Paul Smith's items of design: Bialetti


13 November 2013

Throughout this week Disegno is giving away tickets to Hello, My Name is Paul Smith, an exhibition of fashion design opening at London's Design Museum this week. To win a pair of tickets to the exhibition, simply answer today's question about the design of the Bialetti coffeemaker.

The exhibition is intended to provide an insight into Smith's work in fashion and his design process, drawing on clothing Smith has created throughout his 43-year-long career. Through the garments it displays, the exhibition aims to elucidate how Smith has built his reputation by combining traditional tailoring techniques with an irreverent use of colour, pattern and detailing.

Yet alongside his work in fashion, Smith is also a hoarder and collector of bagatelles, bric-à-brac and designed objects. It is this element of Smith's life that Disegno celebrated in the fifth issue of our printed magazine, for which we created the feature Nine Mundane but Amazing Items of Design by Sir Paul Smith.

Working with Smith, Disegno devised a quiz focused on nine everyday designed objects. Dealing with sellotape, pens, canes and Post-its, the quiz delves into the unusual purposes to which these objects have been bent, each question accompanied by a watercolour created by Smith's studio.

Throughout this week, we will be publishing one question from the quiz each day. The Design Museum and Paul Smith have kindly supported the quiz by offering a pair of free tickets to Hello, My Name is Paul Smith per day to Disegno Daily readers.

To be in with a chance of winning the pair of tickets, simply send us the correct answer to the below question over email at; tweet us @DisegnoDaily; or post on our Facebook page before 6pm GMT.


“The Bialetti is a perfect piece of design and function and even though many new designs exist, nothing seems to beat this one!” – Sir Paul Smith

The octagonal Bialetti Moka Express or Moka was designed by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933. It was one of the first stove-top coffee makers designed for domestic use, introducing coffee culture into homes around the world when it had previously been the domain of cafés. Inspired by Futurism and Art Deco, it was a product of the 1930s, but did not break through internationally until the postwar period, when it was skilfully marketed by Bialetti’s son Renato during the decades known the “economic miracle” in Italy. Available in several sizes, from single cup to 18 cup models, it is produced in aluminium with a bakelite handle. The Bialetti Moka is estimated to have sold approximately 330 million units to this day.

The Bialetti is characterised by the drawing of l’omino con i baffi (the little mustachioed man) who is drawn on its side. But how was l’omino con i baffi created?

  1. A He was modelled on Alfonso Bialetti at the advice of his wife Ada, who believed that he could promote sales by creating a strong brand around himself.

  2. B He was drawn to resemble Bialetti’s son Renato, who was more commercially savvy than his father and eventually ousted him from the company.

  3. C He was styled after Hergé’s popular Dupont et Dupond Tintin characters, who had first featured in the cartoonist’s 1932 Cigars of the Pharaoh comic.