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 among forms, functions and concepts. Starting from these three points, I nourish doubts, problems and visions, which help me identify solutions. These solutions become projects. My work is therefore mostly based on research and meeting, not just my, but more openly, all leading actors' (such as clients, producers, the users and the market) project expectations. In addition to the process of research and designing, because of these actors, there are many tasks of mediation and communication too, which sometimes even overshadow the design processes themselves.

What does it take to be a designer nowadays?
To be a designer nowadays, you need 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, you risk to become unfashionable or get hooked on a design approach focussed on your ego.

What does “designing” and “being a designer” mean to you?
The meaning of design is much different than 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 its 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 want to improve on.
The design is finally 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, being able to manage his own way to the public, following his own recipe which identifies every single project and object.

How do you think can design 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; furthermore, these two things 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 that allows me to at least see the letters I'm about to read. If instead, I'm the one writing a book, I know that someone 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 in a capitalistic system, you generate a commercial need and economic wellbeing, which also keeps a growing market full of opportunities alive.

What role do emotions have in your design? 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 who can easily transmit the reflection of greater freshness and strength.
Due to this process, I do by myself while creating and designing, I'm more than conscious that people have enough thoughts and that it is probable that they will never ask themselves who and why a project has been created.

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 about their reality and their choices and don't understand the real details of their projects and 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 its own story, as well as a history of success or failure articulated during their own career and personal path. But it is from these histories 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’d 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