Stefano Giovannoni is a product designer (interior and industrial) and architect. He has collaborated with the likes of Alessi, Fiat, Henkel, Pulsar, Samsung, Seiko, Siemens, 3M and Telecom to name a few. He works with a variety of materials in particular plastic — and many of his products are best-sellers and award-winners. His latest (and most rewarding) project is his own company Qeeboo. Now a year old, the next generation design brand produces affordable, injection moulded plastic furniture and objects for style-conscious buyers. The down-to-earth Italian took time out of his busy schedule to talk to Gurby Griffiths about his work, Qeeboo and his passions.
What have you been doing today?
I’ve been involved with my new company Qeeboo and this is a very exciting new story for me. My time is on the biggest part dedicated to Qeeboo, however, I’m also involved with the studio and a project with Korea and China.
Which product has given you the greatest satisfaction to see from conception to launch?
The Rabbit Chair which I designed with Qeeboo. It is enjoying a great amount of commercial success. When I design something it is put together with a playful element and a functional element. For me, to design just a rabbit is pointless because the rabbit element has to be connected with some idea of a product. In this case, the ears of the rabbit are the back of the chair so you sit with your back against the ears. You can also sit on the opposite side — either way it is very comfortable.
Tell us about how your work has evolved over the years?
In the early 1990s, by using plastic I was able to create innovative tableware and kitchenware products for Alessi. They were colourful and produced an emotional feeling and the younger generation became collectors of these products. This for me was a great satisfaction. During the late 1990s and the beginning of 2000, I had to switch to create classic products for the company. I designed the Mami pots and the Alessi bathroom products, which have been very successful. They were based on a completely different design language, involving materials like steel and ceramic instead of colourful plastic. Later, what become important was the global challenge. Relations with Eastern countries became more frequent, initially with Japan and then with Korea, Taiwan and China. We worked on products for the mobile and technology industries, and I designed several projects for important players. The last step for me has been my company where I put in the most energy. My real goal was to create something where I could be the person who managed the story. This is now very important and it’s very satisfying to work in this role.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Ideas come from different situations. For me, there is not a precise moment and at other times there is. If I focus sometimes an idea can come when I’m driving or taking a shower. I like to think about a project when I don’t have a sheet of paper in front of me. Usually an idea will come from two things that are separate but when put together succeed. For example, the Rabbit Chair creates an interesting idea and a new interaction. That’s how many of my ideas are formed. Something that connects to points that usually are not connected.
Where or when are you most creative?
The best moment for me to be creative is late in the evening, at night or very early in the morning. I’m more relaxed during these times as there isn’t the usual movement of the studio.
Who do you most admire and why?
I admire a designer who can work free from compromise. This is why I have a very good relationship with the other designers at Qeeboo. They are ‘pure’ creative people whose work isn’t compromised but honest with what they represent. When you design a product as part of a collaboration with a company, usually you have to make some compromises. At Qeeboo we can design a product we like without compromise, which is also commercially successful.
Tell me some interesting facts about your life?
I’m a huge music fan and have over a thousand CDs and buy six or seven music magazines a month. I like to keep updated on all the latest music news. Just the other day I bought 30 CDs on Amazon. I have a stereo and am very fond of listening to music when I have some free time. I have a room dedicated just for music stocked with CDs and vinyl. I have a wide music collection — everything from jazz to electronic music. Another passion of mine is my kitchen and food. My wife and I have our own kitchens in our house and we continuously experiment with food. I am a fisherman and an expert in seafood. Food is something that is really connected with our culture. I put a lot of care into what we eat and love going shopping for food. I spend Saturday mornings going to different markets to buy the best food I can find in Milano. My love of cooking is very much connected to my work — I have designed many products for the kitchen.