by Valentina Croci, Cristina Morozzi, Maddalena Padovani

What does Italy represent for American designers? We asked eleven of them, all born and raised in the United States, who have found a chance to translate their ideas into products, and to put the cultural perspective on their work into focus, in our country. Todd Bracher Todd Bracher, born in 1974 in New York, where he lives, belongs to the new generation of American designers.

His brilliant career has been nomadic and cross-cultural, including projects with a wide range of industrial companies, and moving from one capital of design to another: Copenhagen (1999-2001, masters degree in interior design from the Designskole), Milan (2001-2003, senior designer at studio Giorgio Marianelli), Paris (2005-2007, creative director of the Jaguar furnishings collection), London (2003-2007, senior designer working with Tom Dixon). This professional nomadism has given him a unique, complex perspective, based on observation of different styles and cultures. He says he is fascinated by nature and its perfect structures, and tries to offer solutions in his projects that are as natural as possible, capable of effectively fulfilling their function, and immediately understandable. He considers materials and colors on a par with structure. “They too have to communicate the object,” he says, “and be an integral part of it. The forms have to be clear and direct, never disturbed by useless details.” He could be called a purist, but one gifted with a special high-class elegance. His studio is in a former warehouse from the 1920s, in the heart of Brooklyn, and it conserves its industrial nature: the indispensable minimum has been added to keep faith with Bracher’s idea of elegance, directly connected to necessity. Thanks to his transcultural background, his pieces – free of local references or links to seasonal trends – are all iconic and timeless. (C.M.)

Yves Behar

Yves Béhar, of Swiss and Turkish origin, founder of the Fuseproject studio based in San Francisco, where he lives, deserves the label of inventor, whether we’re talking about the design of a computer (XO, the basic computer developed together with Nicholas Negroponte for underprivileged children, at a cost of 100 dollars, winner of the prestigious Index Award in 2006), a shoebox (Puma, presented at the Design Museum of London in June 2010), a condom dispenser (NYC Condom, commissioned by the New York City Health Department, launched for Valentine’s Day 2010), or eyewear for poor Mexican kids (See better to learn better). His career as a designer began, in fact, at an early age, with an improbable invention: a hybrid between a surfboard and a pair of skis (his sporting passions), built with the idea of increasing speed. “I studied design,” he says, “not to be a stylist but to create something that did not previously exist, or that at least has values that similar types of products do not possess. My objects speak to people because they intervene in their way of living.” His clients include Herman Miller, Nike, Mini, Toshiba, Sony, Target, Jawbone and Nivea, for which he is redesigning the corporate identity. In Italy he works with Danese. “It is a small company,” he remarks, “but with a big history. Its philosophy remains tied to the original idea, and that makes the relationship stimulating.” (C.M.)

Mark Anderson

While studying architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Mark Anderson worked in his family’s company, which produced Shaker furnishings in wood. Maybe this is why his architecture degree, including a Master’s from the University of Syracuse, New York, has always felt a bit limiting. In the United States architecture is practiced in a context of rather narrow specializations. So in 1991, at the age of 27, he decided to go to Milan to find out more about the phenomenon of Italian design, which attracted him due to its more theoretical and intellectual aspects. He still lives and works in the city, in a studio whose jobs range from architecture to interior design, product design and art direction, including a small collection of furniture and objects made by hand. Alongside this design activity, Mark Anderson is also involved in teaching and research, which he considers very important. He is convinced that architecture and design should be approached with a critical perspective that can only come from multidisciplinary study. “In Italy,” Anderson says, “I have learned that projects are a matter of collaboration. I have understood that perfect definitive drawings, polished down to the smallest details, have a limited value, because the craftsman who takes part in the project needs his own space for interpretation. Projects take form in a complex system of formal and informal collaborations, where different kinds of expertise and creativity converge. In the United States, on the other hand, the designer is supposed to know everything, and to control everything from beginning to end.” Among his latest projects with Italian furniture brands, this year he has designed a system of luminous panels for Laurameroni. It is composed of three very simple modules that can be combined and decorated in different ways to give rise to different formal solutions, for lighting or as an architectural feature for the shaping of spaces. (M.P.)

Stephen Burks

The name of his studio in New York, Readymade Projects, is already a declaration of intent. Stephen Burks, trained in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, a graduate of Columbia University, is a designer who concentrates – working with craftsmen around the world – on contemporary objects that transmit the traditional culture of making. He invents new articles, starting with traditional skills, giving new life and features to useful things. He manipulates materials and triggers resurrections. In close contact with non-profit associations like Aid to Artisan, Artesanias de Colombia, Clinton Global Initiative and Natura Conservancy, Stephen has developed products in Australia, India, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico and Peru, in the Philippines, Ruanda, South Africa and Senegal, building bridges between local crafts cultures and international distribution. Thanks to his energetic and positive talent for invention, he manages to respect deeply rooted traditions while creating objects that have their own aesthetic autonomy and innovative thrust. He is a designer of hybrid products that are the synthesis of different, contrasting cultures. His work is like weaving: every project comes from patient braiding of suggestions found around the world, the skillful fusion of local and global expertise, a synthesis of past and present. From a very personal approach and from respect for the origins of abilities, an original, lively aesthetic emerges, easily and immediately understandable. Thanks to these qualities Calligaris, through the PS studio, has invited him to create a special project for the firm’s 90th anniversary: ten variations on a wooden chair archetype, the Marocca of 1923, a symbol of the roots of the Friuli-based company. (C.M.)

