Promising Zeroes

text and icons by Beppe Finessi
What happened between 2004 and 2014? The world has simply changed, and design has changed with it. Year after year, many of the great masters have vanished, those who together with the legendary businessmen laid the groundwork of this great history.
New trajectories have emerged, those drawn by the “new masters” (Morrison, Newson, Campana, Grcic, Bouroullec, Lovegrove, Jongerius, Fukasawa, Charpin, Guixé, Tokujin, Ulian…) who have managed, each with their own original language, to construct independent identities. Above all, a new generation of designers has grown up (trained in schools of Design, no longer in schools of Architecture as in the past, places like the Design Academy Eindhoven, the Royal College of Art, the École Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne-Ecal), who have explained to the whole world that another way of doing things can always exist, that the (economic or structural) limits can be a resource, a stimulus for a different way of getting started, that not only big industry exists, that small numbers of substantially artisan production still have meaning, that the computer is an amazing tool and the web a strong, pliant partner in one’s own ‘enterprise,’ that a free and open attitude towards art can bring oxygen to one’s actions, and that the mode of presentation of one’s own projects (paying attention to the image, to photography, graphics, staging) is a significant, obligatory aspect, now fundamental.

And while only yesterday we saw the giant Ettore Sottsass grant us the moving testimony of a mask (and Giulio Iacchetti imagining from scratch a project for large retail, leading a team of talented Italian designers that would then become authors of reference, Hella Jongerius proposing new languages and forms inside a company – Vitra – that more than all the others has designed the future we will truly inhabit, Giovanni Levanti rewriting the history of upholstered furniture with a wry smile, Fabio Novembre distilling his vision of the world in a collection of trays that are calling cards for the beautiful sights of our country, Francisco Gomez Paz and Paolo Rizzatto achieving a masterpiece that lights up and amplifies luminous flows over our heads, Ernst Gamperl plunging into his “artisan present” and making vases rendered even more irregular by their very nature, Matteo Ragni demonstrating who to convert small productive realities starting with good ideas and know-how, Luca Nichetto translating sensations and visions that would then lead elsewhere in a very well-done chair), today it is good to record new authors, new stars, new modes, freer and without illusions, and to listen to the sophisticated voices of Formafantasma who construct objects as if they were cooking, Martino Gamper who cuts and assembles recycled furniture with syntaxes and languages between bricolage and Allan Wexler, Francesco Faccin who from his mentors Mari and De Lucchi has taken the best, feeding his own sublime cabinetmaking master with their lessons, Maarten Baas who disruptively and impertinently sets fire – literally – to all previous certainties, making us see another range of possible materials, Susana Soares who starts from other disciplines to think about the future of the planet, posing truly fundamental questions between ecology and technology, Yoshioka Tokujin and Nendo who from the East bring new, perhaps purer lights, Scholten & Baijings and Doshi Levien who update the fine tales of couples, already practiced by Charles and Ray Eames, Lella and Massimo Vignelli, Afra and Tobia Scarpa, and Tomás Alonso, who with disorienting freedom and constructive intelligence, with a taste perfectly aligned with that of the “right” contemporaries, is already seated at the table of those who really count.