Designing with two heads

Design by Nature, Moroso

Design by Nature by Front for Moroso - Photo by Andy Liffner

When design is the fruit of dialogue: five pairs of designers explain their creative process and tell us how debate shapes their latest works

Design as a dialogue, as the daily practice of an ongoing, all-encompassing debate, with each other and then with companies and craftspeople: those who work in teams have this as a basic working practice, especially in those special units made up of two people. We asked five studios run by a pair of designers to tell us about their personal creative process, starting with some new products. Many of them come from different countries to their partner: all the more reason to see the project as a bridge, a hybridisation.

Gamfratesi (Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi)



"We’re a couple in real life too. On a project, the process is active: it doesn’t matter who did what, the other person’s success is yours too. Collaboration means each person is involved every step of the way. During the process we steal each other's pencils. We work at the same computer, fighting for the mouse. Maybe Stine is more sensitive to materials, to form, Enrico is more technical. But we spontaneously combine Scandinavian culture and Italian industrial intellect. For a long-term strategy based on quality and respect.

Some of the latest projects include: the Romby armchair for Porro, a dialogue between graphisms, simple lines and shapes, with the base proving their know-how with wood. The Fynn collection for Minotti, both for indoors and outdoors, combines upholstering workmanship with our Scandinavian nature in its reinterpretation of the classic Danish armchair. Finally, the Airound diffuser (for the home and the car) for Poltrona Frau / Acqua di Parma: for us this project means incorporating the DNA of both brands to arrive at simplicity of form."

Working partnerships include: Porro, Minotti, Poltrona Frau, Gubi, Alpi, Gebrüder Thonet Vienna.

Fynn, Minotti

Fynn by GamFratesi for Minotti

Romby, Porro

Romby by GamFratesi for Porro

Airound, Poltrona Frau / Acqua di Parma

Airound by GamFratesi for Poltrona Frau / Acqua di Parma

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Zanellato/Bortotto (Giorgia Zanellato and Daniele Bortotto)


Zanellato/Bortolotto - Photo by Mattia Balsamini

"All our projects are the result of a dialogue, of sharing ideas. We are not used to being separated, to working in stagnant compartments. There is an exchange of ideas. There are different points of view: we try things out, we experiment. With each other, and then with companies and craftspeople. We're not the rendering type: we give it to you, and you make the product. We have a very manual, visual, tactile way of working. We start with drawings, but then we are very open, we have to experiment.

This is exactly what we like to do with companies. With Ethimo, we launched Rotin (the French word for rattan): an outdoor living room in which the brand's trademark material, teak, is worked in a different way, like a bamboo cane that bends. Marble Patterns for delsavio 1910 – which we asked Mae Engelgeer and David/Nicolas to work with us on – was also a challenge: to bring up to date - and make it easier to install - the Palladian flooring the company made its debut with 110 years ago. Now we’re working on its three-dimensional development too. Finally, the Burraco game table for De Castelli (in the Copper at Home capsule collection), which saw the light of day from a request made to exploit the hygienic properties of copper; it combines the idea of conviviality and a reflection on the material: untreated, natural, it changes over time."

Working partnerships include: Ethimo, delsavio 1910, De Castelli, Louis Vuitton, Galleria Luisa Delle Piane, Visionnaire, Bolzan, B-Line.

Rotin, Ethimo

Rotin by Zanellato/Bortotto for Ethimo

Burraco, De Castelli

Burraco by Zanellato/Bortotto for De Castelli

Marble Patterns, delsavio 1910

Marble Patterns by Zanellato/Bortotto for delsavio 1910

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Front (Sofia Lagerkvist and Anna Lindgren)


Front - Photo by Lena Modigh

"We always work together on ideas and concepts for all our projects. We have found an optimal method to develop our creative process together. It is a very stimulating way of working for us: we discuss different topics, we build on each other's ideas.