Jason Miller

Jason Miller opened his studio in 2001 in Brooklyn, where he lives and works on the unstable borderline between art and design, creating pieces for companies as well as limited editions he sells directly at his studio. He has combined the design profession with that of the entrepreneur, founding with a partner the small lighting company Roll&Hill, which is growing nicely and also showed at Euroluce in Milan this year; he has designed a number of lamps for the company. He feels like an exponent of a very American way of doing design: not a matter of self-expression, but an offering of physical and mental comfort, with a familiar aspect that conveys a sense of déjà vu even when the objects are innovative. Just look at his mirrors, which he sells directly: like paintings that frame the reflected image in seascapes or landscapes, a hybrid between art photography and a functional object. He is interested in the interaction between people and things, and the alternations use and time make on objects. Hence his experimental furnishing series Dusty Pieces, items that are born already dusty, to mark the changes caused by passing time. This line of research also includes the seats with mended and bandaged covers, introducing the idea of an aesthetic of wear and tear. Dust and patches contribute to make furnishings more human, avoiding the chilly effect of things that are too new. His main source of inspiration is nature: chandeliers with glass horns, the landscapes in his mirrors, the illustrations on table services (Dovetusai) and the Woolly chair, which has eyes, something like a bison. (C.M.)

Johanna Grawunder

She lives in Milan and San Francisco, bringing Italian design know-how to the world. Due to her training as an architect and designer, Johanna Grawunder ranges seamlessly from architecture to interior design, from the design of objects to installations for the contract market. She was a partner of the studio Sottsass Associati from 1989 to 2001, an experience that is reflected in her careful approach to materials, and in objects often characterized by the juxtaposition of basic geometric forms. She has worked with Flos since 1997, creating catalogue products and large luminous installations for the Light Contract division. The latest are inside the Robert restaurant of the Museum of Art and Design in New York and in the Singapore Freeport. Another long-term collaboration is with Glas Italia, including a collection of tables and containers in glass, and a colored mirror. Grawunder knows how to bring out the best in the technology of industrially worked glass, giving objects the movement and magic of mutable colors obtained by the use of layers. But glass is not her only material. With Marzorati Ronchetti, the ‘tailoring shop’ of metal, and for Imda Paris she has made custom pieces. For the Carpenters Workshop Gallery she has also designed the limited series Big Sky, produced by the Italian manufacturer BBWL: microsculptures that play with the refractions of metal and the projection of indirect light. (V.C.)

Garth Roberts

Garth Roberts, Canadian by birth (Toronto), has grown up as a designer in New York, at the start of the 2000s, where he founded Group Inc. In 2004 he arrived in Milan, the promised land of design, with his portfolio, and began working in the studio of Patricia Urquiola. In 2005 Zanotta put his Raw table into production: simple boards held together by two slender bands of metal that become the supports. That same year he opened his own studio. Then he decided to move to Berlin, though he is often seen around Milan. In Italy he has worked with Zanotta, Fasem, B&B Italia, Antique Mirror. At the Salone del Mobile in Milan this year he presents a table for Glas Italia and a table lamp for Kalmar. Among his early projects (2005) we should mention the series of furnishings made with cardboard: normal packing crates with a marker drawing of different typologies. Unlike the new international design generation, which always keeps a close watch over individual identity, Garth – perhaps due to his reserved character – is connected with projects of great interest that seem to have happened almost by chance, provisional things that reflect his way of always being on the move, always precarious, without structure but always very original. Design is his language, but he doesn’t think he needs to supply a philosophical message. “To design,” he says, “means to transmit energy. I try to be sensitive, direct and basic, like pasta, which is genuine goodness, elegant but not complicated. I try to design things that have a reason for being.” (C.M.)

Jonathan Olivares

He recently moved from New York to Los Angeles, but he maintains close ties with Europe. He continues to work with Danese in Milan, on new versions of the Territorio chair and table. Like his earlier objects for the Italian company, these projects reveal Olivares’ analytical and interdisciplinary way of working, focused on practical and dynamic use of products with a simple, familiar image. These factors can also be seen in the installation for the library and social hub of the Nouveau Musée National of Munich. A chilly functional space where profiles on the wall contain posts, books and gear of different kinds in an orderly way, allowing users to leave messages and have a direct exchange of communication with the museum. The design activity of Olivares is often combined with a taste for research. From the book for Knoll (A Taxonomy of Office Chairs, 2011), which was four years in the making, to a chair made for the same company. An essential seat in die-cast aluminium with a thickness of just three millimeters, that follows the lines of the body and is also ideal for outdoor use, thanks to its particular soft-touch finish. The idea of a nomadic open-air office has led to the recent project and installation “The Outdoor Office” at the Art Institute of Chicago, where the essential design and easy assembly of temporary spaces generate a versatile, informal work scenario. (V.C.)

