JoeVelluto celebrates 20 years of 'virtuous design' with an exhibition and tells us what sustainable design means toda

Can design change the world? The JoeVelluto studio is convinced so, if it is part of “mental sustainability”. And he explains it in an exhibition in Padua (until November 1st)

Everyone now proposes 'committed' and virtuous projects. Often it is greenwashing.

Read also: Greenwashing must be avoided, here's how

But are we really sure that, even when we talk about sustainability by the way, we are referring to concrete attitudes that can, starting from design, trace the guiding path for real change? We talked about it with Andrea Maragno, from the studio JoeVelluto . Who, together with co-founder Sonia Tasca, wanted to answer this question with an exhibition. Design in Practice. Virtuoso Design Practices (in Padua, Galleria Civica Cavour until November 1st and online on

The exhibition, with free admission, is divided into 22 symbolic objects and 8 orientation videos: each one tracing the beginning of a thematic study linked to the principles of the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path , from which the project draws its main inspiration. Philosophy has indeed an important role in Design in practice. Virtuous design practices: the introduction is by the young philosopher Leonardo Caffo.

Andrea Maragno, can design really change the world?

Definitely yes. The starting point is: let's look inside ourselves, understand how we are made and what needs we have. How can we respond to these needs. Not as a duty but as a fundamental attitude for change. Many companies are becoming B Corp and are always interested in busy issues, it's not just greenwashing. We can see this through topics such as the reuse of plastic, the consideration of this same material to create new ones, but also the excess energy produced and then used for new productions.

The exhibition also celebrates your 20 years of activity. What has changed in 20 years?

We have always said to do 'meaningful design': we like to explore reflective issues that link sustainability, responsibility, the circular economy to design. When we were young we did it with sarcasm. As we grew up, these insights became more and more important. After 20 years we stopped to reflect and we realized that our fil rouge could be an important voice in this period of ecological transition. We want to share what it really means to do sustainability in 2021: for us it all starts with sustainability mental, by those who design and by those enjoys.

How should a designer behave today and what should he do?

It no longer makes sense to design exclusively decorative objects. We must also consider the values ​​of what we do at the outset, which are oriented towards the reuse of certain resources, to different production methods. If we don't change ourselves as people and as designers, awareness doesn't change. So it is then impossible to behave accordingly. I am a Buddhist Zen practitioner, not from a religious point of view but from a secular point of view - so I learned and applied attitudes that can affect everyday life also to design.

Decoration alone makes no sense. But can it be done well and beautiful together?

What we try to do and what I think is increasingly important to do is to design active, without neglecting the aesthetic aspect. Our designs must be meaningful and at the same time intriguing design. We have passed the period of sustainable = ugly. Our projects are of committed design but aesthetic avant-garde. There is a lot of research on the image. I see that the trend for the new generations is to design in a natural way by combining meaning and beauty.

Have you ever felt in trouble in front of resistant companies or customers?

Some companies are totally uninteresting and others enlightened. In my opinion today we cannot ignore these values. It is an absolutely primary need. We deal with different sectors and often find ourselves arguing the reason for the issues we care about and promote. Sometimes we are forced to refuse requests that go in the opposite direction to ours. Not out of moralism, but because it is a design that we are not interested in doing.

How do you talk about sustainable design without falling into moralism?

It can be done by talking to companies objectively. Today, sustainability is an essential necessity. It is to all intents and purposes normality. Finding the right compromise between business - which is in fact what companies produce for - and responsible results can be a good balance. In reality, then, proposing useful products oriented to a conscious use you can also get good profits. So, despite the risk and fear of moralism there is, maintaining an objective and contemporary vision helps to keep away from it. Far be it from us to be 'those who teach people how to live'.

Does design play a service role today?

Absolutely yes. It is a vehicle of many values​​. If we think of the first principle of the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path , namely the incitement to correct speech and communication, we also mean that an object must declare what it is, what materials it is made of, how it can be used. It can no longer be something elitist. Today the design object must talk and solve problems. It is obvious that it must be aesthetically beautiful, but now this is taken for granted. It is like medicine: not the one that cures the effect but the one that works on the cause of the problem. We believe that the design mentality must work on the causes: only understanding the real meaning of the problem leads to change.

Design, Buddhism and sustainability: what is the link?

In Italy it is thought that speaking of Buddhism means speaking of religion. In reality it is nothing more than a way of life identified by Buddha thousands of years ago, to enjoy life while alleviating 'suffering'. For example, one of the eight basic principles says to respect the resources of this Planet, adopting them in a measured way: awareness guides us to plan differently. Pay attention to different topics, talk to companies about particular topics. Change is crucial for us, every product must affect people's way of life.

How are the 8 videos that guide the exhibition itinerary born?

Starting from the 8 basic principles of Buddhism, we asked the guys from Fabrica to think about video content that they tell in a communicative key how to live according to a different approach. How can we reach everyone. The 8 videos coincide with 8 stages of the exhibition, from which to start to explore different themes. The videos are also available on the exhibition website.

What are the evolutions in 20 years of activity and what has changed?

All. 20 years ago there was more experimentation and avant-garde. At the end of the 90s there was talk of design experimental, it was possible to do research and it was free from objectives of any kind. Today, however, we do design speculative, which is very beautiful and interesting, like that of FormFantasma. But it would be nice to combine the reasoning on dystopian realities with experimentation as an end in itself. That's what I miss the most.

20 years ago, the theme of sustainability was still avant-garde. Where are we going today?

More and more towards a design that responds to market needs. We are welcome to talk about sustainability but it seems to me that the typical propensity for free creativity is fading a bit. I see colleagues doing beautiful things, the taste has risen a lot. But there is little experimentation and I am very sorry. Today there is too much fear that the market will not receive it, the fear of making a mistake is so great. But making a mistake is beautiful, we have done it and we continue to do it. It is said that this is the only way to grow. For us, designing to be successful is not the only goal. Moments like our exhibition serve precisely this purpose, to take stock and understand what we have done, where we are going.

Immagine di copertina:

Nello scatto appaiono, sulla sinistra: 4 Pezzi, Designbottega, 2013. Sedia disassemblabile. Assembla, disassembla, compatta. Una sedia composta da quattro elementi in legno massello ottenuta attraverso l’incastro delle parti, senza l’uso di minuterie o altro materiale oltre al legno. Nasce per essere montata velocemente o conservata smontata per risparmiare spazio, sia durante l’uso in casa che in termini di trasporto, stoccaggio e smaltimento futuro.

Sulla destra: Fòra Lineabeta, 2021. Lavabo indoor e outdoor. Un nuovo paradigma per l’arredo bagno. Un lavabo accessoriabile costituito da un unico elemento compositivo in plastica riciclata. L’utilizzo di DentroFora in outdoor, posto in prossimità di un punto acqua, avviene semplicemente collegandolo ad uno zifone (tubo da giardinaggio), mentre in spazi pubblici può diventare una postazione di igienizzazione mani per la comunità.