Milan. In every sense.

The Alfa Romeo Milano

If you’re a car guy or just simply lived through the 80s you might had seen this rare car. The Alfa Romeo Milano (75 for the European market) was an Italian sport sedan and the Brainchild of Ermanno Cressoni. Cressoni (1939 – 2005) has been a prominent designer born and raised in Milan and worked many years for the Milanese brand. On top of that he’s been a professor with the Polytechnic University of.. well.. Milan, my alma mater, the University where I graduated in 2002. I attended his classes and learned a lot about styling and design from him, I learned the ‘responsibility of beauty’ which means as a designer not only I have to focus on functionality of products but I have to consider the importance of pleasuring the eyes.


A new adventure in art

I am relatively new to drawing characters, cartoons and portraits. I did product design my entire life therefore I still find somehow difficult to approach faces. Not only there are proportions to respect but expressions are important as well. What makes a character interesting is the feeling conveyed: anger, happiness, sadness and how good is the artist in doing it. I have to admit I am still a rookie trying to learn as much as possible from others, nonetheless I’m getting truly involved into it. Drawing something animated is a complete new adventure for professionals like me used to create lifeless things. Yes, an object can move too, like a car or a plane, but the difference doesn’t reside in motion. The difference between things and people is that with people there’s always a story behind them, a story recounted by the expression on their faces. Try to sketch quickly a face on a piece of paper, do it now; you’ll immediately notice that there’s no way to make it devoid of emotions. No matter how bad your drawing can be (like mine) you will always stamp an expression on it and a general feeling to the character. That is his/her personal story and it’s what’s lacking in objects.

Applying white chalk on Pantone for a mixed effect. Remember, don’t do viceversa (Pantone on chalk) or the tip is gone for good.
#drawing #sketching #art #design #inking

Memorial Day 2022

No design discussion today, there’s a more important matter: Memorial Day. Independently from what you’re into, put it on pause and take a minute to remember the fallen of every war. I made the following short video to say thanks to all the troops who fought and freed Europe in the 40s. If it wasn’t for those men who made the ultimate sacrifice and eventually succeeded, I wouldn’t be here writing on social media in a free country; I wouldn’t probably be in this world at all. So yes, I have no interest in art and design today, let me just focus on how truly lucky and blessed I am to be born after the brave generation who landed on Omaha Beach and Anzio and gave me the possibility to pursue my dreams. They perished so we could enjoy freedom. Respect.

Do not stand by my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep
I am the thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints in snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle, autumn rain.
As you awake with morning’s hush,
I am the swift, up-flinging rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight,
I am the day transcending night.
Do not stand by my grave and cry
I am not there, I did not die.

Let creativity loose

This drawing is at least 10 years old, it was my first time trying to make a trench (or something vaguely similar) so I thought “let’s make something unseen, something eye-catching”. When approaching a new task, or should we say challenge, we designers have to go big, to think outside the box. Trying to make something as commercial as possible would be the worst error: we’re not marketing guys, we are the ones breaking the rules, we are the professionals leaving other professionals jaw dropped. We are entitled to raise perplexity and confusion in viewers’ minds, it’s a designer’s duty to deliver something unexpected and unestablishing, close to a punch out of the blue. So this is my idea for a trench, as weird as I could conceive it.

Be Curious, Try Things.

In the past few days I indulged in Bernie Sanders’ mittens pictures (in my defense they are everywhere) and while shopping online for motorcycle parts, Google promptly showed me handlebar muffs ads. I suppose the algorithm works like this: mittens + motorcycles accessories = handlebar muffs. Once again Google is smarter than me and knows I can resist everything except temptation, as a result I bought a pair just out of curiosity. To be clear, I haven’t been brainwashed into this, there must be some sort of purpose in products that trigger my interest -and credit card- and it has to be related to my business or passions, this to explain why I’ll never buy a Tamagotchi. No offense meant, it’s just that I grew up so utterly pragmatic that I’m closer to screwdrivers (or mittens) rather than electronic eggs that cannot be scrambled.

