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 later.
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 landscape.
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.