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StudioKlass. Becoming industrial designers in the post-industrial era

The perfect chair already exists. To make sense today, design must add something to our relationship with objects, the world around us and our history. A journey into the imagination of StudioKlass, designer of the Millennial generation

If it was set in the Sixties the story of StudioKlass would be like that of many others. Two young people dream of designing furniture and lamps. They become a duo, they propose projects to companies, some are put into production and, after a few years, they live on royalties.
But it was not the time of the economic boom when Marco Maturo and Alessio Roscini opened StudioKlass. It was, on the contrary, the annus horribilis 2009, during the big economic crisis. When saying «we want to design furniture» sounded like pure madness.

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Yet today, almost ten years later, StudioKlass can claim to have made it. It supports himself on it legs, has hired collaborators, signs for respectable companies. Like Fiam, Normann Copenhagen, Ichendorf, Ligne Roset, LavazzaWhat seemed like a bet in 2009 turned out to be an investment on their own talent. As well as a prove of extreme respect for the profession of industrial designer. «It is not something you dot in you spare time, between other more remunerative jobs», they told me in 2010, when we shared the same co-working space in Via San Gregorio in Milan. And time showed they were right …

Marco Maturo, StudioKlass is now definited doing well. How do you become a successful industrial designer in the post-industrial era?

«Believing it was possible was fundamental. It gave Alessio and I the power to say no to economically attractive proposals (for the development of sites, graphic projects or others). Not for snobbery. But because these works would take up too much time. Becoming good designers requires concentration, dedication. This meant, obviously, years of sacrifice. We were ok with it. Having said that, we owe a lot to the companies that believed in us and had the courage to engage us, young and almost unknown. It happens again, in Italy, with entrepreneurs or art directors who believe in design, a profession that does not move at ease in the marketing logic typical of funds ».

ODEON, produced by Fontana Arte, design StudioKlass

Where does this passion for the physical object come from? Millennials often seem more digitally oriented, while your approach seems more similar to that of the generation that preceded you …

«It is, indeed. Although I cannot really say why. What I know is objects, as long as they are “real” are for us as fascinating and interesting as people. It is no coincidence that they often have a soul that is an expression of the designer. It is a subtle hint that is often invisibleto the general public. But that translates into a charm perceivable by everyone. Which gives meaning to design».

What do you mean when you talk about “real objects”?

«Those that add something to our experience of use. Which make us think that things can be done in another way, that nothing is written in stone. I realized, over time, that often “real” objects are apparently imperfect, even disproportionate. It is as if they were looking for themselves, and that is precisely why they are authentic, in the human sense of the term».

SQUEEZE, citrus press produced by Normann Copenhagen, design StudioKlass

How do you distinguish “real” objects from those that are not?

«By making space around them. Isolating them from everything that has been added. Because very often styling fogs the mind: it gives sense to the context and transforms communication into a content. A “true” object, on the other hand, has its own power. To educate the eye on the quality of design, in short, you need to look around more than to read magazines and blogs. We have a pipe holder, in the garden. It is not a beautiful object but it says everything about itself: how it works, what it does, how it is rolled up, how it can help you. It has been well designed and this is why it fits so well in real life. Where nothing is perfect. And where not even design should be».

Are you not interested in perfection?

«Perfection is fascinating. But things that are a bit “wrong” make us think more, because they refer to the sense of being human. One day I listened to a radio program that compared Renata Tebaldi and Maria Callas in the performance of Amami Alfredo. Tebaldi was impeccable, arriving at the highest notes without any apparent effort. Callas, in comparison, was almost out of tune, inelegant, came to the treble making them seem a milestone reached through sweat. But when she replaced Tebaldi at La Scala everyone fell in love with her because what her voice told was a truer, more human story, closer to the public».

IGLOO, modular lamp, produced by Fontana Arte, design StudioKlass

Who is Callas, in design?

«Those who question universally accepted canons. Who make each object a project: that is, something that speaks to us beyond its function. Like Konstantin Grcic, who designs apparently “wrong” and aggressive furnishings. That attract us because we instinctively grasp the harmony of their Renaissance inspiration and, at the same time, their power of rupture, which opens new paths. But Maria Callas is also Antonio Citterio. Who often decontextualizes and calls into question: the way in which metal bends, die-cast, shapes are associated (the sofa as they understand it today is also thanks to him).

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He seems very bourgeois but in the end, paradoxically, he also decomposes things and wonders if they are forced to do so. Like Droog Design did in the 90s. His gestures are never shouted by they often break more rules that the projects of some young authors who consider themselves disruptive. Because the perfect chair already exists and I think design today is a value if it adds more. If the designer, making an intellectual effort, makes the profession or the person using the object, one step further».

And does StudioKlass make this effort?

«We always try, which is already an act that should not be taken for granted. And that also forces us to work for companies that are interested in this type of approach and do not just discuss projects via email, or judge them by saying “like” or “I do not like”. Having said this, it is not certain that you always get the desired results».

How do you make the objects you design make a “step farther”?

«By questioning the standard way of doing certain things. For example, the citrus juicer for Normann Copenhagen is used without support, using the two arms to compress the fruit. The Magique collection for Fiam plays with the transparency of glass to propose shelving accessible from different points of view. Another way is changing the way an object exists in space. For example, Plana, the sideboard for Fiam, uses the technology of curved glass to hide the opening mechanism and smooth the corners of the furniture, making it less aggressive. While the glasses for Ichendorf have a variation in thickness that creates a “stacked” effect that gives an immediate sense of party even if you are at home alone. But the project that tells us more is Odeon, for Fontana Arte. Although commercially it was not a success».

PLANA, sideboard produced by FIAM ITALIA, design StudioKlass

What is Odeon and why did it matter so much to you, design-wise?

«Odeon is a lamp that shows its back, it works better when it’s set towards the wall. Aesthetically, it refers to the closed altarpieces (which came, not by chance, decorated both inside and out). This is a functional choice because the purpose of the lamp is to dampen the tones of the smartphone in the rooms, preventing the blunder. The light, therefore, is emitted from a slab directed towards the wall. To change its intensity, Odeon should be moved by hand (we call this operation a manual dimmer)».

You say the market has not appreciated. Why do you think?

«Net of business considerations, I think the kind of design we make as StudioKlass is not sexy. The objects we design are not alluring. Apparently they do not seem like anything because when you put an idea into an archetype of an object to catch it you need cultural references that are often lacking. Unfortunately, design remains an elite choice».

Design is an elite choice. You seem to suggest this is not just a matter of price…Is not it a bit of a snobbish attitude?

«I do not believe so. Because design is elite but everyone has access to this elite. It is a question of interest, of passion, of desire for culture. Some people do not care about these things, others do. And I really do not think this has anything to do with the bank account. We come from families in which there has never been any interest in the world of design. Yet it has always attracted us. And it is working on us, as people even before as a designer, that we managed to enter».

Is it worth investing in this kind of design for a young studio like StudioKlass? Because, in the end, if an item does not sell the royalties they do not come …

«Except in exceptional cases, with design you do not become rich. But surely we could make a lot more if we made different choices. Having said that, I wake up happy every morning because I love what I do and I’m proud of it. And it really suits me so».

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