Cory Grosser

International design with a Californian ‘twist’: this is the motto of the studio Cory Grosser Design + Strategy, located in Los Angeles since 2002. For years Grosser has worked with Italian companies like MDF Italia, Frighetto, spHaus and Della Robbia, coming to terms with a wide range of different types of furnishings. Grosser has managed to interpret the various identities of companies with a functional approach and a minimal, though not minimalist, aesthetic. As in the case of the upholstered furnishings for Frighetto, that start with basic geometries, lit up by forceful colors and made dynamic by games of diverging or converging lines of armrests and backs. The Californian designer strives for emotional engagement of the use, which starts with visual contact. The studio also works on ‘brand strategy’, and its clients include Bentley Motors, for the development of a showroom concept and a collection of furnishings whose lines and materials communicate ideas of speed, luxury and exclusive craftsmanship. Grosser is not only interested in high-end furniture design. Turtle/ Turtle is a stool for children he created after the birth of his daughter, responding to a personal need for ecological toys that can add an appealing presence to the modern home. The reference point here is the Eames Elephant, but in this case the profile of the animal is reduced to minimum terms, to make it light and allow young users to climb it and interact in different ways. (V.C.)

Karim Rashid

For Karim Rashid, 1.9 meters tall, dressed in total white in summer and winter, insect-like sunglasses by Alain Mikli, a professional designer and a DJ as a pastime, giving form to things comes as naturally as breathing. He can’t help but leave digital traces on paper, fabrics, carpets, laminates. He designs all kinds of things for all kinds of clients, and never seems to have had his fill. Things come easily to him. No effort or tension is visible, just enthusiasm and confidence. His products have media impact, because they are spontaneous. They don’t requiring decoding, since they are repeated variations of an uninhibited sign, nurtured on pop culture, streamlining, psychedelic colors and a good dose of kitsch. With the uncontrolled expansion of his products with their organic forms he humanizes design. Running the risk of bad taste makes him tolerant and popular. He says he wants to save the world with his objects. In any case, he has saved design from its disciplinary rigor. He has created everything for international companies, over 3000 products in 40 countries, winning 300 prizes: from perfume bottles as soft as rubber balls to divans like islands of softness, or lamps that seem like luminous slopes; from footwear to pens, bathtubs to wastebaskets, handles to accessories for pets, tumblers to hard disks, food packaging to watches, clothing to credit cards. Among his clients there are many Italian companies, mostly in the lighting and furniture sectors. (C.M.)

Jozeph Forakis

A New Yorker by birth, Jozeph Forakis has been living and working in Italy for over 20 years, but not by chance. He came to Milan in 1992 to put a vocation into focus, that of the designer, that ran the risk of being weakened in the United States inside one of the many powerful manufacturers of electronics and consumer goods. Not that Jozeph had immediately chosen to be a designer. The son of a sculptor father and painter mother, his initial idea was to do architecture, to add a concrete side to an inherited flair for things artistic. The realization that design might be the path came during his first year at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, when almost by chance he saw a lecture by John Behringer that helped him to understand that the discipline of industrial design could fit together with a dream he had had since childhood: that of inventing things. So he switched his major, got a degree and began working in the field of lighting and set design, then shifting towards high-tech and biomedical. Next came the decision to drop everything and enter the masters program at Domus Academy in Milan, where he had a chance to put to use the knowledge gained in America, while taking part in theoretical and practical research in a whole new discipline: interaction design. This is how Forakis put his idea of design into focus. “My primary interest,” he explains, “is research on new materials and production techniques that let me give form to behaviors, more than to products.” The most emblematic example is undoubtedly the Motorola W70, designed in Milan when he was head of the design center of the American manufacturer: the cell phone with a circular face became an icon, not just for its original form, but also for the characteristic hand gesture involved in its use. Recent projects include: the Ballo bathroom brush for Normann Copenhagen, which rocks on the floor, making movement its main characteristic; the Tape Timer, an anonymous, squared object that comes alive with the pulling out and return of a time measuring tape. Here again, the idea of the object is that of a gesture and an experience; the design concentrates on interaction between the product and information. (M.P.)

