The Futurist Manifesto
“We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness.” – F.T. Marinetti; The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism, 1909.
With the Formula 1 2019 season starting next month, I’m reminded of a trip Renée and I took to the Monaco Grand Prix a couple of years ago.
We landed in Milan and drove straight out to Lake Como for lunch, then down through the countryside to Moderna, to visit the Enzo Ferrari Museum. Our drive through Italy took us through some jaw-dropping scenery and I could really see the huge impact Ancient Rome and the following two thousand years of architecture, design and lifestyle have made on Italy, creating what it is today.
But I think the legacy Italy lives today is a double-edged sword. On one side is the overpowering beauty of the country, its lifestyle and, of course, the food. On the other side is a country choked with so much history and nostalgia, it feels like its asleep at the wheel.
On our drive south, I noticed this contrast between the old and the new. Italy’s culture is steeped in history and in some ways, it is beginning to sit too comfortably on those laurels to the point of stagnation. Crumbling buildings sit on the landscape, too expensive to be restored and too historically-important to be pulled down. But this reliance on its past glories can start to suffocate a country’s growth.
Back in 1909, a young Italian poet called Filippo Marinetti, who was repelled by Italy’s repetitive lifestyle, founded the Futurist movement. He wanted to denounce the ‘old ways’ and embrace technology and urban modernity. He published The Futurist Manifesto and dedicated it to rejecting Italy’s past and embracing the future, at any cost. It promoted speed, technology, youth and violence and it wanted to bring Italy forward through invention and machinery; cars and planes.
Where does Ferrari fit between the Italy’s obsession with the past and the Futurists demands to kill it all and start again? Somewhere in the middle, I think. Thankfully Enzo didn’t take up the promotion of violence the manifesto encouraged, but he did commit to embracing new technology. When Enzo first began building Ferraris, he created new technology and then seamlessly blended it with timeless Italian design.
It’s this defined balance of form and function that makes design sustainable and profitable. When companies solely focus on a commitment to technology, without a nod to good design, the results show as much. Their products may outperform in their category on specs, but their design prowess cannot be seen and as a result the end-user is unlikely to ever develop a personal connection to it. Conversely, many companies employ a one-sided romantic attitude with their product design and end up creating good looking products that fall short of reliable performance.
Design is always the balancing act between art and commercialism. When companies get it right, it’s a powerhouse of success. It sounds simple, but it’s only when both boundaries are pushed to their absolute maximum do you create a product that’s memorable and valuable, like Ferrari.
While the Futurists wanted to denounce the past, I don’t think that’s always the best way forward, but unshackling ourselves from the burden of repeating our mistakes means we are always questioning every design-decision we make, from the pitch to the roll-out, and beyond.