Falling in love with design
Valentina Del Ciotto: We met while getting our bachelors in industrial design at Unicam’s architecture university in Ascoli Piceno, then we both attended Politecnico di Milano. What first drew me to design was how you could reach so many people through a single object, change their way of life – that is what struck me most. Simone and I have this quality in common. Simone Spalvieri: We became a couple in life. At first, we said we would never work together, but in 2004 we entered the Nespresso design contest and won first prize. Then we thought, “Ah, we can work together.”
SS: We lived in Milan for nine years and opened our studio there in 2009. Two years ago, we moved to London for a few months, then to Tolentino. It seems strange, because Tolentino is very small, but I was born here. Everything else started here, too. Poltrona Frau is here; I did my first internship there and produced a project called Modulo. In this little town, you can find many designers, a great deal of design culture. I met Cappellini, Vignelli, de Lucchi – it was incredible. Yes, we must travel, but it also offers a bit of quiet. In Milan and London, you have plenty of external input; here, the input is from your mind. We’re already thinking of moving to another city, though. Change is important for us. In Milan, we moved houses seven times in nine years, so if we change cities it’s okay, as long as we don’t change partners.
SS: The Magic calculator was our first project, which we designed as students. Gabriele Pezzini, our teacher at Ascoli Piceno, connected us with Areaplus. We studied the catalogue and designed three objects: the calculator, the Starlite book light and table lamp, and the Spin digital alarm clock and radio. At first, it was difficult to understand how a company creates a new product, so we did our research. A calculator is typically low tech, but we introduced backlight LEDs. The products were successful: the MoMA store in New York picked up the Starlite book light, and the calculator was one of Areaplus’s best sellers.
Materiality plus emotion
VDC: When I was studying for my master’s in textiles, I explored many different materials, and Tyvek was one of them. I brought a swatch into the studio, and we started to study how to use it in a new way. I also studied the technology of how to solder it by making a swimsuit, so we joined the technology with the material. We went to a company near Milan to carry out some tests, and after a month of prototypes we figured out how to use an ultrasonic soldering process to “stitch” the Tyvek. This made us wonder what product we could make with this technology. That’s how the Sacchetto chair was born.
SS: Sacchetto uses the familiar shape of the paper bag, and that creates emotion. It’s a pop object because of its novel scale, but it also has a technological aspect. Even normal products like a chair are a combination of hardware and software. You might ask, Where is the software? It is in the intelligence you put into the product; you cannot see it, but it simplifies your life and creates a surprise. In this way, technology doesn’t become obsolete.
SS: Quite a few of the companies we work with, including Lexon and Mamoli, are ones we contacted directly. Then there are companies like Colombo Design, where we won awards and then began a collaboration. But Salone del Mobile is still the prime place to get noticed. In 2011, we exhibited at Salone Satellite, where we displayed our research and explained our approach rather than just showing our products.
SS: We’re working on a desktop product for Lexon. The company produced our Hoop speaker, which you can wear or attach anywhere, thanks to a rubber cord and wall hook. Now we’re working on a wearable technology product for another company. Also, we were just in Matera, in Basilicata, Italy. It’s an absolutely unique place! We slept in a cave; it was really humid but fantastic. We were there to do a workshop with an organi-zation called Design-Apart, which connects Italian artisans with new markets, such as the U.S. or Australia. Basilicata has a rich, complex system of furniture production – Natuzzi and Calia are based there – so we are trying to create a new brand there, one focused on the expertise typical of the Matera district but with our design input. In December, we will present the line in Matera, and it will be ready in April for Salone del Mobile in Milan.
Valentina Del Ciotto, born in Francavilla al Mare, Italy, 1982
Simone Spalvieri, born in Tolentino, Italy, 1982
Del Ciotto: bachelor of industrial design, University of Camerino (Unicam); master’s in interior design, Politecnico di Milano; master’s in textile materials, ISAD Milano.
Spalvieri: bachelor of industrial design, Unicam; master’s in industrial design, Politecnico di Milano
2013 Top Young Italian Industrial Designers Prize
2013 Portraits exhibit, by Mamoli, Milan; 2012 Salone Satellite, Milan
Areaplus, Established & Sons, Lexon, Mamoli, Poltrona Frau