Skiing for Marc Sadler, skateboarding for Virgil Abloh. And hobbies blossomed into a pandemic for many others. This is how passions are reflected (or not) in the work of designers

“If you don't have a hobby, forget it”.

Okay, the sentence of Achille Castiglioni is not exactly this. The master, in his extremely popular maxim, was actually talking about the need to be curious to become a good designer, and not about how important it was to have a hobby.

Yet, we would like to venture that if the teacher had ever foreseen a corollary to his warning, he would almost certainly have spoken of the importance of having a passion, of that special dedication and care that are used in free time as in planning. The same passion, to say, that the “Cicci” put into collecting those anonymous design objects, every day, which after having ignited his curiosity, unleashed one of the most lively design instincts of the twentieth century.

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After all, who can say with certainty, in the digital and digitized world, what is the boundary between working time and time for oneself ? If that line is increasingly blurred, especially since the pandemic shuffled hours at home, then it is normal - as perhaps it always has been - think that all the activities that we dedicate to ourselves and to our passions end up pouring over to the other side, in our projects, giving rise to a kind of positive entropy in which it becomes impossible to go back and split the work from free time, just like in a cappuccino we could no longer separate the milk from the coffee.

Take the case of Liza Lou. Kitchen, the kitchen built entirely with colored beads and completed with incredible randomness at the dawn of the first lockdown, in March 2020, to end up in a (beautiful) installation at Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, is a Carthusian masterpiece of artisan dedication in which the designer pours all her love for handmade.

It would be difficult, in a completely different field, to think of the curriculum full of Compassi d'Oro and other international prizes of Marc Sadler without knowing the weight of his passion for sport, starting with skiing. And in fact, at the origin of the first ski boot in thermoplastic material , rather than in leather, designed by Sadler at the beginning of the seventies (and marketed by Cabler, the future Lotto) there is a nasty multiple and decomposed fracture in the foot and right ankle that prompted the designer to think about how to build a product capable of immobilizing the ankle inside a rigid boot. Given on the sidelines, but not marginal: the material of that boot was also recyclable, and this stemmed from another passion of the Sadler student: plastic, investigated since the thesis degree, prepared in 1968, at the Ensad in Paris.

It is also difficult to imagine what Virgil Abloh could have become without the passion, cultivated since childhood , for skateboarding. A lifelong thread that emerges from Abloh's way of looking at the world and creativity. Because skateboarding is a perfect trial-error-success mechanism. As well as an open source model . It is enough to know how to observe: someone in the group invents a trick that you can take up by varying it, in an incremental chain in which, in the end, it is not known who started it but it is evident how far we have all gone. A different way of explaining Abloh's own theory that creativity lies in the 3 percent innovation that the individual manages to bring.

There are rare cases of designers who, when questioned on this point, admit that they have no hobbies details. And certainly the fact that someone like Philippe Starck belongs to this restricted club can undermine the thesis of the importance for a designer to have a passion to cultivate in his spare time. When on the other hand, as in most cases, there is a hobby, there is not necessarily a precise correspondence between it and the author's design code. In this sense, the two pandemic years have a lot to tell.

Who knows Lorenzo De Rosa, with Ernesto Iadavaia soul of Sovrappensiero Design Studio, he appreciates his skills as an industrial designer and then discovers his qualities as an artist in the series of works made with paper, glass and vinyl, which started right at the time of the lockdown. I liked the idea of trying to do something unrelated to the profession of designer, which would give me the opportunity to work without constraints, with the satisfaction of seeing something realized in a short time that I imagine, regardless to customer requests, to the market, to constraints, to trends. As if to say: design aspires to freedom, but to achieve it the designer must always open the window and look outside.