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On April 28, Denis Santachiara will be a guest speaker at Digifest, the annual Toronto conference that explores the cutting edge of technology and design. Here’s what he has to say about overcoming creative blocks and having no regrets.

Each year at Salone del Mobile, the Italian manufacturer Campeggi draws a mesmerized crowd around its booth, where a team of presenters spend their day demonstrating how pieces of furniture on view can be effortlessly transformed by turning them over, or spinning them around, or flipping them inside out. The Italian manufacturer is well-known for its wildly inventive furniture pieces, which embed a multitude of functions: chairs that morph into dinner tables, and sofas that twist into beds with the simple flip of a few cushions.

As part of its lineup of novelties this year, the star piece at the booth was Denis Santachiara’s Ca.Mia emergency bed, where a portable satchel unzips and inflates into a single-mattress bed covered by a protective pitched tent.

Its brilliant green colour and magical transformation make it perfect for a kids’ sleepover, but its lightweight design also makes it ideal for taking on an overnight camping trip, or to regions where mosquitoes are a serious health concern.

Whatever the situation, Ca.Mia is inspiringly playful, and it not only fits easily into Campeggi’s ongoing assortment of morphable items – it suits Santachiara’s ongoing body of work to a T. Most of the designs he is known for are rooted to a similar sense of playfulness and irony.

This week, Santachiara will speak at Toronto’s Design Exchange, as part of Digifest, an annual conference devoted to discussions on the leading edge of technology and design. Santachiara will be there (April 28, starting at 7pm) to talk about Ca.Mia, as well his “attraction to the poetic-linguistic potential of the artificial world and new technology, and the aesthetic processes that they generate in an industrial context.”

Leading up to event, we asked Denis a few serious (and not so serious) questions about his career, what inspires him, and what’s next.

What projects are you working on now?
Cyrcus, an online design platform for design in digital fabrication, and a new collection of furniture that will employ new kinds of processes and materials.

What did you do before becoming a designer?
When I was very young I was a car stylist, and then I became a visual artist.

What was your first job?
A mechanical grip.

What is the best part of what you do?
Creating items for all and everyone.

What is the worst part?
I have not yet found a worst part.

What is the best quality in a designer?
A passion for innovation.

What is the worst quality?
Not being able to control their own ego.

What tools do you use the most?
My computer and my hands.

How do you overcome creative block?
With fine dining and good wine, and also sex.

Who or what excites you about design right now?
The spread of downloadable design.

What do you foresee as the next game-changer?
Web + design + digital fabrication. That combination equals good opportunities.

Where is the ideal place to work?
For me anywhere, though not in an office. Today, that’s possible.

What talent would you most like to have?
I’d like to be a musician, a magician and/or a physicist.

Who is your hero?
Nikola Tesla.

What word or phrase is overused in design?

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would learn to speak a lot of languages.

How do you keep challenging yourself?
By thinking lightweight.

What is your biggest design win?
Projects with poetry and technology, like Pisolò, the emergency bed that is shaped like an ottoman, and which I designed for Campeggi.

What is your biggest career regret?
I have none.

Which designer or manufacturer would you like to work with at this time?
I would love to draw cars with the young designers at Google.

What do you value in a producer?

What are you wearing right now?
Black pants, white shirt.

What is your most valuable asset?
My girlfriend.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In the countryside surrounded by 3-D printers.

What words of advice do you have for the younger generation?
Go beyond the contemporary.

What words do you live by?
Intensity, quality, ethics, ideas.

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