gallery gallery
by Valentina Croci, Cristina Morozzi, Maddalena Padovani - What does Italy represent for American designers? We asked eleven of them, all born and raised in the United States, who have found a chance to translate their ideas into products, and to put the cultural perspective on their work into focus, in our country. Todd Bracher Todd Bracher, born in 1974 in New York, where he lives, belongs to the new generation of American designers. His brilliant career has been nomadic and cross-cultural, including projects with a wide range of industrial companies, and moving from one capital of design to another: Copenhagen (1999-2001, masters degree in interior design from the Designskole), Milan (2001-2003, senior designer at studio Giorgio Marianelli), Paris (2005-2007, creative director of the Jaguar furnishings collection), London (2003-2007, senior designer working with Tom Dixon). This professional nomadism has given him a unique, complex perspective, based on observation of different styles and cultures. He says he is fascinated by nature and its perfect structures, and tries to offer solutions in his projects that are as natural as possible, capable of effectively fulfilling their function, and immediately understandable. He considers materials and colors on a par with structure. “They too have to communicate the object,” he says, “and be an integral part of it. The forms have to be clear and direct, never disturbed by useless details.” He could be called a purist, but one gifted with a special high-class elegance. His studio is in a former warehouse from the 1920s, in the heart of Brooklyn, and it conserves its industrial nature: the indispensable minimum has been added to keep faith with Bracher’s idea of elegance, directly connected to necessity. Thanks to his transcultural background, his pieces – free of local references or links to seasonal trends – are all iconic and timeless. (C.M.) Yves Behar Yves Béhar, of Swiss and Turkish origin, founder of the Fuseproject studio based in San Francisco, where he lives, deserves the label of inventor, whether we’re talking about the design of a computer (XO, the basic computer developed together with Nicholas Negroponte for underprivileged children, at a cost of 100 dollars, winner of the prestigious Index Award in 2006), a shoebox (Puma, presented at the Design Museum of London in June 2010), a condom dispenser (NYC Condom, commissioned by the New York City Health Department, launched for Valentine’s Day 2010), or eyewear for poor Mexican kids (See better to learn better). His career as a designer began, in fact, at an early age, with an improbable invention: a hybrid between a surfboard and a pair of skis (his sporting passions), built with the idea of increasing speed. “I studied design,” he says, “not to be a stylist but to create something that did not previously exist, or that at least has values that similar types of products do not possess. My objects speak to people because they intervene in their way of living.” His clients include Herman Miller, Nike, Mini, Toshiba, Sony, Target, Jawbone and Nivea, for which he is redesigning the corporate identity. In Italy he works with Danese. “It is a small company,” he remarks, “but with a big history. Its philosophy remains tied to the original idea, and that makes the relationship stimulating.” (C.M.) Mark Anderson While studying architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Mark Anderson worked in his family’s company, which produced Shaker furnishings in wood. Maybe this is why his architecture degree, including a Master’s from the University of Syracuse, New York, has always felt a bit limiting. In the United States architecture is practiced in a context of rather narrow specializations. So in 1991, at the age of 27, he decided to go to Milan to find out more about the phenomenon of Italian design, which attracted him due to its more theoretical and intellectual aspects. He still lives and works in the city, in a studio whose jobs range from architecture to interior design, product design and art direction, including a small collection of furniture and objects made by hand. Alongside this design activity, Mark Anderson is also involved in teaching and research, which he considers very important. He is convinced that architecture and design should be approached with a critical perspective that can only come from multidisciplinary study. “In Italy,” Anderson says, “I have learned that projects are a matter of collaboration. I have understood that perfect definitive drawings, polished down to the smallest details, have a limited value, because the craftsman who takes part in the project needs his own space for interpretation. Projects take form in a complex system of formal and informal collaborations, where different kinds of expertise and creativity converge. In the United States, on the other hand, the designer is supposed to know everything, and to control everything from beginning to end.” Among his latest projects with Italian furniture brands, this year he has designed a system of luminous panels for Laurameroni. It is composed of three very simple modules that can be combined and decorated in different ways to give rise to different formal solutions, for lighting or as an architectural feature for the shaping of spaces. (M.P.) Stephen Burks The name of his studio in New York, Readymade Projects, is already a declaration of intent. Stephen Burks, trained in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, a graduate of Columbia University, is a designer who concentrates – working with craftsmen around the world – on contemporary objects that transmit the traditional culture of making. He invents new articles, starting with traditional skills, giving new life and features to useful things. He manipulates materials and triggers resurrections. In close contact with non-profit associations like Aid to Artisan, Artesanias de Colombia, Clinton Global Initiative and Natura Conservancy, Stephen has developed products in Australia, India, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico and Peru, in the Philippines, Ruanda, South Africa and Senegal, building bridges between local crafts cultures and international distribution. Thanks to his energetic and positive talent for invention, he manages to respect deeply rooted traditions while creating objects that have their own aesthetic autonomy and innovative thrust. He is a designer of hybrid products that are the synthesis of different, contrasting cultures. His work is like weaving: every project comes from patient braiding of suggestions found around the world, the skillful fusion of local and global expertise, a synthesis of past and present. From a very personal approach and from respect for the origins of abilities, an original, lively aesthetic emerges, easily and immediately understandable. Thanks to these qualities Calligaris, through the PS studio, has invited him to create a special project for the firm’s 90th anniversary: ten variations on a wooden chair archetype, the Marocca of 1923, a symbol of the roots of the Friuli-based company. (C.M.) Jason Miller Jason Miller opened his studio in 2001 in Brooklyn, where he lives and works on the unstable borderline between art and design, creating pieces for companies as well as limited editions he sells directly at his