Approaching the theme of generations has its risks: confrontation, first of all, bordering on arbitrary factors, because passing time would seem to imply evolutions and mutations that can lead to alienation. After all, it is to be hoped that the younger generation will approach the profession in a new way.
Finally, the theme is risky because it prompts nostalgia, a feeling that isn’t very helpful in design and alludes to a projective attitude. With special people, however, it is worthwhile to try to take stock of things. So we tried it, with Aldo and Matteo Cibic, respectively uncle and nephew, and with two father-son duos: Paolo and Carmine Deganello, Alberto and Francesco Meda.
We asked them to tell their stories and to compare experiences and expectations, to see if there are any fixed points or critical zones in a professional role that is changing its forms of expertise and field of action.
ALDO AND MATTEO CIBIC
Much has been written about Aldo Cibic, also in Interni, which published a long profile in March 2011. Matteo Cibic, his nephew, has found his way onto the design stage more recently. There are not many methodological or formal similarities in their respective oeuvres.
Yet Matteo, who calls himself hyperactive, extraneous to the aesthetics of Aldo – who describes his work as “soft and gentle originality” – confesses that he has been influenced by his uncle, a successful designer, always traveling, published in many magazines.
“Since I was 16 years old,” he says, “I spent summers in Aldo’s studio on Via Carducci. After art high school, where I went at Aldo’s urging, I spent a year in London. That’s where my pulp side comes in, when I got involved in the exhibition Sensation, on young British art, promoted by Charles Saatchi (London, 18 September-28 December 1997, Royal Academy of Art). Then I moved to Milan to go to the Polytechnic, and began working in my uncle’s studio. Thanks to him I came into contact with some Veneto-based ceramists and I began my adventure with ceramics.”
Aldo underlines the differences between their personalities. “Though I began my career in a non-conformist way, starting with Ettore Sottsass, I have always been inside a system. I think of myself as a maker of projects. On a personal level I am totally lazy, while Matteo is hyperactive. A force of nature, who fills me with envy. Matteo has an explosive capacity to invent, while I am a theorist, over a longer time span, like Ettore: my story is just one story, that continues in time”.
“We have two different approaches,” Aldo continues, “and they have also clashed. I do my work, and that’s all. Matteo, on the other hand, is very active in communication. Instead, I believe there has to be a theoretical anchor. I linger of things, elaborating. He is more impulsive.”
“I think our diversity,” Matteo adds, “lies in my capacity to take ideas to an entrepreneurial level, managing to stop before big disasters happen. I don’t feel like a businessman. I am a designer who knows how to find clients for his ideas. Before finding clients I produced my own works, and I inherited that attitude from Aldo – just consider his Standard collection. I am willing to entrust my creations to others, with the awareness of being able to immediately produce other new ideas. From Aldo, I have learned not to do architecture.”
“Instead, I am more attached to my projects,” says Aldo, “also because I don’t move on my own, but with a group of collaborators. It also depends on the type of work. Architecture requires a big structure and long schedules. My stories, from architecture to theoretical projects like Microrealities, have to do with the lives of people, and require multidisciplinary contributions. My dream is to make use of the ideas of other people. I consider myself part of the project, never the total author.”
text by Cristina Morozzi
PAOLO AND CARMINE DEGANELLO
A well-known exponent of the Radical Design of the 1960s and 1970s, Paolo Deganello has never given up on a political vision of design and a critical position regarding ‘commodification’ connected with the world of industry. “Lack of compromise is an attitude incompatible with the times, but for me it is fundamental. I prefer not to develop a project if it is not part of my intentions.”
Carmine, on the other hand, says he is more pragmatic. After studying design in Italy, he trained in New York, working with Gaetano Pesce, after which he made professional ties in San Francisco, Holland – where he now resides – and his country of origin.
The passion for working with his hands has led him to develop an experimental approach to design, very similar to the northern European approach, though he also concentrates on product design innovation. In this sense, he emphasizes the difference between his experiences and those of his father.
He also underlines the critical aspects of his profession, especially in relation to the situation in Italy, where “the dimension of experimentation is quite limited,” Carmine says. “Even the physical space required for such work is lacking. To convey the idea: when I had to set up the Fluid Marble project with Dutch designers, the fab lab Amsterdam made one whole floor of a castle available, free of charge, equipped with numerically controlled machinery. There are also foundations that invest to help designers develop their projects.”
