Diego Grandi, Ferruccio Laviani and Vincent Van Duysen told us how ceramic is designed

Cersaie 2022 begins on 26 September (until 30 September). It is therefore inevitable to talk about ceramics these days.

We decided to do it with Diego Grandi, Vincent Van Duysen and Ferruccio Laviani. three very different designers, each with their own design attitude and their own gaze on the theme of surfaces.

Together with them we have tried to reconstruct a vademecum on the subject.

Read also: Cersaie 2022: the news not to be missed

First point: when did design begin to deal with surfaces and ceramics?

Easy question: practically immediately. Among the 'masters' mentioned by Ferruccio Laviani, part of his cultural background and his inspirations, is Gio Ponti who in 1962 signed the total look of the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento and also designs the surfaces.

Ponti was not new to the material - one of his first assignments is the artistic direction of Richard Ginori - nor to an interior design that dialogues with architecture. "Gio Ponti also did a beautiful job with Marazzi, but he does not depart from a traditional interpretation: decorative, ornamental".

Ponti attempted to get out of the square shape, to use curvilinear tiles as part of an abstract decorative mosaic.

It was 1960 when he designed the tile Triennale, the first attempt to build a new vocabulary: interpretable, not necessarily repetitive. Afterwards, there are very few designers who do not deal with surfaces, but it is technology that makes the sector make the great leap in typology.

"I remember a work of Droog Design in which for the first time we saw ceramic become a skin that covered everything: floors and walls, but also furniture and objects", explains Diego Large. But it is the advent of minimum thickness that allows the tile to be transformed into a second skin.

Second point: how do you design a new product when it comes to ceramics?

Automated production lines, chemical and physical research on material formulas, ever thinner thicknesses. "Since the beginning of 2000, ceramics have become a surface to be designed, not to decorate.

It was a fundamental step linked to production technology, which in my work coincides with the Mauk collection for Lea in 2003", says Diego Large.

"The evolutionary snapshot is possible when the will of a brand coincides with the passions and cultural references of the designer. On the one hand the technology, on the other the project: it lights up a spark that upsets the production scenario".

Vincent Van Duysen, who is collaborating with Mutina, agrees: "Me and Massimo Orsini (ceo Mutina) share the same passion for 'art in general. This is what unites us and we have finally found the right moment to start working together. The result is a collection that represents both of our worlds in a balanced way".

Third point: what are the trends for ceramic surfaces?

Ferruccio Laviani explains: "With ceramics you can do practically anything. This is why in the last few decades we have tried to ennoble it, to make it look like something that it is not".

The fake terracotta, the fake wood, the fake marble populate the catalogs of the companies.

Nothing wrong with that, especially because ceramic is a resistant, economical and easy-to-maintain product. After all, there are historical examples of imitations and ennobles, but: "there was irony in the French faux bois of the last century", Laviani emphasizes.

"At this moment it is more interesting to radically search for the more natural aspect of the material, to find different applications, for example in architecture".

Vincent Van Duysen worked on an architectural and tactile surface with Mutina. "The most important thing for us was to integrate this dimension as well. Create different variations that give a completely new chromatic interpretation of the same pattern each time. It is a way to give flexibility and vision to the world of architecture".

Fourth point: the surface as an ornament

"It is clear that returning the material without mimesis is interesting. At the same time, however, it is possible to work in a sophisticated way, starting from personal research and maintaining a design attitude, not a decorative one", says Diego Large. He demonstrated it with Typo 32, a 2014 project for Lea Ceramiche: an entire visual alphabet constructed on modularity and palette.

Ferruccio Laviani pursues a similar idea: "The minimum thicknesses give great freedom of interpretation: they are easy to work even when laying and the large size of the slabs does not seem to have no limits in terms of shape and cut".

"We must not limit ourselves to viewing in two dimensions: you can work on volumes, diversifying them and transforming them into microarchitectures", concludes Van Duysen. "The module can be multiplied like a building brick to have a great variety of shapes and densities on the surface".

Cover photo: Work in progress, Officine Saffi Lab. Ph. Mattia Parodi