studio. He has combined the design profession with that of the entrepreneur, founding with a partner the small lighting company Roll&Hill, which is growing nicely and also showed at Euroluce in Milan this year; he has designed a number of lamps for the company. He feels like an exponent of a very American way of doing design: not a matter of self-expression, but an offering of physical and mental comfort, with a familiar aspect that conveys a sense of déjà vu even when the objects are innovative. Just look at his mirrors, which he sells directly: like paintings that frame the reflected image in seascapes or landscapes, a hybrid between art photography and a functional object. He is interested in the interaction between people and things, and the alternations use and time make on objects. Hence his experimental furnishing series Dusty Pieces, items that are born already dusty, to mark the changes caused by passing time. This line of research also includes the seats with mended and bandaged covers, introducing the idea of an aesthetic of wear and tear. Dust and patches contribute to make furnishings more human, avoiding the chilly effect of things that are too new. His main source of inspiration is nature: chandeliers with glass horns, the landscapes in his mirrors, the illustrations on table services (Dovetusai) and the Woolly chair, which has eyes, something like a bison. (C.M.) Johanna Grawunder She lives in Milan and San Francisco, bringing Italian design know-how to the world. Due to her training as an architect and designer, Johanna Grawunder ranges seamlessly from architecture to interior design, from the design of objects to installations for the contract market. She was a partner of the studio Sottsass Associati from 1989 to 2001, an experience that is reflected in her careful approach to materials, and in objects often characterized by the juxtaposition of basic geometric forms. She has worked with Flos since 1997, creating catalogue products and large luminous installations for the Light Contract division. The latest are inside the Robert restaurant of the Museum of Art and Design in New York and in the Singapore Freeport. Another long-term collaboration is with Glas Italia, including a collection of tables and containers in glass, and a colored mirror. Grawunder knows how to bring out the best in the technology of industrially worked glass, giving objects the movement and magic of mutable colors obtained by the use of layers. But glass is not her only material. With Marzorati Ronchetti, the ‘tailoring shop’ of metal, and for Imda Paris she has made custom pieces. For the Carpenters Workshop Gallery she has also designed the limited series Big Sky, produced by the Italian manufacturer BBWL: microsculptures that play with the refractions of metal and the projection of indirect light. (V.C.) Garth Roberts Garth Roberts, Canadian by birth (Toronto), has grown up as a designer in New York, at the start of the 2000s, where he founded Group Inc. In 2004 he arrived in Milan, the promised land of design, with his portfolio, and began working in the studio of Patricia Urquiola. In 2005 Zanotta put his Raw table into production: simple boards held together by two slender bands of metal that become the supports. That same year he opened his own studio. Then he decided to move to Berlin, though he is often seen around Milan. In Italy he has worked with Zanotta, Fasem, B&B Italia, Antique Mirror. At the Salone del Mobile in Milan this year he presents a table for Glas Italia and a table lamp for Kalmar. Among his early projects (2005) we should mention the series of furnishings made with cardboard: normal packing crates with a marker drawing of different typologies. Unlike the new international design generation, which always keeps a close watch over individual identity, Garth – perhaps due to his reserved character – is connected with projects of great interest that seem to have happened almost by chance, provisional things that reflect his way of always being on the move, always precarious, without structure but always very original. Design is his language, but he doesn’t think he needs to supply a philosophical message. “To design,” he says, “means to transmit energy. I try to be sensitive, direct and basic, like pasta, which is genuine goodness, elegant but not complicated. I try to design things that have a reason for being.” (C.M.) Jonathan Olivares He recently moved from New York to Los Angeles, but he maintains close ties with Europe. He continues to work with Danese in Milan, on new versions of the Territorio chair and table. Like his earlier objects for the Italian company, these projects reveal Olivares’ analytical and interdisciplinary way of working, focused on practical and dynamic use of products with a simple, familiar image. These factors can also be seen in the installation for the library and social hub of the Nouveau Musée National of Munich. A chilly functional space where profiles on the wall contain posts, books and gear of different kinds in an orderly way, allowing users to leave messages and have a direct exchange of communication with the museum. The design activity of Olivares is often combined with a taste for research. From the book for Knoll (A Taxonomy of Office Chairs, 2011), which was four years in the making, to a chair made for the same company. An essential seat in die-cast aluminium with a thickness of just three millimeters, that follows the lines of the body and is also ideal for outdoor use, thanks to its particular soft-touch finish. The idea of a nomadic open-air office has led to the recent project and installation “The Outdoor Office” at the Art Institute of Chicago, where the essential design and easy assembly of temporary spaces generate a versatile, informal work scenario. (V.C.) Cory Grosser International design with a Californian ‘twist’: this is the motto of the studio Cory Grosser Design + Strategy, located in Los Angeles since 2002. For years Grosser has worked with Italian companies like MDF Italia, Frighetto, spHaus and Della Robbia, coming to terms with a wide range of different types of furnishings. Grosser has managed to interpret the various identities of companies with a functional approach and a minimal, though not minimalist, aesthetic. As in the case of the upholstered furnishings for Frighetto, that start with basic geometries, lit up by forceful colors and made dynamic by games of diverging or converging lines of armrests and backs. The Californian designer strives for emotional engagement of the use, which starts with visual contact. The studio also works on ‘brand strategy’, and its clients include Bentley Motors, for the development of a showroom concept and a collection of furnishings whose lines and materials communicate ideas of speed, luxury and exclusive craftsmanship. Grosser is not only interested in high-end furniture design. Turtle/ Turtle is a stool for children he created after the birth of his daughter, responding to a personal need for ecological toys that can add an appealing presence to the modern home. The reference point here is the Eames Elephant, but in this case the profile of the animal is reduced to minimum terms, to make it light and allow young users to climb it and interact in different ways. (V.C.) Karim Rashid For Karim Rashid, 1.9 meters tall, dressed in total white