“What we should emphasize,” says Paolo, “is that research today happens on a volunteer basis, i.e. in the world of self-production, where with great effort and sacrifice people cover the costs of research before finding support from industry. This is an immoral situation, from my viewpoint, because it exploits unpaid labor. This situation also impacts schools and creates a generation of designers without hope, who to survive have to experiment on their own, at their own risk. I too have decided to self-produce.”
“Designers today,” Carmine continues, “show their projects on the Internet and find people to support them. The relationship between designers, companies, the market and distribution is changing. What does not change, instead, is the role of the institutions, which in Italy do not support research. Companies, understandably, look for projects and productions where they can easily find them. The quality remains high, fortunately, but there is no more innovation and objects appear rather standardized. Designers themselves give up on innovation because they do not want to run the risk of creating things that just stay on the drawing board.
I think the designer is a figure at the service of companies, but companies should also be at the service of designers, not permitting creative work to be diminished and underpaid. Without a relationship of exchange, trust and mutual respect, project quality inevitably suffers.”
“A short time ago,” Paolo concludes, “I was asked to do a lecture on antidesign. I said that today there is a great need for antidesign, but on completely different themes than the ones that generated Radical thinking in the past. Design has to come to terms with one major question, to radically rethink merchandise and to decide what should be granted beauty through design.
There are three possible paths: that of the super-normal theorized by Morrison and Fukasawa, which says that it makes no sense to redesign objects that already work; that of Alessandro Mendini, who wants to give an artistic dimension to the object; and, finally, that of ecologically aware goods. This is the true innovation we need today, the main theme that has to be addressed by design culture: ecological conversion, of both products and production processes.”
text by Maddalena Padovani
ALBERTO AND FRANCESCO MEDA
Francesco has worked with his father Alberto Meda, winner of four Compasso d’Oro, awards, since 2008. He began his career in London, working first in the studio of Sebastian Bergne, and then with Ross Lovegrove. “I came back to Milan,” Francesco says, “because my girlfriend was pregnant and I thought it was important to be close to a newborn child.”
“I invited him to come and work with me,” Alberto says, “and that was the opportunity that made it happen. I thought that though I had many projects in progress, it would be interesting to build a new relationship with Francesco from scratch.
When I got a call from the company Kohl asking for an industrial project, it seemed like a chance to start off on even footing. At first Francesco lacked experience, but he had an ability I didn’t have, namely the use of 3D design software, so there was also a balance. It was a great starting point, first because we met some very positive people, and secondly because the resulting product was a success. Over time our collaboration has been diluted, somewhat, because he has taken off and now does his own projects, which is just as it should be.”
“The fields were very different,” Francesco adds. “When I began to do my projects that were very far from those of my father, who in any case was fascinated by the results that could be achieved with self-production. My decision to self-produce was not a priori, it was the result of the difficulty of finding companies that wanted to produce my ideas. Self-produced objects also have a very different aesthetic from industrial products. I think it is a fascinating experience, that offers responses to a market saturated with standardized things. The aesthetic difference comes above all from the fact that the resources are limited.”
“In my view,” Alberto replies, “the need is emerging for more limited editions. There is also a different relationship of remuneration in industrial production and independent making. The experience of self-production offers better training, I think, because it forces you to focus on all the aspects of the life of a product, from manufacture to communication to sales: you are a designer, but also an entrepreneur.”
“Alvaro Catalan de Ocon,” Francesco says, “with the Pet lamp, created an entire company.” “When I began working,” Alberto adds, “there were more corporate opportunities and a greater willingness to take risks on the part of businesses. The fact that the new generation has trouble finding clients depends on the great blindness of industrialists, also because, in my view, young people are windows on the world.
Entrepreneurs should reconsider new energies, which must be valued. There is a sort of barbarization, because the human dimension is lacking in relationships with industry today. Had Francesco not been here in the studio, where he has been working for seven years at this point, I would have a very different vision of the world. His eyes help me to stay in step with things. Our relationship permits exchange of knowledge between old and young, which is very important. Our relationship does not take one direction only. There are some conflicts, also because I am the father, and I have to play that role. But basically we are in tune, in terms of character.”
text by Cristina Morozzi
Portraits by Efrem Raimondi