Now that brands are self proclaimed editors (with consumers responding on social networks), what is the role of magazines and communicators? Those who manage to depersonalize and make their content universal will survive, experts say

The term disintermediation was used was used for the first time in 1983. There is no internet, digital marketing, social networks or sharing economy. The activist and environmentalist Paul Hawken, in the prophetic book The Next Economy, coined the term to anticipate and define the disappearance of the intermediary figures that preside the chains of production, economics, politics and culture.

Thus began a revolution whose results we still see today: gone were the paradigms that underlie the organization of production, distribution and consumption processes. The obstacles and filters were banned, barriers disappeared, the producer and the user, the publisher and the reader, the supplier and the user started to be one. In many areas we started to be faced with the harsh reality: what will be the role of mediators – journalists, media, agencies, and even political parties?

In the world of design, one of the first to answer this question was Ettore Sottsass. The architect, designer, photographer, and writer also became an editor. In the second half of the 1960s, he founded the magazine Pianeta Fresco with Allen Ginsberg and Fernanda Pivano, wrote illustrated books, theoretical essays, inserts. But it was with Memphis, in the 1980s, that he created a totally innovative product. At his home, in the evening, together with Barbara Radice, Anna Wagner, and Christoph Radl – and rivers of wine – he created Terrazzo.

Terrazzo magazine was very different from all others: it was refined, free, put art, architecture and creative writing at its core, with photographs by Santi Caleca and high quality printing. “I am addicted to that special pleasure that one can have in printing books, in depositing a little of one's life or anyone else's life in print", he wrote, "in letting people spin a little of life, arousing thoughts, emotions, hatred, contempt, happiness, knowledge, perhaps even finding one's real position on the planet”.

See here the photos of Santi Caleca to Aldo Rossi's architecture for Terrazzo

He was not alone: Alessandro Mendini, with the critical and radical spirit that distinguished him, founded Modo - Magazine of Culture of Design in 1977. After directing Casabella, he became the editor of a monthly magazine that lasted 18 years, created together with Valerio Castelli and Giovanni Cutolo, dedicated to architecture, design and innovation. The Milanese intellectual, founder of Alchimia, was also a contributor to Ottagono, a quarterly magazine on architecture, furniture and industrial design, published by Editrice Compositori. The product, unique of its kind, was born in Bologna in '66 from the collaboration of eight Made in Italy brands – Arflex, Artemide, Bernini, Boffi, Cassina, Flos, ICF De Padova e Tecno, has been for 50 years – closed in 2014 – an international reference point. A registered trademark, sold in Europe and the United States, it defined itself as a ‘place where new ideas are born, a space for mutual growth where disciplines mix and points of view meet’.

I would have liked to create a magazine by bringing together several companies, but the project has always failed confessesRudi Von Wedel, communication, marketing, trend and strategy guru, in the world of design for 30 years. “The problem was that companies with huge egos often came along and it was never possible to find an agreement. In the case of publishing companies, among the best products there is certainly Inventario, promoted by Foscarini and edited by Corraini”. Book / magazine, published every four months, directed by Beppe Finessi, Inventario stems from a fundamental idea: everything is a project. Articles, columns, interviews, news, hybridizations that often cross over into art and photography. "In that case the company does not exist, but communicates concepts, and it does it very well. As many companies have been able to do, such as Porro, Cappellini, Gervasoni. Today, however, storytelling is done on social media: only companies that manage to depersonalize, or make their message a little less commercial, will survive”.

For their part, social media, including tags, hashtags and selfies, have changed the relationship between digital disintermediation and the new public sphere. With an incredible boost due to the pandemic, they have shortened the supply chain, fostering an online debate, transforming digital platforms into places of confrontation, confrontation and knowledge. So here is webserietv that tell the story of Italian design in ‘video pills’ – Design in Pajamas by Chiara Alessi born during the lockdown. Or profiles of designers and architects who, beyond suggestions and narcissisms, try, with irony, to create a discussion, like Odoardo Fioravanti with his haiku on design or Giulio Iacchetti with curious posts and unexpected questions. The communication strategy does not change, the world of paper must coexist with digital concludes Von Wedel which offers expressive abilities that other tools do not offer. It would be important to get out of one's normal canons and make different, free and open stories.

For most companies, however, the catalog is the real communication product, the result of efforts and a melting pot of ideas and sleepless nights, and there are those who have made an art of it – Agape, AlpiantoniolupiCedit, Foscarini, PedraliPoliform, Queebo.

Read here how furniture companies communicate in a personal way

“For nine years it has been a ritual for us to choose the location where to set the shots of the catalog that launches the new collection" explains Raffaele Fabrizio, art director of DedarThe need is to show the unfinished product, the fabric, to make uses and interpretations understood, but also to introduce an environment. The aim is to create a story that speaks of the collection starting from a place that becomes a metaphor: the game is to associate extraordinary architecture with extraordinary products. From the brutalism of Casa La Scala in Viganò on Lake Garda, to the seventeenth-century Villa Carlotta on Lake Como, but also Villa Necchi Campiglio or the Sormani Library”. Extreme care in the choice of tactile and emotional details –  cover, paper, chromatic aspects, many shots. “Making a catalog is a profession that we have learned over time, the secret is to be surrounded by smart people, the team of stylists and graphic designers, but also the photographer Andrea Ferrari who has been able to develop a language that is unique to us, also thanks to the cutting and in the modern light of the flash”.

“Communication is made up of ideas” explains photographer Max Rommel who for 20 years has been shooting brands, interiors, design objects for both companies and newspapers, from Etna, fifth choice for Moleskine, to trucks on the motorway, irreverent sets for the lamps by Foscarini. “We must always find the possibility to tell in a different way, looking for amazement and imagination. The effort should be to leave a mark. Sometimes you hear stories that need to be told, you can't do something boring, but you should do something that people would like to see again. Once, twice, ten times”. Like the Egadi video in which Rodolfo Dordoni talks about the new collection of seats designed for Very Wood.

“All the projects launched this year have been the subject of stories, video tutorials, more or less successful descriptions” explains Anna Sindona, Very Wood Communications Manager. “Our thought was to bring something more, to tell the starting point thanks to which the object took shape. We asked Rodolfo Dordoni to open up to an intimate and true language on the birth of his collection. This year there have been seminars and workshops online, but technology without the mediation of emotion has emptied some of the information. As a company we try to do ours, but the role of journalism remains fundamental: information and news are passed on to the public only after they have been verified and contextualized. There is trust, authenticity, credibility, only if presented and endorsed by a third party  the media  which operates according to a code of ethics. In the end we are all readers, let's not forget it”.


Cover photo and above, Area41, the communication project of 41zero42, by DWA Design Studio with KarmachinaThe company's ceramic products were interpreted through drawings / collages with multimedia animation: the 10 non-places created compose – and tell – a story.