When you visit your studio you’re instantly struck by the Design Principles. Is that your Bible?
The 20 Design Principles are my manifesto, the product of the last two years of research into my work. They encapsulate how I wish to operate and determine the limits of the work my studio does. The studio manifesto includes personal themes and more generic principles, but it also applies to products I’ve created. I don’t want the manifesto to correspond to a personal style (style is a word that scares me), but I aim to be recognisable by the aesthetics of my products.
Briefs are often generic, sometimes non-existent and rarely clear and definitive. Do you agree with that?
Absolutely! Often the indications are very generic and sometimes there are none at all! Just as often, I’ve found that companies – usually the biggest ones because they’re more dependent on the numbers – rely on the verdicts of their buyers, which can sink a product before it’s even been born. The result is perverse and represents the complete opposite of the approach you should adopt in terms of design. Generally speaking, buyers tell you what they want because they’ll have already seen it elsewhere. Homogenisation is inevitable. A buyer takes commission of between 7% and 10%, while a designer gets between 3% and 5%. There’s something not working in the system and it’s not just an economic problem – it’s about values. The iconic Italian design products all started from gut feelings and not from potential profit forecasts.
But it wasn’t like that with Ethimo, was it? How did Esedra come about?
Three years ago, I met Giampaolo Migliaccio in Paris and he asked me to design a collection for them. Perhaps I wasn’t ready – I didn’t know Ethimo and had never designed outdoor products, so in the end it came to nothing. Last year they called again: obviously I was more open to having a conversation and the initial meeting went very well. The brief was very precise: a product with synthetic fibre as the main aesthetic element that would be aimed at a certain level of hotel. The result is a complete collection which meets all outdoor needs for the hotel industry. We designed the product starting not from the aesthetics but rather concentrating on the structure and selecting a series of materials: an aluminium base with wooden slats, woven fibre backrest and then there’s the padding. The three elements, which come in a variety of patterns and colours, offer the architect scope for customisation. It’s an approach I became very familiar with in Scandinavia, where the architect is virtually the only point of contact when it comes to the soft contract sector. Esedra also contains some invisible solutions, which improve the logistics for the manufacturer: the product can be easily disassembled and packed away, so it represents less of an obstruction and saves on storage space and delivery costs.
Tell us about your relationship with colour.
It’s deep. I’ve been collaborating with NCS – Natural Colour System – for some time. It’s a Swedish project which catalogues colour and helps you make pairings. This led to my collaboration with Massimo Gardone, a photographer who I’ve been friends with for a very long time. He works with the best designer in the world: nature. The partnership produced a personal colour palette, with all the shades having their own stories and objectivity.
Many of the products you’ve told us about share the theme of hospitality – some bear subtle influences while others are created specifically for that world. Can we expect a Luca Nichetto-designed hotel any time soon?
It’s one of my dreams and perhaps in the not too distant future it might become a reality. I would love to try my hand at interior design for the public rather than the private sphere: hotels, restaurants, showrooms.