Behind the Design: Antonio Aricò 

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In his bio, Italian designer Antonio Aricò highlights the close relationship with his family, his roots and culture, and emphasizes that he works hand in hand with his Grandfather. To call attention to this is surely the mark of a man who values integrity, respect and tradition; indeed such qualities are manifested through Antonio’s various designs. Born and raised in the small southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria, today Antonio plies his craft between Milan (where he opened a studio in 2011) and his home town. His design education and training is both multidisciplinary and multinational, and Antonio’s works mix personal collections and collaborations with celebrated Italian brands.

Antonio Aricò uses his skill as a designer to tell a story through each and every one of his commissions. More than just solving problems—and as important as this is—Antonio approaches design as a means of communicating a vision, an idea and a way of life. For him, design is a passion and a labor of love.

Gessato gets behind the design with Antonio Aricò.

What are five words that best describe you?

Honest. Dreamy. Eclectic. Italian. Spontaneous.

Your own design education and training is multidisciplinary and multinational: you’ve studied metal and jewellery design in Scotland, product design in Australia and furniture design in Spain. How has this diverse background influenced you as a designer today?

Studying different disciplines within the ‘design universe’ has taught me that it’s not about shapes, colours or technologies, but rather more about the ideas, stories and worlds that you can evoke in the design of objects and collections. I’m really conscious that nowadays design is a communication vehicle rather than merely a problem-solving discipline.

You strike me as someone who is proud of his Italian heritage, and especially Italy’s vibrant arts and crafts history. As an Italian designer, what does ‘Made in Italy’ mean to you?

Italy or ‘il bel paese’ (the beautiful country), is filled with fantastic imagery, just like design! Italy is an island full of beauties and stories. The label ‘Made in Italy’ does not only refer to a geographic idea but to an imaginative place made up of the appealing and intriguing stories of its people, characters and personalities. Italians are complex and dramatic; in a way they are overdesigned and this, for me, represents beauty. Layers of stories have made the Italian culture unique and this is an enormous source of my inspiration.

Describe your particular design approach and aesthetic.

I like to play between a number of contradictions: art–craft and mass production; creativity and meticulous study/research; simplicity and decoration; primitive and futuristic; tradition and contemporaneity; doodles and high-end 3D modelling.

Many of your works have a certain theatrical presence and a humorous disposition: Swing Chair, Souvenir d’Italia, The Blowing Man and Statuetta L’Ospitalita are several examples. How important is humour and personality in design?

For me, something is missing when I see a design that is just a beautiful volume with a nice colour combination and finish. I like to see a story in a product, and it’s even better when no one has to explain it to me: the object should talk, sing and dance on its own. And when the shape, colours and finish narrate the story in a simple and fluid way, it’s the perfect project—pure, honest, graceful and fun!

I’m curious about the ‘veiled tribute’ to Eileen Gray in your GALACTICA collection for altreforme. Why Eileen Gray in particular?

Eileen Gray was unconventional, unusual and a nonconformist. I usually like to give character and personalities to my products and her touch was both postmodern and classic at the same time—I thought it was perfect for this project. Eileen Gray’s chairs and armchairs remind me of little asymmetric android creatures, with their beautiful, unbalanced proportions. They are eclectic, dynamic and classical volumes making for an avant-garde design idea.

To my mind, the GALACTICA collection has an air of Memphis Milano—it’s disruptive, novel and colourful. Is it art? Is it design? Is there a difference and does it even matter?

It’s funny as I didn’t take any inspiration from the Memphis movement! Even if it was a great historical moment for design, I’m not crazy about Memphis and the eighties! However, the brief sent to me by altreforme contained a lot about colours and volumes; this is the reason why Michele de Lucchi, Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini might be seen, just a bit, in these pieces.

You are described as close to your family, roots and culture. I often wonder if—in a world of commodification and fast design—we have lost a true sense of personal and emotional connection to people and tradition. What are your thoughts on this?

This is something of a duality. My dream would be to share my professional and life experiences with my family, living in my bucolic and folkloric hometown of Reggio Calabria. I think we lose a lot of meaning and depth when we’re taken away from our roots—or perhaps that’s a dream and a utopian ideal. I’m actually living in Milan and travelling around the world. We can only appreciate what it is we cherish and what is truly missing by being curious about our surroundings. So yes, we have lost something, but at the same time we are discovering many other things. Our great strength is the ability to choose and find the perfect match: the right mix and balance.

As a young designer—in his thirties—what is your vision for the future?

I’m really happy to be able to continue to work in this discipline and build a little team: me in Milan, Veronique in Paris and Richard in Melbourne (both collaborators), and my family in Calabria. The real connection is the love for this work and for these people. My vision for the future is to keep doing what I’m doing and be good at it. Working, loving and sharing, but always in a better way.

When are you most happy and content?

The most beautiful moment is when you have the opportunity to work on a nice project with talented and beautiful people. When this is with people that you love like your family, it is the pinnacle. A creative, professional experience that maintains a human and empathetic touch—this really makes the difference for me.

Gerard McGuickin

Gerard

I’m a design writer, lover and aficionado, living in a modish neighbourhood in south Belfast. My writing is studied and yet uninhibited, and my perspective on design is typically punctilious and urbane. My thinking is often guided by Dieter Rams’ ten principles for good design. I have an educational background in psychology (MSc + BSc) and believe in the potential for design to improve our daily quality of life. And without affectation, I value that which is aesthetically pleasing and inspiring (great design excites my imagination). Find out more at Walnut Grey Design.

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