Studio Klass, Federica Biasi and Zanellato/Bortotto talk about their sources of inspiration, how the role of artistic director is changing and what their strategies are for guiding brands in the contemporary world

The role of the art director is increasingly fundamental to guarantee companies and brands a coherent, significant and highly differentiating story compared to an increasingly competitive marketplace. But what exactly does an art director do today? Where do they find creative stimuli and how do they translate them into indications that can lead brands into the contemporary world?

We asked these questions and the hardest one - how is the role of artistic director changing? - to Studio Klass, art director of UniFor and 2020 Citterio, Federica Biasi, art director of since 2021 Decoratori Bassanesi, and Zanellato/Bortotto, art director of Delsavio 1910 since 2020 and design curator of Bolzan since last year.

“The figure of the art director is becoming increasingly central,” say Marco Maturo and Alessio Roscini of Studio Klass. “Being guided by a creative direction means having the opportunity to create a world designed specifically for you and, in an overcrowded market, it is precisely this aspect that makes the difference and generates value”.

Studio Klass

How did the partnership with UniFor and Citterio begin?

Studio Klass: “The relationship with UniFor was born after the development ofTouch Down Unit, presented in 2019 at the Milanese design week. At that moment an important change was taking place in UniFor, a generational shift with a completely new vision, first and foremost on the part of the owners and, consequently, in a whole series of collaborators. We began a work of research and analysis of the archives, building a language and aesthetic canons that we believed were coherent and respectful of the past but, above all, capable of accompanying the company in its years to come. During this construction, resources belonging to different fields inside and outside the corporate sphere intervene and the figure of the artistic director becomes the link between these worlds, which are sometimes very different from each other".

How do you get inspired and where do you find inspiration?

Studio Klass: “For us, intersectionality represents a key point in the search for new stimuli. It happens that looking at 15th century architecture can help us find the right stimulus to create something current, just as by following developments in the automotive sector we open up to new horizons from an aesthetic point of view. In general, we try not to be tied to a single opinionby constantly questioning our point of view; a liquid approach, in this historical moment, is essential to find new perspectives".

How do you translate inspiration into your work as an art director?

Studio Klass: “Inspiration helps us create a new perspective, and the search for this point of view, different each time, is a constant in all our works . In the UniFor archive, a project linked to the re-edition of four works by Aldo Rossi, we immersed ourselves in the lens of the Theatre. From here, we developed our interpretation made of volumes, lights and colors. On Citterio, however, we have built a communication project dedicated to a new line of acoustic boxes. In that case, being a company that pays particular attention to sustainability in all its products, we worked on aesthetic codes that recalled the field of technology linked to nature and sports performance".

What are the brands' needs and what is your approach and strategy?

Studio Klass: “The client's idea is often very closely linked to commercial needs. In our case, we are lucky enough to relate to companies which, being institutions within the sector, possess a very high knowledge and culture of the project; consequently, among the main needs, there is certainly the desire to convey this thought. In response to this, our strategy consists of an intervention aimed at enhancing pre-existing elements within the company's DNA, updating them to a contemporary language. This type of approach allows us to achieve a result that respects the nature of the company and has all the prerequisites to last over time".

How is the role of art director changing?

Studio Klass: “It is increasingly becoming a central role within the sector. In this historical moment, companies that rely on an art director stand out compared to those that choose not to. Being guided by a creative direction means having the opportunity to create a world designed specifically for you and, in an overcrowded market, it is precisely this aspect that makes the difference and creates value. This is the same logic why you would never want to find yourself at an important event with a person wearing the same dress as you, which is why sometimes you opt for a tailored suit. In this case, the art director is the tailor."

Federica Biasi

Which brands is he art director of and what does his role consist of?

Federica Biasi: “My role is first of all to understand why a company needs an artistic director or consultancy and what they expect. Based on needs I create a strategy, different for each one. After having had a 360-degree role for Mingardo until 2020 and for Manerba until 2023, for which for five years I was responsible for selecting designers, new products, catalogues, photographic services, strategies, formative and rewarding experiences for me, since 2021 I have been following the artistic direction of Decoratori Bassanesi, a brand that I am very fond of, not only for the ceramic material that I love, but because I have the opportunity to conceive my role from a creative and managerial point of view.

With the ownership and marketing management of Decoratori Bassanesi we identify the market strategies and, based on these, I build a strategy that includes the image for the photographic services, the choice of designers, the brief for the type of product, the colors , the materials… For the brand I also design the stands and check that the social channels reflect the catalogs and the aesthetics. It's challenging and rewarding work at the same time."

In the role of art director, how do you get inspired?

Federica Biasi: “I don't look too much at what the competitors have done, but I try to find a path, an imaginary that belongs only to the company, and that the brand can feel its own. I draw the greatest inspiration, as an art director and designer, from travel: my mind grasps input more easily when it is not concentrated on looking for an idea. I love road trips, those where you plan little and come across unexpected places. With my camera I immortalize every detail, a sensation, a shape. When I return to the studio I print the shots, hang the photos and try to recreate the sensations experienced while travelling, for example as in the Desert Impression project for Decoratori Bassanesi".