As a designer I had doubts concerning muffs, I thought these voluminous things attached to a motorcycle weren’t exactly a flawless project. My questions were: is it possible to ride a motorcycle at highway speed during mild winter while keeping hands warm? Is it difficult to handle a heavy tourer bike with hands hidden in those dark holes? The not so obvious answers are yes to the first and no to the second.

Now, I know when someone from Anchorage meets someone from Tampa there could be misunderstanding about what winter means, let’s say so far I tested them riding at 40-45°F and they worked fine, it is very unlikely that I will test them during a snowstorm in Siberia but you can try them on a snowmobile and share your thoughts.

Before switching on the beast, find the right settings for your riding position until you feel comfortable, safe and not clumsy in traffic, there is some work to be done in the garage at the beginning. It took some time to me because at first I felt my forearms were forced in a non ergonomic Playmobil-people-like posture, but once I tuned them finely I discovered the great pleasure of a Mediterranean winter ride with warm fingers and when I say ‘warm’ I don’t mean bearable temperature, I mean good-peripheral-circulation warm.

Few last considerations at this point:

1. Decent quality gloves are always mandatory for bikers no matter the season: up with safety, down with arthritis.

2. Renowned brands products are to be preferred to super cheap ones (duh!). Handlebar muffs must be thick and structured, we don’t want two sad bags flapping and wrapping dangerously around brake/clutch levers. Probably urban commuters can take the risk settling with discount items to save a couple of bucks but I wouldn’t recommend it to those who frequently cover long distances at high speed: nobody wants a piece of your bike landing on his windshield. 

3. Muffs are not 100% windproof and definitely not waterproof (no one’s perfect) so when you’re ready to click ‘purchase’ make some room for compromise, I’m sure that if you’re 40 something like me you already know a lot about compromising in life.

4. Exercising regularly helps a lot the cardiovascular system so if your fingers easily look like frozen sardines get off the couch and workout before blaming muffs.

The Obscure Nature of Electric Vehicles

Hypothetical Electric Vehicle

Every time a new technology makes its way to the market consumers are obviously ignorant about it and they normally go: ‘For the same price, the bigger and more powerful the better’. Speaking of EVs, common people like me are usually concerned about the range. When an electric vehicle is tested its range is normally exposed in the very first lines of the article if not in the subtitle. It makes sense after all, how far we can go is the key factor, the most critical factor to be considered when it comes to such cars (apart from price of course). This because it triggers our fear to be stranded on the road side miles away from home like sailors lost at sea and it’s perfectly understandable, people who owned a 2 stroke motorcycle with a fuel tank size inversely proportional to its gigantic appetite for gas know what I am talking about, boy you could skip leg day after pushing that thing to the closest station. Most customers want to know how many miles they can run without recharging which is correct but keep in mind that efficiency is important as well: both battery efficiency and powertrain efficiency. Big batteries add pounds, which leads to bigger brakes, frames, suspensions and tires. Big batteries store more energy but part of it is dissipated just because of their weight so the industry tackles the range problem both with more capacity and improving efficiency. Have you noticed that when comparing ICE vehicles we check MPGs while when it comes to EVs we mostly want to know the range? It’s like we are worried about gas price when filling but recharging is free. Let’s put it this way: a Hummer sure has a bigger tank than a Corolla but this doesn’t mean it goes farther or it’s cheaper to run. The same goes for EVs, big batteries-great range doesn’t means miles are free: How many miles per kW the car delivers matters, engineers and insiders know this very well, now it’s time to educate common people like the one writing that range and consumption are both important, before we all end up complaining about electricity bills. Wasting energy comes with a price in terms of pollution too as long as sources are not renewable. But even when it’s renewable energy, why would we waste it anyway?
Countless videos on YouTube showed for years Toyota Prius real consumption (it was a sort of challenge) but now that society is facing this huge shift in technology to EVs it seems consumption is not that relevant anymore to the average consumer, we have to avoid the approach ‘Just throw some more Duracells in the trunk cowboy’ because it is not cost effective.
Makers say that to extend range and cut costs every little enhancement helps, downsizing and lighter components do their part in the process. I suppose leaving home the 150 pounds of your mother-in-law seems a reasonable price to pay for the sake of economizing.