in summer and winter, insect-like sunglasses by Alain Mikli, a professional designer and a DJ as a pastime, giving form to things comes as naturally as breathing. He can’t help but leave digital traces on paper, fabrics, carpets, laminates. He designs all kinds of things for all kinds of clients, and never seems to have had his fill. Things come easily to him. No effort or tension is visible, just enthusiasm and confidence. His products have media impact, because they are spontaneous. They don’t requiring decoding, since they are repeated variations of an uninhibited sign, nurtured on pop culture, streamlining, psychedelic colors and a good dose of kitsch. With the uncontrolled expansion of his products with their organic forms he humanizes design. Running the risk of bad taste makes him tolerant and popular. He says he wants to save the world with his objects. In any case, he has saved design from its disciplinary rigor. He has created everything for international companies, over 3000 products in 40 countries, winning 300 prizes: from perfume bottles as soft as rubber balls to divans like islands of softness, or lamps that seem like luminous slopes; from footwear to pens, bathtubs to wastebaskets, handles to accessories for pets, tumblers to hard disks, food packaging to watches, clothing to credit cards. Among his clients there are many Italian companies, mostly in the lighting and furniture sectors. (C.M.) Jozeph Forakis A New Yorker by birth, Jozeph Forakis has been living and working in Italy for over 20 years, but not by chance. He came to Milan in 1992 to put a vocation into focus, that of the designer, that ran the risk of being weakened in the United States inside one of the many powerful manufacturers of electronics and consumer goods. Not that Jozeph had immediately chosen to be a designer. The son of a sculptor father and painter mother, his initial idea was to do architecture, to add a concrete side to an inherited flair for things artistic. The realization that design might be the path came during his first year at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, when almost by chance he saw a lecture by John Behringer that helped him to understand that the discipline of industrial design could fit together with a dream he had had since childhood: that of inventing things. So he switched his major, got a degree and began working in the field of lighting and set design, then shifting towards high-tech and biomedical. Next came the decision to drop everything and enter the masters program at Domus Academy in Milan, where he had a chance to put to use the knowledge gained in America, while taking part in theoretical and practical research in a whole new discipline: interaction design. This is how Forakis put his idea of design into focus. “My primary interest,” he explains, “is research on new materials and production techniques that let me give form to behaviors, more than to products.” The most emblematic example is undoubtedly the Motorola W70, designed in Milan when he was head of the design center of the American manufacturer: the cell phone with a circular face became an icon, not just for its original form, but also for the characteristic hand gesture involved in its use. Recent projects include: the Ballo bathroom brush for Normann Copenhagen, which rocks on the floor, making movement its main characteristic; the Tape Timer, an anonymous, squared object that comes alive with the pulling out and return of a time measuring tape. Here again, the idea of the object is that of a gesture and an experience; the design concentrates on interaction between the product and information. (M.P.)
gallery gallery
by Valentina Croci, Cristina Morozzi, Maddalena Padovani - What does Italy represent for American designers? We asked eleven of them, all born and raised in the United States, who have found a chance to translate their ideas into products, and to put the cultural perspective on their work into focus, in our country. Todd Bracher Todd Bracher, born in 1974 in New York, where he lives, belongs to the new generation of American designers. His brilliant career has been nomadic and cross-cultural, including projects with a wide range of industrial companies, and moving from one capital of design to another: Copenhagen (1999-2001, masters degree in interior design from the Designskole), Milan (2001-2003, senior designer at studio Giorgio Marianelli), Paris (2005-2007, creative director of the Jaguar furnishings collection), London (2003-2007, senior designer working with Tom Dixon). This professional nomadism has given him a unique, complex perspective, based on observation of different styles and cultures. He says he is fascinated by nature and its perfect structures, and tries to offer solutions in his projects that are as natural as possible, capable of effectively fulfilling their function, and immediately understandable. He considers materials and colors on a par with structure. “They too have to communicate the object,” he says, “and be an integral part of it. The forms have to be clear and direct, never disturbed by useless details.” He could be called a purist, but one gifted with a special high-class elegance. His studio is in a former warehouse from the 1920s, in the heart of Brooklyn, and it conserves its industrial nature: the indispensable minimum has been added to keep faith with Bracher’s idea of elegance, directly connected to necessity. Thanks to his transcultural background, his pieces – free of local references or links to seasonal trends – are all iconic and timeless. (C.M.) Yves Behar Yves Béhar, of Swiss and Turkish origin, founder of the Fuseproject studio based in San Francisco, where he lives, deserves the label of inventor, whether we’re talking about the design of a computer (XO, the basic computer developed together with Nicholas Negroponte for underprivileged children, at a cost of 100 dollars, winner of the prestigious Index Award in 2006), a shoebox (Puma, presented at the Design Museum of London in June 2010), a condom dispenser (NYC Condom, commissioned by the New York City Health Department, launched for Valentine’s Day 2010), or eyewear for poor Mexican kids (See better to learn better). His career as a designer began, in fact, at an early age, with an improbable invention: a hybrid between a surfboard and a pair of skis (his sporting passions), built with the idea of increasing speed. “I studied design,” he says, “not to be a stylist but to create something that did not previously exist, or that at least has values that similar types of products do not possess. My objects speak to people because they intervene in their way of living.” His clients include Herman Miller, Nike, Mini, Toshiba, Sony, Target, Jawbone and Nivea, for which he is redesigning the corporate identity. In Italy he works with Danese. “It is a small company,” he remarks, “but with a big history. Its philosophy remains tied to the original idea, and that makes the relationship stimulating.” (C.M.) Mark Anderson While studying architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Mark Anderson worked in his family’s company, which produced Shaker furnishings in wood. Maybe this is why his architecture degree, including a Master’s from the University of Syracuse, New York, has always felt a bit limiting. In the United States architecture is