Design is like the mythological chimera: it has various and changing features. It is not just a profession, but an attitude, as László Moholy-Nagy claimed and as Alice Rawsthorn argues in her recent book “Design as an Attitude” (Documents by JRP/Ringier & Les Presses du Réel, 2018). It is functional, ergonomic, sustainable, friendly, playful, artistic, sculptural... Today it is also useful to include the entire universe of lifestyle and be accessible to millennials, as announced by the historic furniture companies. However, all these nuances in style and sense tend to neglect design's industrial roots. The word "design" in Italian was borrowed from the English language to indicate the industrial design intended for serial production, arisen from the dialectical relationship between designers and companies to represent a lever for change and social development. In the multitude of its languages, the adjective "industrial" has progressively been lost.
But Elisa Gargan Giovannoni prefers to use it, calling herself an industrial designer. When she talks about her work, she points out how important it is for her new projects to be consistent with the manufacturing industries' DNA and contribute to their economic growth. Elisa has never had artistic temptations, nor has she ever dedicated herself to self-production, but since the beginning has always tried to be a valid interlocutor for companies, designing consumer products, their 'sets' (exhibition stands and showrooms) and editing their catalogues. She is Friulian, and is empathetic to those from her region. She studied at the Polytechnic School of Design in Milan together with Ferruccio Laviani and Angelo Micheli, and carried out her first internship with them at Michele De Lucchi's studio in Via Colonna. She recounts,
"I met Stefano Giovannoni in Milan when he was at the end of the King Kong period: his professional partnership with Guido Venturini, his fellow student at the University of Architecture in Florence. Stefano stole me from De Lucchi's studio to have me work with him. We began in just one room in Via Gulli, and we created many projects together, but we didn't publicise them. It was not the right historical moment for duo projects. Then my children were born... there was a whirlwind of family life... I was a mother, graphic designer, even a secretary to keep the studio going. It was not a good time for women designers. I had found the man I loved and we let ourselves live the life we loved. I like Stefano because he never conformed, perhaps he's also a bit rebellious. I think our partnership has borne fruit. Then with the passing of time, my children grew up and I felt a bit constrained; I felt the need to carry out projects independently, signing them with my own name. At first a little muted. Then I continued with furnishing companies like Maletti, Veneta Cucine, Tubes. Stefano, on the other hand, doesn't like furniture, he's a maniac about details and prefers things on a micro-scale”.
“As for my education, the radical avant-garde and my experience in Memphis were both very important. I always work starting from a concept, I make sure that it is suitable for the company. If I collaborate with a company that distributes very expensive products, the project must have an added value: a special functionality, a new typology, a new aesthetic are very important to justify placing a new object on the market. The first question I always ask myself is if I'd put the piece I'm designing in my house, then I ask myself if it's useful and if it's really necessary to make a new one. I prefer to create just a few, targeted objects. I really like how sometimes a new shape is born from a sort of randomness or from some idea that I already had in mind. The Scaletta radiator I designed for Tubes is innovative, transportable, powered through a socket, and has had great success. With Scaletta I started a new type of bathroom furnishing. Then there's the daily part of my work - the art direction - aimed at creating a company path”.
“Over the years, I have focused on an analysis of the processes companies carry out to try to implement targeted projects. A good example is my collaboration with Maletti - a company for which I am also art director - that deals with furnishings for hairstyling and beauty spaces. Right now even hairdressers' shops and beauty salons are differentiating, to tell 'stories', to not only offer a service, but also an experience. You express yourself through the ability to create new objects, but an interior project also talks about you and your tastes. Today social media sites, for example Pinterest, are overflowing with images of furnishings for hairstylists. Personal care has become an indispensable moment for relaxation and the number of hairdressing salons is multiplying: designing welcoming and well-conceived environments is becoming trendy”.
Elisa Gargan Giovannoni confesses that she has always been good at creating objects and has never been very interested in designing sofas. She considers herself an industrial designer for companies, for which she seeks to design coherent products that speak an understandable language. She concludes, "To make a good industrial design, you need cultural, formal and symbolic references. Then there are basic rules to follow. For example, angular objects are less appreciated than those with flowing lines. But I don't believe in abstract and generalised norms. I am an industrial designer and I want to emphasise this. I am tied to the companies I work with and it's awarding to create projects that can contribute to their economic development".