MFL 57 – Piero Lissoni: “Making design is a daily obligation”

Piero Lissoni with Valentine, Ettore Sottsass typewriter for Olivetti (photo Peppe Tortora)

Architect and designer he graduated from Politecnico di Milano and in 1986 he founded the interdisciplinary study Associated Lissoni (Today Lissoni & Partners), specializing in architecture and interior design. Humanist and lover of pollution, Piero Lissoni, an elegant and transverse figure of modern design, he is known for his sensitivity to detail, taste and mastery of proportions. Art director for several design companies, today he leads a studio of almost 100 people, with offices also in New York. With its multinational team, it covers all areas of design: from architecture to interior design, up to design products, lighting, graphics and corporate identity.

You started your career in Milan in the late 80s. How has the way of planning and designing changed?

When I started working, our sector was still an accessible prairie. There was much more desire to do, much more willingness to take risks, sometimes to choose directions that were not very clear, not perfect. The design world changed dramatically. The industrial model was evolving and pushing itself higher and higher; Italian design became much more international, industries began to produce not only for the domestic market but also for the foreign. Here it was a world in total transformation and we helped it somehow. My generation, the one before mine and the one immediately after, happened to be in the right place, at the right time and with good ideas. And then we were also terribly lucky, but that’s a different story. Today, companies are a little more closed, less willing to take risks, or when they do, they are much more calculated and interested.

Is Milan still the world’s design capital?

It was in the late 90’s that it was understood how this game is played: Italian design has become international and has needed a capital, Milan, with its fair, Fuorisalone, showrooms, presentations and all the mechanisms we know. In the future, I believe that the Lombard capital must still maintain this leadership, but in order to do so, it must find the ability to constantly renew itself, every time from scratch. I think Milan will only continue to be the design capital if it redesigns itself every time. And the system itself will have to redesign itself.

After a two-year absence, Salone del mobile is finally back, Milan in its entirety …

We got there almost unscathed. It was supposed to be in April, but moving it to June was a great idea, it saved our skin. In the two years of the pandemic, we have lost some form of efficiency. The move helped me, perhaps because I am recognized worldwide for being a chronic laggard. We arrived in June prepared, with many projects. In these two years, we have understood that it does not pay to be too clear in our thought patterns. Until 2019 we were more aggressive, more hungry, now we have become more measured. And this is the real change in 2022. I think it’s going to be a good one lounge area. New products have arrived, but above all a new explicit humanistic model: in materials, products, presentations.

Art direction of many companies. How do you manage to give each of them an identity that reflects them?

Art direction is a profession that requires a certain amount of irony to survive. Companies have a heart, a soul, a brain, a history. The art director technically adapts to all these elements and grows in this world. Every business actually has some kind of rhythm of life, and the creative director just has to adapt to it. It’s not that difficult: you need to have the ability to adapt, bring a thought and have coherence, with yourself and with the company you represent. Each has its own DNA, you just have to respect that.

A typewriter: why did you choose it as a heart object?

I chose Valentina. Because? Because it’s Valentina! It perfectly reflects the Latin phrase “nomina sunt consequentia rerum” (names are a consequence of things, ed). An object like this, called Valentine, designed by Ettore Sottsass, with an epoch-making technological change inside and at the same time the purity of the design. To me, the perfect combination of design and its ability to be industrialized. It’s almost the egg, the perfect object.

Would you like to draw it yourself?

Of course yes! I wanted to be a dad, but I’m just a fan, but that’s enough for me anyway.

Is there a minimum common denominator in all your projects?

The proportions that are always a deliberate mistake and a kind of clarity. Sometimes this file is rouge more explicit, sometimes smaller.

Any advice for the new generations?

Designing is a difficult job, but above all it is a job, it is a daily obligation; it is a job that requires a very strong daily discipline, but also the ability to be anarchists. (All rights reserved)

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