By Vicki Matranga, Design Programs Coordinator
Get to know the people behind the stylish, thought-provoking designs that will be exhibited in Discover Design. This series of conversations will give you a glimpse of the inspirations, influences and ideas that go into creating the exciting products that you’ll see at the 2013 Show.
Making their home in the foothills of the Alps nestled at the edge of Switzerland, northwest of the design mecca of Milan, generations of the Alessi family have crafted metal household objects. In the 1920s, the Alessi manufacturing concern evolved from a foundry and workshop into a “factory of Italian design.” The company grew to become the benchmark of design innovation and quality craftsmanship. Joining art with industry, Alessi continually experiments with new ideas and technologies, collaborating with celebrated designers from many countries. First known for its table serveware and coffee and tea sets, Alessi now offers varied products for kitchen, dining, bath, and office needs, as well as home décor. Its Alessi For Children initiative engages in philanthropic programs across the globe to improve the lives of children.
Alessi has defined modernism for nearly a century. Its products are held in the design collections of museums around the world and the company maintains its own museum of its design history.
We’re honored to be speaking with a member of this illustrious design family, Alberto Alessi, President of Alessi Spa and head of Marketing Strategy, Communication and Design Management.
Where does Alessi find inspiration when designing new products?
Alessi collaborates with more than 200 designers and architects internationally. Everyone has a different personal vision of life and different cultural background from where their inspiration comes from.
We leave our designers free to express themselves when we entrust them with a project. There is a common aesthetic line or style which underlies our products but we are proud of the various languages, sometimes very distant from each other, that characterize our catalogue. What all our products have in common is in fact the cultural project that underlies our activity. We look for the best talents and don’t believe in dogmas.
How does Alessi see design’s importance in our industry as it moves forward?
The purpose of design in our future should be to transform the destiny of products as gadgets in a consumer society into a transitional opportunity, i.e. an opportunity for consumers to grow and enhance their perception of the world.
Following in the footsteps of all those who have worked for thousands of years in the field of Applied Arts, we are aware that our work aims at much more than to satisfy a basic need. What we do, and this remains our challenge for the future, is try to respond to a desire of happiness—the public’s dreams.
Where are your products manufactured?
Our tireless research and experimentation brought the company, starting from the 1980s, to explore different materials and new technologies. This choice has given the designers we work with the freedom to express their creativity.
At our home in Italy we continue to directly produce practically everything that is made from cold forming metals—from coffee pots to cocktail shakers to trays to wine buckets. Some manual steps remain in the production process, for example the hand welding of the Bombè, (ed: the coffee and tea set designed by Carlo Alessi in 1945, now a classic of modern Italian design.)
For the other materials we take care of the complete cycle of design management: the engineering, control the making of tools, and then the production is subcontracted, having each a different solution.
How do you choose which idea to take to the next step — to product development?
Officially we have “the Formula of the Success”: a mathematical model that allows us to understand with exactitude which would be the life of a new product if we decide to put in production. But we also have a preferred model which is intuition.
What advice can you offer to designers working in the home goods field?
In every field, including the home goods one, each designer should be able to give complete freedom to his creativity.
Is there an approach or look that joins the functionality, form or emotional appeal of your product line?
This approach is at the base of our practice: Produce objects which are not only designed to be functional but also that they respond to a desire for Art and Poetry.
Thank you, Mr. Alessi. We are delighted that your company will be with us in March in Chicago! We know that your booth will draw many attendees to see your modern classics.
Be sure to visit Alessi in Booth S3074 at Discover Design to view their latest products. Learn more about the company by visiting www.alessi.com.
Discover Design is the premier design destination at the International Home + Housewares Show. Located in the South Building, within the Dine + Design Expo, the invitation-only category features more than 100 exhibitors from around the world. Companies driven by innovation and inspired by design present distinctive products and collections in Tabletop, Gift, Textiles and Home Décor categories. Exhibitors are selected to participate by a panel of industry experts comprised of retailers, design journalists and peers. Some exhibitors appeared here last year, many are new to our Show. The Discover Design Gallery, accessible to buyers and media, features select products that are entries in the Global Innovation Award (gia) for Design. Learn more about Discover Design exhibitors and their products by checking Housewares Connect 365 at www.housewares.org