practiced in a context of rather narrow specializations. So in 1991, at the age of 27, he decided to go to Milan to find out more about the phenomenon of Italian design, which attracted him due to its more theoretical and intellectual aspects. He still lives and works in the city, in a studio whose jobs range from architecture to interior design, product design and art direction, including a small collection of furniture and objects made by hand. Alongside this design activity, Mark Anderson is also involved in teaching and research, which he considers very important. He is convinced that architecture and design should be approached with a critical perspective that can only come from multidisciplinary study. “In Italy,” Anderson says, “I have learned that projects are a matter of collaboration. I have understood that perfect definitive drawings, polished down to the smallest details, have a limited value, because the craftsman who takes part in the project needs his own space for interpretation. Projects take form in a complex system of formal and informal collaborations, where different kinds of expertise and creativity converge. In the United States, on the other hand, the designer is supposed to know everything, and to control everything from beginning to end.” Among his latest projects with Italian furniture brands, this year he has designed a system of luminous panels for Laurameroni. It is composed of three very simple modules that can be combined and decorated in different ways to give rise to different formal solutions, for lighting or as an architectural feature for the shaping of spaces. (M.P.) Stephen Burks The name of his studio in New York, Readymade Projects, is already a declaration of intent. Stephen Burks, trained in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, a graduate of Columbia University, is a designer who concentrates – working with craftsmen around the world – on contemporary objects that transmit the traditional culture of making. He invents new articles, starting with traditional skills, giving new life and features to useful things. He manipulates materials and triggers resurrections. In close contact with non-profit associations like Aid to Artisan, Artesanias de Colombia, Clinton Global Initiative and Natura Conservancy, Stephen has developed products in Australia, India, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico and Peru, in the Philippines, Ruanda, South Africa and Senegal, building bridges between local crafts cultures and international distribution. Thanks to his energetic and positive talent for invention, he manages to respect deeply rooted traditions while creating objects that have their own aesthetic autonomy and innovative thrust. He is a designer of hybrid products that are the synthesis of different, contrasting cultures. His work is like weaving: every project comes from patient braiding of suggestions found around the world, the skillful fusion of local and global expertise, a synthesis of past and present. From a very personal approach and from respect for the origins of abilities, an original, lively aesthetic emerges, easily and immediately understandable. Thanks to these qualities Calligaris, through the PS studio, has invited him to create a special project for the firm’s 90th anniversary: ten variations on a wooden chair archetype, the Marocca of 1923, a symbol of the roots of the Friuli-based company. (C.M.) Jason Miller Jason Miller opened his studio in 2001 in Brooklyn, where he lives and works on the unstable borderline between art and design, creating pieces for companies as well as limited editions he sells directly at his studio. He has combined the design profession with that of the entrepreneur, founding with a partner the small lighting company Roll&Hill, which is growing nicely and also showed at Euroluce in Milan this year; he has designed a number of lamps for the company. He feels like an exponent of a very American way of doing design: not a matter of self-expression, but an offering of physical and mental comfort, with a familiar aspect that conveys a sense of déjà vu even when the objects are innovative. Just look at his mirrors, which he sells directly: like paintings that frame the reflected image in seascapes or landscapes, a hybrid between art photography and a functional object. He is interested in the interaction between people and things, and the alternations use and time make on objects. Hence his experimental furnishing series Dusty Pieces, items that are born already dusty, to mark the changes caused by passing time. This line of research also includes the seats with mended and bandaged covers, introducing the idea of an aesthetic of wear and tear. Dust and patches contribute to make furnishings more human, avoiding the chilly effect of things that are too new. His main source of inspiration is nature: chandeliers with glass horns, the landscapes in his mirrors, the illustrations on table services (Dovetusai) and the Woolly chair, which has eyes, something like a bison. (C.M.) Johanna Grawunder She lives in Milan and San Francisco, bringing Italian design know-how to the world. Due to her training as an architect and designer, Johanna Grawunder ranges seamlessly from architecture to interior design, from the design of objects to installations for the contract market. She was a partner of the studio Sottsass Associati from 1989 to 2001, an experience that is reflected in her careful approach to materials, and in objects often characterized by the juxtaposition of basic geometric forms. She has worked with Flos since 1997, creating catalogue products and large luminous installations for the Light Contract division. The latest are inside the Robert restaurant of the Museum of Art and Design in New York and in the Singapore Freeport. Another long-term collaboration is with Glas Italia, including a collection of tables and containers in glass, and a colored mirror. Grawunder knows how to bring out the best in the technology of industrially worked glass, giving objects the movement and magic of mutable colors obtained by the use of layers. But glass is not her only material. With Marzorati Ronchetti, the ‘tailoring shop’ of metal, and for Imda Paris she has made custom pieces. For the Carpenters Workshop Gallery she has also designed the limited series Big Sky, produced by the Italian manufacturer BBWL: microsculptures that play with the refractions of metal and the projection of indirect light. (V.C.) Garth Roberts Garth Roberts, Canadian by birth (Toronto), has grown up as a designer in New York, at the start of the 2000s, where he founded Group Inc. In 2004 he arrived in Milan, the promised land of design, with his portfolio, and began working in the studio of Patricia Urquiola. In 2005 Zanotta put his Raw table into production: simple boards held together by two slender bands of metal that become the supports. That same year he opened his own studio. Then he decided to move to Berlin, though he is often seen around Milan. In Italy he has worked with Zanotta, Fasem, B&B Italia, Antique Mirror. At the Salone del Mobile in Milan this year he presents a table for Glas Italia and a table lamp for Kalmar. Among his early projects (2005) we should mention the series of furnishings made with cardboard: normal packing crates with a marker drawing of different