Giulio Iacchetti for Refin. The geometric side of ceramic ware

With his cultured and refined style, Giulio Iacchetti is one of the most innovative protagonists of contemporary design.  Now, for the first time ever, he has addressed the theme of ceramic decoration and has signed a collection for Refin, characterized by austere lines, discreet colours and an amazing compositional potential.

The Labyrinth tile collection will be presented during Cersaie in Bologna, marking your debut in this industry. What are the particular characteristics of the product?

The project springs from the synthesis of two interests which reappear from time to time in my projects: modularity and the illusionistic constructions of Escher.  Labirinth is a tile measuring 50 x 50 cm with a decorative motif designed for modular compositions. By flanking and rotating the tiles, it is possible to construct various geometric shapes: regular squares and zigzag patterns, as well as totally irregular configurations.  Using the same identical tile, the tiler may realize an infinite number of different decorative motifs, either on the basis of a set pattern or at random.

How was the design project developed?

The decorative theme is always a tricky one for designers. I decided to address it from the "graphic" viewpoint, with a precise geometric construction that constitutes the "invisible" grid of the pattern.  After dividing the surface of the tile into two rectangles, I traced the diagonal lines of the three polygons.  The result is an octagonal structure which I used as the base to design two slanting "L" shaped figures.  This is how I arrived at the "Angle" version. In the "Mirror" version, I duplicated and "mirrored" the figures to achieve a linked effect when the tiles are laid one next to the other.  

You have built up a vast experience in decoration thanks to the work you have done for companies such as Jannelli e Volpi and Abet Laminati. But this is the first time you have focused on ceramic ware. Which aesthetic and functional aspects were you keen on developing?

In my opinion, one of the great themes of ceramic tile design is that of blurring the perception of the grout by transforming a number of distinct elements into one configuration.  And I realized that this could be done by capturing the attention with complex geometric constructions or optical illusions, as demonstrated by Escher.  From a functional point of view, I was interested in simplifying the handling of the process. This is a very technical aspect of design, but one I believe to be essential. If we set out to realize a configuration with ten different types of tiles, everything becomes more complicated: from warehouse storage to the selection and laying of the product.  In the case of Labirinth, on the other hand, we have one single tile which allows for a number of possible designs.

Have you had to introduce any particular technical ploy to solve the problem of matching such a rigorously geometric module?

It is a fact that when you are dealing with a very graphic design, the alignment of modules can produce some annoying mismatches, because there is no machine in the world capable of producing tiles that are perfectly identical.  We have solved this problem thanks to a slight interweaving of lines on the surface of the tile, which acts as a trompe l'oeil and also guarantees a pleasing surface texture.  

How did you go about choosing the colour palette?

We worked closely with Paolo Cesana of Refin, with a preference for reassuring shades rather than bright colours, because the graphic impact of the decoration does not call for a strong colour statement. For this reason, the palette is a discreet one with shades of black and white, greys and earthy tones. This choice is perfectly consistent with my own design language which is never overpowering, but also in line with the company philosophy, which tends to present products that are on trend but also destined to outlive passing fads.