Top 10 design trends & industry leaders we loved from Milan

1. Ceramic Furniture
2. Fluted Glass
3. Resin
4. Inlay: Stone & Wood
5. Top Color: Rust
6. Experience Design & Pop Ups
7. Max Lamb
8. Sabine Marcelis
9. Studio Pepe
10. Luca Nichetto
1. Poggiugo Terrecotte / 2. Glas Italia / 3. Sabine Marcelis  / 4. Nilufar Gallery / 5. Hem / 6. Experience Design # 2 / 7. Max Lamb / 8. Sabine Marcelis / 9. Studio PePe / 10. Luca Nichetto

Q&A with Luca Nichetto of Studio Nichetto

Insidesource’s San Jose A&D Market Manager, Liz Carroll, sat down with Luca Nichetto in Milan to discuss his thoughts on design.

IS: What is your definition of design? What distinguishes your work in particular?

Luca Nichetto (LN): I am very old-fashioned, and it is interesting when I think of myself as a student in Venice because the translation of my field is disegno industriale in Italian, or industrial design. In other countries, the industry and process might be different, including the consumer. However in Italy, everything is designed for industry as many Italian products are manufactured in Italy. We learned how to design series of products, that is a minimum batch for every project.

To the second part of your question, Design is of course found in everything, and now there are many different kinds of design, including interactive, or interaction design as it is now called. Maybe I am old-fashioned but one must be able to replicate and do the craftsmanship process, (not just consider the user-oriented field.) My idea of design and source of inspiration came from the great Italian industrial designer, Vico Magistretti who designed furniture for Cassina, Archimede, DePadova, Flos, Kartell, etc, “If the designer is the father, then the company is the mother who actually makes the product…” I don’t care about style and actually do not believe in that word style because it is not timeless. Style is closer in meaning to the stylist who is not a designer. I am much more focused on process and much less on fashion or style of the moment.

IS: What are the tendencies in Italian Design schools? What does Made in Italy mean?

LN: I am critical of the Italian universities in general, and happy to see so many design programs with students. However, as a former professor at IUAV Architecture Institute of Venice (Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia), there are too many young students who are ready to work, yet there are not enough jobs for all of these students to fill.

I have worked a lot in China, and five years ago there were almost 1.5 million students in China studying Design. I typically had 35 students In my design classes, and I would tell my students that if they wanted to work in the design industry, they would need to be the best of the best, and even more so, know your skill. Design is such a competitive market. The only industry working during those years after 2008 was the university, and too many people returned to school. Does a university degree guarantee a job? No, it is does not. When I interview young designers, for me, study or degrees matter very little on a worldwide basis.

I live in Sweden and work with “Made in Italy” design values, yet 70% of my clients is international/ Sancal the manufacturer of the Turati Collection is from Spain. Italy is a sort of dreamland for design since it is a country which has enjoyed an amazing time of development since the Renaissance. Beauty, function, craft, the beauty of building, the workshop idea, in fact it is the 500th anniversary of Leonardo. Italy has a humanist approach. Design is human, it is about craftsmanship, industry. The tendency is to learn by doing and about being flexible early on in Italy.

IS: Is it about flexibility (as a person, as a designer) in Italy?

LN: Italy is not the most organized, it is necessary to find Plan A, Plan B, C, D, etc. Now as an immigrant in Stockholm, Sweden I can survive since I have a developed ability to adapt.

IS: Furniture fits within a pattern of cultural habits and expectations. With workspace, what has happened with furniture designed for the commercial interior and the end user? What kinds of meanings does furniture give to space and the effects on its users?

LN: The effects of furniture from the 1950s like Herman Miller, Knoll and Haworth were giant dealers for the office market and intended for a specific, now iconic style of workspace. They also made the environment look like jail with an office chair that looks like a robot, created for a monster. Now times have changes and you have businesses like Facebook in Silicon Valley requesting co-working spaces.
My project for Sancal is an example of cross-contamination creating objects for comfort and performance. You need to situate people as productive workers in more personal furniture, not in shoddy robot chairs.

IS: What are the boundaries of Design? What can it do or not do?

LN: Design can accomplish everything, from covering new ground onwards. I always want to do something new and it is not just a statement. Objects that are pure function are boring, and need to create a certain kind of empathy “democratic design,” which is IKEA. The standardization of design is found in IKEA designs. The challenge too is longevity, quality used and re-used in this instance.

Once in New York and Sweden journalists have asked him, “Do you think it is okay to design a sofa and upholster with leather? Is it sustainable?” Luca’s answer was to ask the journalist, “do you drink milk?” In fact, material is important consideration for the Murano-born designer and one of his “20 Design Principles,” as he conveys that Studio Nichetto, “sensitively consider(s) every material to find the best fit for each project, working with materials of all kinds, both for structures and surfaces.” The life of plastic can be 20-30 years and if the furniture is designed well, we will consume less in the long run.

IS: How is Design an element of industry or social policy?

LN: With Design, every project is a political action and we try to influence behavior. We have a lot of responsibility as designers. I am from Murano — an island in the Venetian lagoon which became famous for its sophisticated glassmaking technology since the Medieval period –and the glass industry is suffering. We are trying to help artisans to survive by helping them to use their skills. If these glassmakers do not use their techniques, those skills in time will disappear. We are able to share and to create or reinvigorate community in this way from client to user.

For example, let’s take the date of one project. In order to realize one chair, more than 500 people will touch that chair from the nascent idea to the finished piece. With design, I can offer people work, economic independence, and innovation.

Is Design used to modify an old object through new techniques? Why or why not?

LN: New techniques are extremely important. Material and process are important and should reflect the period in which they are current. “Next Stop” is an example of this principle. “I have been dreaming to design a sofa, but only with the use of a loom to create the textile to cover the cushions.” Nichetto put to use the same technique that is normally implemented to weave duvet covers for the sofa upholstery. They experimented and found that it was possible to weave a kind of duvet sleeve up to 20 meters in length, to which would be filled with seating cushions. My sense is that this kind of innovation reflects our twenty-first century thinking.

IS: What is your favorite design, or which one are you proud of?
Doing is a learning process. Even if it is unsuccessful, each project I follow feels equal. The most important thing is to have the freedom to create what I want as a designer. One project that sold zero works was still very important to me, yet absolutely successful the way I see it. Luca explained how he worked for the Salviati installation in Milan, and it was a lot of fun because the project brought him back home to Murano. Commercially it was unsuccessful but very much a personal success.

A design studio is like a company. The turnover or earnings for two to three projects is how the studio survives and the rest is smoke. Three projects can earn the money equal to 200 products in the market. However, if five products are earning 70% of the total income, then you are successful.

IS: What about trends in furniture now?
In Scandinavia it is all the same! I grew up in a country where the manufacturing step is key principle of “Made in Italy.” Sweden where I live now is different. Swedish design is the great marketing story and the objects are always produced elsewhere. The project is the most important part, and it is not about trends, or style. I am “anti fashion.” I much prefer a line like MUJI where you have anonymous things. It doesn’t know a tradition. Luca is no longer working for Scandinavian companies (except for Hem) as the most important thing is to be free.