typologies. Unlike the new international design generation, which always keeps a close watch over individual identity, Garth – perhaps due to his reserved character – is connected with projects of great interest that seem to have happened almost by chance, provisional things that reflect his way of always being on the move, always precarious, without structure but always very original. Design is his language, but he doesn’t think he needs to supply a philosophical message. “To design,” he says, “means to transmit energy. I try to be sensitive, direct and basic, like pasta, which is genuine goodness, elegant but not complicated. I try to design things that have a reason for being.” (C.M.) Jonathan Olivares He recently moved from New York to Los Angeles, but he maintains close ties with Europe. He continues to work with Danese in Milan, on new versions of the Territorio chair and table. Like his earlier objects for the Italian company, these projects reveal Olivares’ analytical and interdisciplinary way of working, focused on practical and dynamic use of products with a simple, familiar image. These factors can also be seen in the installation for the library and social hub of the Nouveau Musée National of Munich. A chilly functional space where profiles on the wall contain posts, books and gear of different kinds in an orderly way, allowing users to leave messages and have a direct exchange of communication with the museum. The design activity of Olivares is often combined with a taste for research. From the book for Knoll (A Taxonomy of Office Chairs, 2011), which was four years in the making, to a chair made for the same company. An essential seat in die-cast aluminium with a thickness of just three millimeters, that follows the lines of the body and is also ideal for outdoor use, thanks to its particular soft-touch finish. The idea of a nomadic open-air office has led to the recent project and installation “The Outdoor Office” at the Art Institute of Chicago, where the essential design and easy assembly of temporary spaces generate a versatile, informal work scenario. (V.C.) Cory Grosser International design with a Californian ‘twist’: this is the motto of the studio Cory Grosser Design + Strategy, located in Los Angeles since 2002. For years Grosser has worked with Italian companies like MDF Italia, Frighetto, spHaus and Della Robbia, coming to terms with a wide range of different types of furnishings. Grosser has managed to interpret the various identities of companies with a functional approach and a minimal, though not minimalist, aesthetic. As in the case of the upholstered furnishings for Frighetto, that start with basic geometries, lit up by forceful colors and made dynamic by games of diverging or converging lines of armrests and backs. The Californian designer strives for emotional engagement of the use, which starts with visual contact. The studio also works on ‘brand strategy’, and its clients include Bentley Motors, for the development of a showroom concept and a collection of furnishings whose lines and materials communicate ideas of speed, luxury and exclusive craftsmanship. Grosser is not only interested in high-end furniture design. Turtle/ Turtle is a stool for children he created after the birth of his daughter, responding to a personal need for ecological toys that can add an appealing presence to the modern home. The reference point here is the Eames Elephant, but in this case the profile of the animal is reduced to minimum terms, to make it light and allow young users to climb it and interact in different ways. (V.C.) Karim Rashid For Karim Rashid, 1.9 meters tall, dressed in total white in summer and winter, insect-like sunglasses by Alain Mikli, a professional designer and a DJ as a pastime, giving form to things comes as naturally as breathing. He can’t help but leave digital traces on paper, fabrics, carpets, laminates. He designs all kinds of things for all kinds of clients, and never seems to have had his fill. Things come easily to him. No effort or tension is visible, just enthusiasm and confidence. His products have media impact, because they are spontaneous. They don’t requiring decoding, since they are repeated variations of an uninhibited sign, nurtured on pop culture, streamlining, psychedelic colors and a good dose of kitsch. With the uncontrolled expansion of his products with their organic forms he humanizes design. Running the risk of bad taste makes him tolerant and popular. He says he wants to save the world with his objects. In any case, he has saved design from its disciplinary rigor. He has created everything for international companies, over 3000 products in 40 countries, winning 300 prizes: from perfume bottles as soft as rubber balls to divans like islands of softness, or lamps that seem like luminous slopes; from footwear to pens, bathtubs to wastebaskets, handles to accessories for pets, tumblers to hard disks, food packaging to watches, clothing to credit cards. Among his clients there are many Italian companies, mostly in the lighting and furniture sectors. (C.M.) Jozeph Forakis A New Yorker by birth, Jozeph Forakis has been living and working in Italy for over 20 years, but not by chance. He came to Milan in 1992 to put a vocation into focus, that of the designer, that ran the risk of being weakened in the United States inside one of the many powerful manufacturers of electronics and consumer goods. Not that Jozeph had immediately chosen to be a designer. The son of a sculptor father and painter mother, his initial idea was to do architecture, to add a concrete side to an inherited flair for things artistic. The realization that design might be the path came during his first year at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, when almost by chance he saw a lecture by John Behringer that helped him to understand that the discipline of industrial design could fit together with a dream he had had since childhood: that of inventing things. So he switched his major, got a degree and began working in the field of lighting and set design, then shifting towards high-tech and biomedical. Next came the decision to drop everything and enter the masters program at Domus Academy in Milan, where he had a chance to put to use the knowledge gained in America, while taking part in theoretical and practical research in a whole new discipline: interaction design. This is how Forakis put his idea of design into focus. “My primary interest,” he explains, “is research on new materials and production techniques that let me give form to behaviors, more than to products.” The most emblematic example is undoubtedly the Motorola W70, designed in Milan when he was head of the design center of the American manufacturer: the cell phone with a circular face became an icon, not just for its original form, but also for the characteristic hand gesture involved in its use. Recent projects include: the Ballo bathroom brush for Normann Copenhagen, which rocks on the floor, making movement its main characteristic; the Tape Timer, an anonymous, squared object that comes alive with the pulling out and return of a time measuring tape. Here again, the idea of the object is that of a gesture and an experience; the design concentrates on interaction between the product and information. (M.P.) 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