Design Around the World: Italy

To coincide with this year’s April International Design Annual, we decided to pull back the grid of latitude and longitude even further and hear, firsthand, what designers in these different countries have to say about design—how their location impacts their work, how clients embrace their creativity, what’s inspiring them and what kinds of projects keep them busy.

Here, Lucio Lazzara from Zetalab talks about design in the Fashion Capital of the World.

Milan, Italy

Where are you located, and why do you enjoy being there?
We are located in Milano, in the North of Italy. Milano is the most productive and design-related town in Italy (especially for product design and fashion) and is where most of the Italian companies have their headquarters.

How would you describe your style?
Our style is generally young and colourful, quite strong and "pop."

What kinds of design does your firm specialize in?
In the past, we worked mainly for young-targeted brands (like Levi’s, Diesel, MTV) and we did a lot of graphics for events. Recently, we concentrated more on designing brands for new companies, and we are broadening our market to mass-market (like food packaging) or enlarging the kind of design we do (like exhibition design).

What’s a favorite project you’ve worked on?
We love working for Smemoranda. It is the most famous Italian school notebook, selling about one million pieces per year since 1978. Many generations of students (including ourselves) have been using and loving it during high school. Moreover, the Smemoranda company is really helpful and nice.

Is there any recurring element that usually ends up in your designs?
Sometimes we laugh about "recycling" some parts of the old projects or parts of the rejected ones. In reality, every project is a brand-new experience and we start over again every time.

What things influence your work? Where do you get your inspiration?
Everything: from movies to fashion, from street art to our friends’ works, from books to the internet. We filter a lot of different inputs—like a sponge—and build our aesthetic from different fields.

How do you think your community and clients view design?
Italy as a country is famous for product design and fashion but in a way new to graphic design: Visual communication universities are a recent conquest, and designers must struggle a lot to make clients and institutions understand the idea that good graphic design is a real value and makes a difference. We have formed a group of studiosthe Ministero della Graficathat promotes a debate on the subject and organizes small events to talk about the importance of good design. We see the quality of Italian graphic design is getting better quite fast, but the way to have our work really understood is still long.

Do you think there’s anything that sets your location’s design aesthetic apart from other places?
We see that globalization affects graphic design in Western countries. We share a worldwide view on design and see boundaries getting weaker and weaker all the time.

Is there any cultural proverb or saying that influences the way you approach your work?
"Chi la dura la vince": If you keep trying, you will succeed.

If you were a color, what color would you be?
Nowadays green, but we have been turning cyan in the last months…

Other interviews in the series
AUTUMN:01: Sydney, Australia
BLOK DESIGN: Mexico City, Mexico
Laboratorium: Zagreb, Croatia
LeBoYe: Jakarta, Indonesia
Steinbranding: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Third World Media: Nairobi, Kenya Barcelona, Spain Hamburg, Germany
Yellow Octopus Pte Ltd: Singapore
Zetalab: Milan, Italy

HOW April 2007