One of our biggest projects this year is Design by Nature for Moroso. The starting point was our passion for structures and systems found in nature, and the numerous studies that show that spending time surrounded by nature has positive effects on our general well-being, memory and creativity. It's an idea that really resonated with us. We've always loved creating projects that tread one path of research, before starting to meander and travel in unexpected directions. We have created the exhibition Seven Stories About Mirrors for Galerie Kreo and have renewed our working relationship with Gebrüder Thonet Vienna by designing the Peers tables. We really enjoy working with these kinds of companies, ones that have a long history of craftsmanship - it's a great source of inspiration.”

Working partnerships include: Moroso, Galerie Kreo, Gebrüder Thonet Vienna, Vitra, Moooi, Zero, Swedese.

Design by Nature, Moroso

Design by Nature by Front for Moroso - Photo by Andy Liffner

Design by Nature, Moroso

Design by Nature by Front for Moroso - Photo by Andy Liffner

Peers, Gebrüder Thonet Vienna

Peers by Front for Gebrüder Thonet Vienna

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Mist-o (Tommaso Nani and Noa Ikeuchi)


Mist-o - Photo by Francisca Derqui

"Our way of working is at a distance. Noa, after more than 10 years in Italy, lives in Japan, Tommaso divides his time between Milan and Tokyo. We talk, we have a lot of discussions: if you have something to say, first it must be clear in your head, a strong idea. This forces us to have a logical approach: if you’re alone, this can be more difficult. The encounter between Italian and Japanese culture came naturally to us, it felt very organic. The same can be said for our projects: our pieces have to be made well, things people can then take care of.

For Zanotta we designed Ambrosiano, a modular table that can be disassembled. It is the result of an intense collaborative process. We enjoy it and would like to do it more, working up with a select few companies and establishing quality relationships. The connection with people is what interests us: it allows us to produce pieces that do what they are supposed to do, and empathy develops too. The same process led to the creation of the Moon side tables for Living Divani, and we have also updated the line. For us, projects that evolve are an added value. As is taking a completely different path, something we did with the Japanese make-up company Shiro: it involves combining the challenges of hard, pure industrial design with creating well-made products for mass consumption."

Working partnerships include: Zanotta, Living Divani, Paola Zani, Ichendorf.

Ambrosiano, Zanotta

Ambrosiano by Mist-o for Zanotta

Moon coffee table, Living Divani

Moon coffee table by Mist-o for Living Divani

Shiro Perfume

Perfume bottle by Mist-o for Shiro

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Lanzavecchia + Wai (Francesca Lanzavecchia and Hunn Wai)


 Lanzavecchia+Wai - Photo by Davide Farabegoli

"We engineered a study between two continents. While we were finishing our degrees in Eindhoven, we fell in love with each other's cultural differences. Then we lived in Shanghai together. From there we moved to Copenhagen and set up our own studio. Working remotely: Hunn in Singapore and Francesca in Italy, where there is incredible technical know-how, while Asia is the gateway to the future, new lifestyles and technologies. We have a story that was born on the road: the studio – a bridge between two continents – taught us to understand the value of cross-breeding. We do product design, but not only: from shop windows to interiors to speculative design, the desire is not to specialise but to continue to mix and match contexts.

The padded armchair Nena for Zanotta, for example: designed for a worldwide market, both for Americans who seek comfort for various builds and for Asians because it is manageable, the starting point of the design was the armrest, which has become a supporting embrace where you can work, eat, rest and build family memories. Wave for De Castelli is also a new ritual object: a shoe bench - an archetype of those found in Asian homes - made of the most precious and antibacterial of materials: copper. Bringing irony and weightlessness into industry and dealing with inclusive design represent two sides of our soul; we are convinced that beauty helps tell stories and makes human frailty tolerable. We designed the Hermès flagship store windows in Singapore and Paris, and published the Hack Care Guide, "hacking" Ikea's evergreen products and redesigning them for the elderly and care givers".

Working partnerships include: Zanotta, De Castelli, Living Divani, Fiam

Wave, De Castelli

Wave by Lanzavecchia+Wai for De Castelli

Nena, Zanotta

Nena by Lanzavecchia+Wai for Zanotta

Hermès, Great Little Escapes

Great Little Escapes for Hermès Travel Retail

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2 July 2021