For some designers between the ages of 30 and 40, the use of hands has the value of an ethical, social and political redemption. Antonio De Marco is one of them

"I am a convinced Munarian". It starts from a creed Antonio De Marco, one of the designers for whom the transition from the handcrafted model to the industrial product it is (again) a natural process. This is how the historical designers designed. This is how many good designers design in the era of 3D and Rhino. But for the professionals of De Marco's generation the use of hands has the value of an ethical, social and political redemption. Around manual work, part of the Millennial lever finds a new meaning in design action.

Communication with companies, with their workers becomes nourishment for a sensible and serious creativity. De Marco explains: "When I go to the factory I feel comfortable as next to my mother's placenta: I feel it mine because it is the place where matter becomes an object". A quote from Zygmunt Bauman stands out on the refrigerator of the De Marco house: "Emotions pass, we need to cultivate feelings". An invitation to reflect on the wow effect of a certain type of design.

Understanding by doing

Understanding by doing, one of the foundations of Munari's doctrine, is today an exotic creed. Yet the immateriality that characterizes the under 40s, the disaffection with possession and the passion for service goods, is redeemed by doing. "I have in my studio a chair by Molteni destined for the landfill. I took it apart and rebuilt it to understand how it is built. If you sew leather, assemble the wooden parts, you understand what are the precautions and secrets of an object. This is how I then have the certainty of making an intelligent and useful piece".

Antonio De Marco is uncompromising, critical, rigorous. The profession of design passes through a serious attitude, which in practice begins with a deep understanding of the material and workmanship while building an object. His collaboration with the accessories brand Pinetti, for example, stems from the passion for leather and leather, with which he sometimes creates tiny series of bags.

Between industrial designers and makers: the third way

But if you call a designer who works like this a 'maker', the reaction may not necessarily be the best. "I am not a maker and I am not a pure industrial designer. I am looking for a third way, the threshold between production and craftsmanship, where the hands are at the service of the head". Which is exactly the place inhabited by most of the Italian furniture companies. Which owe their fame and prestige to intelligent intuitions and, above all, to their great competence in manufacturing. In short, those who count are the artisans, the workers.

"I always hope that those who actually produce my projects can say that he is doing something that they like, that gives satisfaction and that he takes into account the gestures of those who work". An attitude reminiscent of Enzo Mari. And that in the current light he has almost nothing political and a lot instead of human

Understanding production to imagine the possible

"I need to start from the hands to study, to refine my thinking. And I always try to get to know the specialists well, the subcontractors who are dedicated to unique processes". Focusing on production techniques means understanding what can really be done. Antonio De Marco does not sketch on paper napkins while he is having lunch, because it is not a serious attitude. The designers who speak with the workers, who seek direct dialogue with people and companies, do not have an easy life.

They struggle to find suitable interlocutors. Strange to say, in a context that basically sees products born from long conversations with entrepreneurs. But not all are called Eugenio Perazza or Giuliano Mosconi (the patrons of Magis and Zanotta). It takes a bold sense of enterprise, large investments of time and money. And a certain confidence in risk.

The redemption of design: the real one

"It seems to me that companies are confused, dazzled by the cacophony of social media. But I don't want to draw likes on Instagram". Maybe Antonio De Marco is right. Or perhaps it is necessary to look for a fourth way that does not ignore contemporaneity and its media noise and, in the meantime, is committed to respecting the cultural roots of one's profession. And to redeem them from incorrect communication of the project and, above all, of the word design.

After all, when entering an Italian company you understand it immediately: it is a matter of work, physical fatigue and an intelligence of doing that passes through the body. The creative attitude, the immediate project that sparkles on social media, the product that comes from the intuition of the moment, are not what is needed now. "I want to have someone next to you who work with your head down. I don't send sketches to companies, I send technical drawings and the next day I'm in the workshop. Drawing speaks of your skills, it is the basis. Then there is always a superstructure that you put into your projects that obviously tells a lot more".