Are you ready for the Cybertruck?

During the past weeks I’ve read a lot about the new Tesla pickup Cybertruck and I’m not referring to data sheets or articles in magazines, I’m talking about people’s comments on social media. What I found is that we have a peculiar idea of what’s elegant and what’s not, our concept of beauty is twisted to say the least and has different standards to different categories of product. A fair share of gearheads made fun of the poor thing labelling it as childish, arguing that it’s too simplified to resemble a proper vehicle but who said that mainstream car design is the best achievable? Commercially speaking it could be, academically speaking there’s room for improvement.

We got used to certain common aesthetic features in cars, they kept evolving for over a century in a smooth way (with some disruptive exceptions) trying not to shock buyers -cause in the end it’s all about sales- but this doesn’t mean that the ultimate product of this metamorphosis from model T to nowadays SUVs and trucks is the best compromise between style, cost and practicality.

We are accustomed to organic shapes and that’s why we throw anatomy terms into car design, words like shoulders, tail, dog-leg and musclecar itself of course can be heard at a briefing with designers. Vehicles are 21st century armors, we identify as our car while driving it and movies played a big role in giving automobiles human connotations, just think about Herbie and Cars. Think about it: On the road we prefer to be a Jaguar rather than being a Pinto, right? It’s in our nature. The truth is that only few can afford outstanding performance, the rest just make do sitting in over decorated vehicles padded with superfluous air intakes, useless grilles, chrome trims, even fake plastic exhaust pipes (oh God, these are the worst). Now it’s funny how the same standard doesn’t apply to home interior design, quite the opposite indeed: a high percentage of people consider minimalism in furniture a sign of elegance while, for instance, the replica of a baroque cabinet with fake gold details is definitely ‘ew’ (more like Eeew!). Now, the first question is: Why do most people think minimalism is a plus in architecture and not in car design? Furthermore: Is the future of car design doomed with the addition of useless features to give more charisma to products? Of course nobody is forced to like Elon Musk’s latest sharp creation (or the rounded VW New Beetle for that matter) but it is fair to say that the Cybertruck is unattractive as much as other competitors are tacky. Yes, we all want to drive something that makes us accepted by peers without looking like out of place, after all understatement is still a value, but embracing passively the standard of the majority has never been a good sign in society. Like it or not, the Cybertruck brings fresh air to the establishment, hence, the topic of this discussion is not whether I love it or hate it but it’s about recognizing Musk’s effort to make a bald statement sharing with all of us his crazy (but intelligent) dream and I personally thank him for this.

