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Brionvega – Made in Italy

Brionvega: Made in Italy and designer electronics

The history of Brionvega, a 100% Made in Italy company that has created TVs and radios that have become icons of Italian design.

reading time4 minutes

Today’s TVs all, or almost all, have 40 or 50-inch screens… a sign of the times and, besides, a lot of time has passed since Brionvega, the historic Made in Italy brand, became world famous for having made an 11-inch portable TV, the smallest produced at the time.

Algol 11: a true revolution

It was 1964, and designers Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper designed the Algol 11 portable TV with a pull-out handle for Brionvega, taking inspiration in its name and shape from a small dog looking at its master to evoke the product’s loyalty and reliability. Sold for 158,000 liras, the device was an instant international success. A real revolution, we could say, because the device could be used anywhere thanks to its built-in antenna, making it very convenient for second homes.

Electronics and design

But let’s take a step back: where did this little masterpiece of design and technology – that makes us think of Steve Jobs’ most modern creations – come from? It all stems from the talent and ingenuity of Giuseppe Brion, born in 1909 in San Giuseppe d’Altivole (Treviso). After graduating as an electronics expert, he worked as a factory worker at Radio Marelli in Milan. In his spare time, however, he focuses on his great passion and builds in his garage at home – this also reminds us of Steve Jobs! – the first electronic components. In 1945, with his wife Onorina Tomasin and engineer Leone Pajetta, he founded BP Radio srl, an electronic components company, which later became Vega BP Radio. The company started producing television sets in 1953, after the takeover of the factory of the Milanese company HomeLight. In the 1960s, the company became known as BrionVega, establishing itself as a designer device company with the launch of several successful models. In 1962, the Doney 14″ model by designers Zanuso and Sapper was the first portable transistor television produced in Europe. It won the prestigious Compasso d’oro Award (Oscar for Industrial Design).

A cult item

It was in 1964, however, that the Milanese company – which in the meantime had chosen ‘Brionvega’ as its brand name – got the final endorsement in the design world, thanks to the launch of the Algol 11′ model, also designed by Zanuso and Sapper. Its unique features, such as the slanting screen and pull-out handle, made it an immediate success, and the device became an actual cult object, so much so that it can still be seen today on display at the MoMA in New York.

Radio Cubo

That same period also saw the creation of the iconic cube-shaped radio nicknamed Radio Cubo, again designed by Zanuso and Sapper. Despite Brion’s sudden death, Brionvega continued to be successful and was awarded the second Compasso d’Oro two years later, in 1970.

Unfortunately, the company did not manage to avoid the crisis that affected the Italian electronics industry since the second half of the 1970s. After a series of ups and downs, today, Brionvega is a brand of BRIONVEGA S.r.l., Milan, which specialises in the worldwide promotion of Made in Italy design icons through the objects that have made its history.

Congratulations to those ahead of their time and bringing Italy to the world!

Read the stories of other Made in Italy companies that have made Italian design famous.