Filippo Mambretti from Mambrò Design Studio

At the beginning of September, we met Filippo Mambretti at his home-studio located in Chiasso, Switzerland, where we had the chance to spend some time with him. In his online biography, we read "I believe that design is nothing more than a mirror of society's desires, and my vision of contemporary design is a balanced fusion of aesthetics, function, technology and emotion." On this basis, we talked about his more recent projects and collaborations, focusing on his perception of design.

How would you describe your personal work?
My work is research that ranges from forms, functions to concepts. Starting from these three points, I nourish doubts, problems and visions, which help me identify solutions. These solutions ultimately become projects. My work is therefore mostly based on research and meeting, not just mine, but more openly, all leading actors' (such as clients, producers, the users and the market) project expectations. In addition to processes of research and designing, indeed because of these actors, there are many steps that involve mediation and communication too, which sometimes even overshadow the design process in itself.

What does it take to be a designer nowadays?
To be a designer you must have an expansive vision of your work. You don't have to just be creative, but you need to be very sensible and curious about what other designers and creative people suggest us. You also have to stay up to date on trends both stylistically, materially as well as commercially.
It is essential to ask yourself some fundamental questions, such as "why?" "how?" "Could I?", "would I like...?", "would they like...?". It is therefore required to mould around your projects, mutate yourself, evolve according to the current evolutions, without limiting yourself by obtruding your style, or by imposing yourself as a personality. By imposing yourself, your risk is to become unfashionable or get hooked on a design approach focussed on your ego.

What do “designing” and “being a designer” mean to you?
The meaning of design is much different from the one of the designer. Think of a dish and a chef, for instance. The designer, like a good chef, has a range of tools at his disposal that help him create any meal. He can experiment, by modifying recipes to obtain new dishes or improve old ones, of which he's not satisfied yet but still wants to improve and work on.
The design is the dish that everyone tastes. It is criticized or appreciated, sometimes also without considering how someone came up with it, imagined or created it. It becomes evaluated without knowing why it exists in this form, which requirements and needs it meets or who the target might be. Design is that final result which people enjoy or endure, depending on the cases.
The designer, on the other hand, is someone who, with wisdom and patience, inspiration and foresight, thought about the design and the project, clashing with design, technical, technological and many other limits and issues, being able to manage his own way to the public. The designer ultimately follows his own recipe, which becomes a key element in identifying every single project and object made by such designer.

How do you think design can contribute to our well-being?
Design can heavily contribute to our well-being, both in a perceptive and sensory way, as well as in an economic and commercial way. In fact, these two elements are deeply linked to one another.
At a perceptive level, the presence of design fulfils us aesthetically and functionally on tasks that we have to carry out during our days.
If I read a book or a newspaper, it happens because someone thought of it and designed it, or someone designed the glasses I'm wearing, which allow me to at least see the letters I'm about to read. If, as another example, I'm someone willing to write a book, I know that someone else thought of and designed the pen I'm going to use to write. If I'm sitting down for these activities, it is right to imagine that someone developed that object I'm gonna use to position my body in a suitable position.
Design surrounds us and nourishes our sensorial wellbeing, but it is mostly represented by physical objects. As a consequence, as of most products, it follows that by buying these items as part of a capitalistic system within which you generate a commercial need and economic wellbeing that also keeps a growing market alive and full of opportunities.

What role do emotions play in your designs? Do you have a particular example of a project that appeals intentionally to some feelings?
Emotions are everything! It is impossible to imagine to live without feeling any feelings or sensations, and you can't even imagine making a decision without being influenced by them.
A project is an ensemble of choices and decisions that bring us, and me as a designer, to create a specific object or product. So, if my choices are influenced by negative feelings or thoughts, this fact will, for sure, be reflected in my work and my work will change for sure, depending on these feelings. In the end, my work is going to be a kind of representation of me, my story and my feelings.
In all my projects you may notice some serenity, and there is a will and duty to welcome such positive feelings.
The happiest products are those that can easily transmit and reflect greater freshness and strength.
As I actively go through this process, I'm more than conscious that people have enough thoughts for themselves and that it is likely that they will never ask themselves who and why a project or object has been created and developed in such or such way.

Which designers have inspired you most during your career? What was their influence on your work?
Many figures inspired me for all kinds of reasons. There are those able to read and translate the needs, those who can identify forms, those who are good at selling themselves, those working in the antithesis and against the flow of current design concepts, those with a utopian view of the future and those concretely more related to the present. I look at new designers in the same way as I did with the old masters in the field. I appreciate, respect, criticise and, at least try to comprehend them. I don't judge them because I don't really know what their reality is like and what dictated their choices. Also, it is often hard to really get to the core of the project, and here I meant the tiniest details. I can therefore only be inspired and influenced by their way of being and their work.
I can't tell names, not because it's somehow wrong, but simply because even a book wouldn't be enough to list them all: alive or dead, active or retired. Each of them has his or her own story, as well as a history of success or failure articulated during their own careers and personal paths. But it is from these stories of glory or criticism that we can learn and grow both personally and professionally.

CYRANO, 2014. Design by Filippo Mambretti

Boujon, 2014. Design by Filippo Mambretti

I say “lightning”: how would you develop a new project taking this word as your first input? Can you show us a sketch of your sketchbook about this new project?

Photos & text: Laura K. Inserra & Omar Elabed