When Italian architect and designer Stefano Giovannoni talks about his influences, he says the most important was attending the University of Florence in the late 1970s. “That was where the concept of ‘radical architecture’ was born, which created a new language and way of expression in Italian design,” he says. It was a movement that threw out all the rules, resulting in a new vision for designers and architects. (Also reflecting a new vision, the name of Giovannoni’s first studio, founded with Guido Venturini in the 1980s: King-Kong.)
With a feel for communication and a knack for clever design, Giovannoni has created some of the most commercially successful products in the world, including Girotondo and Mami household products for Alessi, Il Bagno Alessi bathroom fixtures, and Magis Bombo Stool. For Giovannoni the positive reception of his products is more satisfying than any award. “It’s my job to think about how a product will be received in the marketplace, and that is something I take seriously,” he says.
The Bombo Stool, Paso Doble Family, Chair First, and Table First, all designed for Magis, exemplify his innovative use of materials and original thinking. Chair First was the first three-dimensional plastic chair created through gas-injected air molding, while the Bombo Stool created a new typology (the seat height adjusts via internal gas piston) and was so futuristic it appeared in “Star Trek.”
Giovannoni feels all designers need to pay attention to popular culture. “We need to have long antennas to perceive changes in society as a whole and adapt our language to the context of the larger world,” he says, noting with approval the current focus on sustainability and environmental stewardship.
A former university professor, Giovannoni advises up-and-comers to focus on research and not settle for simple solutions. “They need to find their own personal way of expressing their ideas, and that takes time and thinking,” he says.