the Venetian glassblowers to Bruno Sacco, who changed the automotive industry when he sat at the end of the high table at Mercedes' design department in 1974. So it was a no-brainer for the La Rinascente shop association and the architects that the Italian design stroke would keep the screw in the water - and that the Italian design stroke would continue to inspire itself with its imaginative approach.

La Rinascente hosted the awards for ten years until 1964, when the Associazione per il Disegno Industriale (ADI), an association of industrial designers, took over the show. Behind ADI were, among others, the Castiglioni brothers, whom we at Lampmasteren know especially from Achille Castiglioni's great collaboration with Flos. Since its inception, the Compasso d'Oro has been awarded to around 300 designs - and that's why it's not an award that hangs on trees.

Image: ADI Design Museum in Milan with the golden compass on the window to the right. Image by Delo 99, Creative Commons 4.0. License

Lamps that have won the Compasso d'Oro

As mentioned, winning the Golden Compass is no easy task - which is why the list of lamp winners is relatively short. Over the past ten years, only six lamps from our range have won - but these are also lamps that really define themselves in an otherwise extremely competitive field. Below we will highlight the few lamps that have won their designer and manufacturer a Compasso d'Oro Award:
2022 - Belt from Flos by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec

2022 - Belt from Flos by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec

If there's one thing that truly characterizes the Italian design style, it's playfulness and imagination - and even though the designers behind this lamp are French, they manage to elevate this Flos lamp to something that transcends national borders and what is typical.

Brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec have previously worked with Vitra, among others, but it is their collaboration with the iconic Italian design lamp manufacturer Flos that won them the Compasso d'Oro award.

They won the award for their Belt lamp; a lamp that borrows inspiration from the fashion industry as it resembles a belt. The long pendant hangs from the ceiling in large buckles, and you can easily imagine the model gracing high-end fashion stores and design studios. The lamp comes in several shades, and if you invest in Belt from Flos, you have a piece of design that invites you to marvel.

See Belt here!
2020 - Arrangements from Flos by Michael Anastassiades

2020 - Arrangements from Flos by Michael Anastassiades

"Make your arrangements," reads the Flos website as you click past the lamp series that won the Italian designer lighting brand another Gold Compass in 2020.

When you enter the site, you're asked how high the ceiling is in your home, whether you want the lamp to hang freely or over a table, and whether you want a surface-mounted canopy or one that is mounted on the ceiling. Once you've typed in, you'll be introduced to the many shapes you can put together. The possibilities are many and the combinations seem endless.

It's hard to explain exactly what the Arrangement Lamp is - in short, it's a lamp you create yourself by putting together different geometric shapes - but the model is best experienced for yourself.

Visit the Flos website here, and buy the lamps here!
2016 – OK from Flos by Konstantin Grcic

2016 – OK from Flos by Konstantin Grcic

If you know Italian lamp design, you probably know Achille Castiglioni - and if you know Achille Castiglioni, you probably know Parentesi. Some say you can't touch classics, but these are people who have never seen the OK lamp.

With the light source in the center hanging from a wire, you can clearly see that OK is related to Parentesi. Designer Konstantin Grcic has updated the classic Castiglioni model with a round, opalized light source that, like the original, can move up and down the wire and rotate. OK is available in three beautiful shades.

See OK from Flos here!
2016 - Ascent from Luceplan by Daniel Rybakken

2016 - Ascent from Luceplan by Daniel Rybakken

Created in 1978 by Riccardo Sarfatti, Paolo Rizzatto and Sandra Severi, Luceplan is known for a long and very impressive portfolio of lamps that ooze personality, inspiration and imagination. The innovative energies flow freely and the company behind the Costanza lamp series, Mesh and Illan, among others, is today one of the best known Italian design brands.

When an Italian giant meets a creative Norwegian soul like Daniel Rybakken, magic happens. Ascent is no ordinary table lamp. There is nothing obvious and the designer manages to create something unique that stands on its own. A reimagining of the classic table lamp.

Ascent can be seen here!
2014 - Counterbalance from Luceplan by Daniel Rybakken

2014 - Counterbalance from Luceplan by Daniel Rybakken

The atmosphere at Luceplan and Daniel Rybakken's table at the Compasso d'Oro award ceremony in 2014 was certainly good, as the Norwegian designer and the Italian design brand received a gold compass for the wonderful Counterbalance.

Counterbalance is a lamp series that, as the name so beautifully suggests, uses counterbalance to balance its lamp head from the wall where the lamp is installed. The lighting collection has a huge focus on the small details, and you can tell that every detail has been considered when you look at the beautiful silhouette. In addition to three wall lights in different shades, the lamp is also available as a floor lamp.

View the entire series here
2011 - Hope fra Luceplan af Francisco Comez Paz og Paolo Rizzatto

2011 - Hope fra Luceplan af Francisco Comez Paz og Paolo Rizzatto

Mix Luceplan, Paz and Rizzatto and you have an explosive combination. The two designers and the Italian brand Luceplan proved this in 2011 when they collaborated to create hope: a party hanging from the ceiling that invites conversation and discussion about design and its importance. A lamp in the spirit of Compasso d'Oro.

The lamp uses stainless steel, polycarbonate and Fresnel lenses to create its unique expression, and there is no other lamp quite like those found in the Hope series. The lamp has a fantastic light and the visual lightness prevents the opulent look from taking over the room. Hope is available in both a small version with a diameter of 61 centimeters and a large version with a diameter of 200 centimeters.

See Hope from Luceplan here!