On design and Popples: a not so serious pamphlet

I was an industrial design student in the late nineties and one of the most popular word among insiders was ‘multipurpose’. We discussed a lot about our projects and the lowest common denominator was that infamous word, multipurpose. It didn’t matter what the discipline was: furniture, car design, product design, multifunctionality was the aspiring designer’s holy grail. It was like if we wouldn’t be able to put together several different features in a single object we were going to be just half of a graduate, wannabe designers with the original sin: the sin of not inventing something new and complex. Creating a fork that was just a fork would have been regarded as a failure in the attempt of making complicated an otherwise simple object. Let’s make a distinction first, I’m not talking about complexity in style or shape, not at all, minimalism was a well accepted diktat. Things should have been designed showing outer elegant simplicity and hidden brainy complexity, in other words we had to prove that we were able to give an added value or extra purpose to simple goods. We were not stylists (in its academic acception) but designers thus we had to go beyond caducous mere beauty. Easy to be said not to be done because most of the times we -students- were delivering answers to unasked questions, for us things had to be extremely modular and preferably detachable, we wanted to extend the sectional idea to any inanimate thing. It was a functional binge, a multitasking galore. As you know, my beloved reader, school is one thing, you just have to please (cerebrally, not physically) the professor, market is something different. Companies need money to survive and don’t make a big thing of ‘how intelligent a product is’ as long as it floods them with pecunia. Staying alive in the market is more of a cash flow competition rather than an intelligence contest, of course intelligence is required to thrive in business but products don’t necessarily have to be Einstein approved to sell. Just think about the visceral passion kids have for slime: it’s simple, no shape, apparently silly, doesn’t develop the brain for what I know, but it’s anti-stress and in a society where kids are over-scheduled they could really use some slimetime. All this unbearably boring preface doesn’t mean that quickly and badly designed stuff is OK, not at all, just don’t overthink, don’t overdo because afraid it’s never enough, don’t make your wife a greenhouse when all she wants is a rose, that’s the point. Always remember that one clear sentence is stronger than a long confused paragraph. If we look around there’s plenty of examples pointing that out, now let’s indulge in this dull and drowsy matter by listing some of them so the reader will finally fall asleep.

I’ve read many times about architects conceiving shared spaces that can be used as offices during the day and sort of clubs in the afternight. Open spaces constantly switching from work to leisure time, from internet entrepreneurs to clubbers. Correct me if I’m wrong but so far I didn’t see many people excited about it. True, startups were born at Starbucks’ tables and true, many do online business from there but they just sit at a table for some time, they don’t rent a place where the night before hordes of beery barbarians committed themselves to make the whole building sticky and dirt.

In 2003 Chevy introduced the SSR, an all-in-one vehicle putting together a convertible, a pick up truck, and a retro styled muscle car. Its design was eye catching (I mean it, really), the trunk was the sum of a Z3’s a Porsche’s and a Vette’s, last but not least it diligently delivered up to 390hp, not bad for the average ride experience on the coast. The point was that German sports cars buyers didn’t even look at it, truck lovers kept putting practical aspects first and pony cars junkies.. well, you know them. I personally liked the SSR but I also know car guys: they’re fundamentalists on four wheels with their own strict beliefs and opposite doctrines can’t coexist on a single chassis. It didn’t work.

“I want to buy a bag good for any occasion” no woman ever said.
I’ve seen several bag design contests where young designers showed their talent creating rather peculiar ‘transformers bags’.
I’m talking about weird stuff my friends, bags that can be opened as umbrellas in case of rain or unfolded on the ground as mats. Large tote bags imploding like popples to become purses and the freak show goes on. You know something? Bags are like drinks: every moment of the day requires a specific one, don’t you dare mixing chocomilk, Chianti and Jack Daniel’s in one glass assuming to swallow this unfortunate concoction throughout the day.
The rules we need to follow -as designers carrying out our dirty job- are:
A. Keep in mind practical aspects because only pure art should be useless.
B. Add just the features that customers really ask for.
C. Pack the whole thing with the proper style depending on the target customer not only your personal taste.

Have fun creating new amazing products!

Crocodile handbag

I developed the early stage of this crocodile handbag (pencil sketches) for a client based in LA leaving the engineering phase to its supplier. Here can be seen how close the final result is to the original idea. They did an amazing job, didn’t they?  

#handbag #bag #fashion #crocodile 

Barrel bag

A cylinder bag designed to be used as a cross body bag, a handbag or a backpack. Its classic and simple style is revved up by a 2 inch zipper which actually was hard to find, it took weeks to get in contact with a producer of such thing and get it shipped from far east. There is no need to add more accents since its presence is enough to make the difference: one strong sign makes the bag’s design immediately recognizable, adding more stuff would make it overcrowded of details. 

#barrel #bag #handbag #crossbody #cylinder #backpack