How do you translate inspiration into your work as an art director?

Federica Biasi: “There isn't always inspiration regarding an entire artistic direction, however there are inspirational phases, such as presentations or shootings . For Decoratori Bassanesi last year we imprinted the tiles on human bodies, to convey the idea of the three-dimensionality of ceramics, a characteristic not always evident in a strongly colored product like the tile. A campaign, that of naked bodies, with a strong impact, for which I was inspired by the style and aesthetics of the typical shootings of the 1980s, in which they also dared to use images not only linked to the world of design".

How does it bring brands into the contemporary world?

Federica Biasi: “Usually the first need of a brand is to grow, but my role is not that of a marketing or sales director, it's a frequent misunderstanding. The role of the artistic director is to create an imagery that is coherent in all its parts and exhibitions, to be able to identify designers suited to that imagery and to the brand and who are able to ferry the brand to different aesthetic and design levels compared to the starting ones. The brands I work with have my role in mind and this is why they are all, or have been, long-lasting collaborations."

Zanellato/Bortotto

As an art director, where do you find inspiration?

Zanellato/Bortotto: “We have been art director of Delsavio 1910 since 2020 and design curator of Bolzan since last year. We try first of all to create a strong connection with the corporate realities and to immerse ourselves in them to understand their history, their uniqueness, what characterizes them most.

We spend entire days in their laboratories, in production, we listen to their stories to understand the evolution of these companies from their birth to today. Other stimuli derive from our personal interests and our curiosity, often influenced by everyday life: the questions we ask ourselves every day as we experience our homes, our office, the objects we use, stimulate us to create new possible objectives and scenarios also for brands. Discovering a new place, visiting an exhibition, entering a laboratory become a precious source of ideas and stimuli".

What new products will you present for Bolzan at the Salone del Mobile 2024?

Zanellato/Bortotto: “We will present a collection of products on the tailored dreams theme, and therefore tailoring and attention to detail, a research that we have been pursuing for some time, focusing on materials and highly artisanal processes that Bolzan has managed to convert into scale production. Among the new features, the Rideaux chest of drawers line, whose surfaces are inspired by roman blinds, veils of fabric folded on themselves to form soft and elegant curves. The inspiration comes from the company's most classic textile production, which we reinvented by working wood like a fabric, imagining the new internal carpentry in Bolzan as a fashion atelier".

How do you reread a historical reality like Delsavio 1910?

Zanellato/Bortotto: “When we design for Delsavio 1910, the image that comes to mind is the wall behind Manuele Del's desk Savio, who runs the company with his sister Manuela, a wall covered with a large collection of marble Palladian tiles dating back to the 1950s.

Palladian floors had enormous success, only to then disappear together with the artisans specialized in this particular process. Admired by that wall and by the many combinations of colored marbles and cements, we thought that they were still very current and from there we started to think about a new direction for the company.

The inspiration was even stronger when we found, covered and dusty, old tables made sixty years ago, evidence of the first attempts at lightened Palladian. Reduced thicknesses and extreme lightness that inspired the research carried out with Marble Patterns, a Delsavio 1910 brand that we follow, specialized in surfaces and objects in marble and concrete.

Among the most recent projects for Delsavio 1910, the Marble Marbling collection, which takes us back to our connection with Venice and a typically Venetian technique: marbled paper. Fascinated by this almost magical way of recreating marble surfaces with water and pigments, we thought of a marble surface that imitates paper which in turn imitates marble. To achieve this result, the technique developed by Delsavio 1910 was even more amplified, fusing together Palladian and inlay work of different marbles and cements".

How do you guide brands?

Zanellato/Bortotto: “It is a gradual and careful path in which we try tostimulate companies to look at their historyand what has identified them and made them unique. With Delsavio 1910 everything started with that wall created by the father of the generation currently at the helm of the company, the third. Since 1910, the year the company was founded, each of the generations at the helm has pursued different research and experimentation. We worked together to identify a new course, which took into account the enormous know-how developed over the decades and which could adapt not only to the language of contemporaneity but also to the great technical possibilities and technological.

Another fundamental element, both for Delsavio 1910 and for Bolzan, was the opening up to external collaborations and to comparison and dialogue with new designers coming from environments and trainings yet to be discovered by them. The classic Palladian, which we are used to seeing in grandparents' homes, has been revisited in a surprising way by Lebanese designers David and Nicolas, while Mae Engelgeer has almost subverted the traditional way to work with these marble surfaces. With Bolzan we collaborate with Zaven, Studio Charlie, Omi Tahara, FedericoAngi, each designer has a new look and his own idea of a bed and of how to experience and think about this particular product. Every opportunity for exchange is stimulating for Bolzan, posing new questions and pushing the company to reinvent itself and accept new challenges".