Hello, Designer? Would you tell me about your project?
Dear Designer, drop the Pantone, drop the graphics tablet and ring a friend telling him about your new project. If you can explain it with words, then it will be your winning project!
Among the creative artists who transformed the world as we knew it thanks to their innovative ideas, let us introduce you to Vico Magistretti. Today we won’t cover his hundred-plus buildings he designed across the globe, nor his design objects available at the Moma in New York and at V&A Museum in London. What we will cover instead, is his idea of design and how his preference for the simplicity over complexity delivered innovation and gave rise to the Italian design.
Within a context where companies were stuck in a manufacturing dead end loop that saw them creating and re-creating items with the previous century in mind, Magistretti was called to the rescue by a far-sighted group of entrepreneurs in the Milan region. Magistretti immediately realizes that the key to transformational success lies with the simplification, so he focuses on the power of concepts in his drawings while minimizing the importance and therefore the amount of lines. And that’s how Concept Design was born.
Starting from the need
The function that the object has to deliver is the foundation of everything. Then we have got the “how”, and it’s in this phase that the Designer measures himself with his best ideas. The issue of the furniture manufacturing companies is the fact that they aimed at reproducing with machines the shapes that were being created in the previous century by hand.
The result? Low quality products and high production costs.
And here comes Magistretti’s (r)evolutionary, groundbreaking insight: he understands the need to simplify shapes and to adapt to the machine. Spirals and frills no longer belong to the object and they don’t add anything to its function. By removing embellishments however, you can get to the object in his essence.
Simplify to improve
“Having to explain your projects with words rather than drawings is an advantage, I believe, because it forces you to a clarity of concept you would otherwise be unable to achieve…”
Magistretti used to tell in his interviews that a project had to be simple enough to be conveyed over the phone in order to be effective. Conveying the concept with words, that represents a minimalistic description of the volumes that lead to the object, is all it is needed to make a project successful. The remainder is unnecessary. Should the description not be sufficient to explain the project, then simplification is mandatory.
A key concept born right in those years is about the design having to take care of the meaningful things: simplifying, removing the unnecessary, focusing on the ideas.
Quoting Magistretti: “Design with beautiful lines is part of the past. Design does not require drawing; it requires concept.”
Tricky? Maybe a little, but more than anything, by placing it in the context of the 60s, it was absolutely groundbreaking.
Let’s just think of how many designers who are struggling because of their limited manual abilities could instead have glorious ideas. Also, how many hours spent looking for that ideal shade, that perfect line, rather than focusing on the essence of the object and its functionality!
And let’s bear in mind that the phone is obviously just an example of how we could communicate: it could be easily replaced nowadays by an e-mail exchange instead, or a chat, file sharing… anything that would allow for a non-visual communication.
Achieving a winning design
Eclissi was born exactly on the foundation of these non-visual collaboration. Eclissi is the world renown table lamp with 2 co-penetrating spheres that adjust the brightness according to their intersection level; evidently, it is possible to describe this lamp without any visual aids. An equal success level has been reached by Atollo lamp, Maui chair and Tadao bed.
“Simplicity is the most complicated thing to secure in this world — it starts by removing. When I hear: I could have made that lamp myself — that fills me with pride”
Magistretti was a firm believer in the essence of the idea and in the possibility of it being explained beyond the drawing. Thanks to his legendary phone conversations with manufacturers, design items that marked an era were born.
These items are still part of our everyday life — maybe because by simplifying, their essence and functionality remained. At the same time, we wonder if the design of the most recent years may have lost track of these values and may have focused excessively on the esthetic of the object over its function. What we are witnessing as a counter trend is a new wave of design centered on shared planning. Ultimately, the designer’s job is to listen to requirements and find solutions. Simple solution.
What type of designer are you? Tell us in the comments below what is your approach to projects and feel free to share with us a sketch of yours to represent your unique style from ideas to execution; we believe sketches have been the symbol of ideas throughout history.