It seems that it all started with the
Campana’s brothers in the late 90’s. The Vermelha Chair in 1998 is something
more than refreshing in the design landscape at the dawn of the years 2000. At
this period Marc Newson is the new Guru of the international design scene and
distributes his sleek colorful plastic pills to an anxious crowd who needs to
start the new millennium under artificial boost.
Made of iron, aluminum, and cord, the Vermelha
Chair was inspired by materials and traditions of Brazilian weaving. Thread was
intertwined to form the ropes, which were then hand-woven into upholstery. “We
always say that first comes the material, then the form, and finally we
elaborate the function of the product by studying its ergonomics, limitations,
and capabilities,” explained Fernando and
Humberto Campana. Thanks to the Campana brothers product design drift away from
the classical “Form/Function“ duality, the function comes at last and it all
starts with the “Story”.
Whether you decide to make the history of
product design start with Leonardo da Vinci or Raymond Loewy, the definition of
modern design is always based on those two pillars: Forms and Function,
sometimes the Form follows, sometimes the Function drives, but design is always
and only considered through those two notions. Minimizing or building a design
not established on one of those two attributes: Form and/or Function, is
something like a little revolution. By relegating the Function to the last
stage in their Design Process, the Campana brothers opened the Pandora’s box.
This is a bit like the ready-made entered the world of design all of a sudden.
Introducing the notion of story and/or using “story telling” technics in the
center of the design process, opens a totally new dimension in product design.
When the function becomes an outcome of the design, when function is not
relevant enough or not sufficient to define an object, then the paradigm
changes, and designers become a bit more than architects for objects.
Because the definition of a contemporary
product has changed, Francesco Morackini rejects the old definition of product
design, which is to propose a solution to a problem. In fact, the designer
proposes products that operate in isolation, in his projects the problem and
the solution are imbedded, already integrated in the design process. This
redefines as well the position of the user, but we will come back to this
Yes, we all know that our World is saturated
with products, and it’s nothing new that the big Industries puts a lot of
effort in creating also new needs in order to sell new products. But according
to Morackini, the consequence of this is; “the creation of conceptually perfect
objects”. For him, those objects became almost self-sufficient. A tool can
fail, it is useful only in a certain context, but if you design the context and
the tool simultaneously, you create the virtual possibility to make your
product useful permanently. The design belongs then to the story and vice
versa. The product is so intimately bound to its usage that the user becomes a
point of detail.
What can appear at first sight like humoristic
gadgets, are in reality a sad representation of the vicious circle we are all
playing in. Roland Barthes said: “An object is something responsible, it’s more
than a thing, it’s responsible for what you put in it.” Indeed, personal
objects and artifacts are not anymore the expression of our personality or
tools to define a person socially. Design uses now so many psychological levers
and tricks that products and objects “put something in you”, slowly eroding our
minds and shaping new behaviors.
Paradoxically, dematerialization has amplified
the influence of design on our actions, this so obvious, especially in public
transport, that it does not need to be described.
In the Dildomaker project Morackini refers
directly to Raymond Loewy’s iconic Pencil sharpener, but it is not only a
tribute to the great designer, it is also to show how much complexity design
has gain in it’s evolution. Loewy had the talent to find the right curves to
wrap products, in order to make the shape dynamic and avant-garde while giving
a round soft reassuring touch to the final form. Loewy uses what is soon going
to become marketing rules in the future. By definition Marketing puts the consumer
in the center of the process and explores new paths to flatter his senses in
order to make him buy a product. The Dildomaker flips this method and instead
of the user, puts the story in the center of the creative process, the result
is an artifact that does not fulfill a need but nevertheless that we can
strangely consider buying. The designer describes this tool as a paradigm of
the “marketing” product, indeed the machine literally promises, in a funny
mis-en-abime, one thing and one thing only: primal satisfaction.
That is the point of Morackini: Design goes
beyond offering innovative solutions to customers and profit to the fabricant,
design can propose a new story, suggest a new future, another possibility. We
can clearly see this aspect in another Morackini’s project: The Banker. This
project is entirely built on a story: How the international banking system
survived the Sub-prime crisis in the year 2008. The machine cleans currencies
with the help of solvents, and on top of that manages to generate extra wealth
by extracting the traces of cocaine transported by the banknotes. The designer
refers ironically to the typical banker’s drug when banking reached its apogee
in the 80’s. Not only, the Banker is a metaphor of the banking system even through
its darker aspects - money laundering practice - but it also illustrates how
you can hide yourself behind the complexity of a so to say transparent system.
With the same marketing ingredients, Morackini loads his project with
references and evocations, but the Banker refers as well to The Myth of the
Machine. In this particular project, the designer neglects the user in favour
of the process, humanity is indirectly evocated, but the focus is on the cold
mechanism of the procedure. In that senses we can risk a parallel with Wim
Delvoy’s Cloaca’s machine that describes the cold protocol of human digestion.
The Banker is an attempt to illustrate, step by step and in a tangible way, how
the world of finance can generates money with money.
Even if the designer is sometimes flirting
with concepts and artistic references, we certainly feel a great attention to
forms materials and details. The friendly slightly retro-design of the Banker,
evokes for example the beginning of computers in the 70’s. We can almost recognize
the silhouette of a Brionvega Television screen, the reference is not
adventitious, in this period technology was not a threat but perceived as a
perspective of a bright future. Some other people would see a medical device in
a hospital that cures the human body with a lot of lights, pipes, and screens.
So it seems like there is some efforts made here to make the technology
acceptable or friendly here, but when you look at the purpose of the machine,
this emphasize the gap between form and function.
On the other side, the Dildomaker appears to
be a very simple product. With plastic and bright colors the item invites
people to play with it in the kitchen. The aspect of the product refers more to
a friendly cooking appliance rather than an erotic sex toy. And yet again it’s
not about finding the right style, it’s about playing with different visual
vocabulary in order to create a quirky effect. Round, ergonomic, friendly,
clean, fun, giving pleasure those attributes are shared by sex toys and kitchen
appliances, with the same causes always produce the same effects, designers
using the same stories creates the same design. Thanks to a sophisticated
design, Morackini makes its products look innocent and blending in the daily
Roland Barthe, the famous Semiotician,
describes the power of objects as a new Mythology:” when the new model from
Citroen was launch on the market, actually when it appears, the new DS 19
really worked like a magical product, it was glossy, without joints, with a lot
of glass surfaces, this was the kind of object falling from the sky like in the
Tales of Voltaire”. There is for sure a kind of never ending quest in this
process, and reaching of the ultimate thing can only delivers deception which
is the fuel for the quest of the next object.
Usage, ergonomics, sound, function, aesthetic,
story, sociology, anthropology, Science, technics, feeling, feedback, emotion,
gender, timing, temperature, temporality… That’s where Francesco Morackini
works lay, in the tiny interstices left between the notions that define a
contemporary object. Morackini’s creations tries to follow another path in this
Forest of design, if they don’t fulfill any basic needs, they are designed to
produce their own need their own story to achieve their final goal: the
impossible promise of perfection.