Design experiments that take fat bodies into account can be counted on the fingertips. There is a lack, especially in Italy, of a debate and an awareness of what it means to design in an inclusive way

Have you ever been uncomfortable because the train seat is too tight? Feeling uncomfortable at an exhibition where spaces are tight? Have you ever had to ask for a belt extension on an airplane? Or had to resort to online shopping because your size is not found in the store?

If you have never experienced any of these sensations or, while reading them, you thought that "it would be enough to go on a diet" it is because the fatophobic mentality is internalized in most of us: no one and no one is immune to it.

If these things have happened to you, it is because your body does not reflect the predominant lines and is therefore invisible to the design. The bad news is that it is not a question of invisibility due to naivety but to a moral judgment on fat and a precise economic choice. Because, coincidentally, the standard sizes allow for mass production and maximum optimization of space.

Why is it important to unhinge this mentality?

Because, if we leave it to design to bring taste back to the dominant aesthetic, we take away those design characteristics - as demonstrated by the many researches curated by Paola Antonelli - which make it one of the most suitable tools for empathizing , investigate non-stereotyped situations and include.

Where to start to change your perspective and mentality?

We met with the anthropologist and popularizer Giulia Paganelli who, on Instagram, talks about grassophobia on her channel @ Evastaizitta.

Designing for nonconforming bodies, what's the first step?

We need to dismantle the design trigger: admit that compliance is a stereotype. Everything that exists is measured on conforming bodies, from chairs to bathroom spaces. What we see or use is the final result of a supply chain but, since design is a cultural product, it is necessary to defuse the imprinting of normativity. There begins to be a conversation and experimentation on the accessibility of disabled bodies but on fat bodies it is not yet powerful enough to affect these dynamics.

We are behind in Italy but elsewhere?

The fat studies have more longevity in the American field, starting from the feminist matrix and from the first gender studies. What place do we occupy in the world as bodies? The revision of so much knowledge handed down, the dismantling of certain bases of thought has led to the creation of fat liberation movements: pretending that the body fat regains identity, voice and, ironically, space. Obviously the fat body takes up space physically, while, on a cultural and political level, it is marginalized. In Italy, let's start working on it now, even if it often remains a silent marginalization, forgotten by the militants themselves even if fatophobia is the most intersectional thing that exists: because all bodies can be fat.

What does it mean to design with the non-conformity of bodies at heart?

It means destroying the lines on which things are drawn. Questioning the cultural heritage of classical proportion and beauty, the belief that beauty is proportionate. It means rethinking spaces, not only putting patches where there is a barrier but thinking that every body deserves to inhabit that place or to be comfortable with that object. It means going beyond standard sizes.

What does 'standard' mean in a dimension where there is no conformance?

No longer a single object for everyone but to allow everyone to have the same object which, however, can vary in shape and size.

However, if we have established that the measure reflects the standard of the conforming body then we decide to exclude a part of people. Standards and multitude are dichotomies.

It is necessary to get rid of the obsession of looking for a perimeter of what is being created. We are used to having a frame in which to make things fit. That frame is decided a priori, arbitrarily. When designing objects or spaces that must be adapted and used by different bodies, the concept of perimeter must be forgotten: otherwise there will always be something that is outside and something that is inside.

Why do we find it so hard to accept fat bodies?

It is clear that the fat body lives within a stigmatizing system that projects atavistic guilt without taking into consideration that it is a multifactorial body. The fat body does not have to be solved, it has dignity to exist. The fat body becomes all-encompassing on the value we place on the person. Fat phobia, the fear of the fat body, leads to marginalization, lack of accessibility and this is because the fat body is not a body other than you but it is also a possibility for your body. It is yourself in the mirror that you don't want to look at.

Hence also the denial of comfort.

The fat body does not deserve design efforts, it does not deserve that someone think about its comfort, that you earn less money to make larger seats. Who knows if Foucault imagined that his book Watch and Punish would be a perfect description of the condition of bodies. The public pillory has a double value: punishes a non-conforming body and educates a conforming body to stay in its conformity.

What company would emerge if we designed anti-compliance?

A more inclusive society, especially in the process of dismantling the centrality of the body and repositioning at the center of the person. Where, by inclusion, I mean never making guests feel like unwanted guests. An anti-patriarchal society where no need to ask for permission to exist.

The theme is broad, as with any discourse that plans to broaden its horizon and its points of reference. The invitation that many activists and activists address to us is to build open processes, guided more by question marks than by clear lines. A process in which design can make a difference and be the key to not leaving anyone out, written specifically with the schwa.