Di·segno Design is a design studio in Lucca, Tuscany, that does colour, interior, and self-produced design. They are well known in Italy for their freehand wall decorations, carried out by the young husband and wife team of Silvia Magrini and Stefano Giovacchini, and one frequently spots their unmistakeable work in home magazines. They have infallible taste that we at MakeTank appreciate 100%.

Recently, Stefano has been trying his hand at self-produced design. Let's find out from him why.

Why produce your own design objects? What advantages are there for a designer like you?

My training is artistic rather than technical, so my approach to design has always been based on manual know-how and ability. I am a kind of artisan, with experience in producing one of a kind objects or those in limited series. When making these objects, I usually work with local artisans and I appreciate this because I get to encourage local talent, pick my materials, and monitor the progress. Eliminating the commercial middlemen of mass production makes the price of self-produced design concurrent with industry.

At the moment, I am fascinated by the possibilities offered by digital, low cost technologies like 3D printing and laser-cut and I am a big fan of open hardware. Thanks to these, small to mid sized industries and individual professionals now have technology at their disposal that was unthinkable just a few years ago. I think that being able to produce something unique or in a small series, personalized and always different, is a real revolution for a designer like me.

What machines do you use for your projects? How long did it take to learn how to use them?

Sometimes I collaborate with artisans who use more traditional machinery, but for my own production I often use laser-cut services for cutting paper to make design objects. Lately, for some small pieces and for prototypes, I have been using a 3D Prusa Mendel printer that I got about a year ago. I am very satisfied with it and pleased to use the machine that heads up the international open hardware movement.

Learning how to use this 3D printer doesn't require just computer skills but also artisan skills. It took me about a month of experimenting with it to be able to use it functionally for production. Along with LuccaLUG, a free software and hardware user group in Lucca of which I am president, we are building a Prusa i3, the evolution of the Mendel, which has better resolution and can print larger objects. I need not point out that open hardware is a huge resource for me!

Most of the time I print with PLA, biodegradable plastic, and I hope to soon find a product that can be composted. I design with a MacBook Pro equipped with Linux and only open software (Blender, Inkscape, Gimp etc.), not to mention lots of pen and paper!

What is your ideal aesthetic and how do you think that these technologies can help you reach it?

My ideal aesthetic is one that makes life better for people. I believe that aethetics are a basic necessity, like bread. In all cultures in which there is culture and well-being, aesthetics play a central role. If you live amongst beauty, you live better, there's no argument there. If "you are what you eat," you reflect where you live, and vice-versa.

An example of a home decorated by Disegno Design in all natural materials.

In design, the best aesthetic is often the one that resolves a problem in the simplest way. New technologies allow beauty to reach more people, help make design democratic. Let me explain better: when industrial design was born, those involved had a utopian idea of bringing beauty into everyone's homes, making art available to everyone. Over time, design has become much more elite, and is often associated with luxury.

If industrial design did not create democratic design, maybe the Makers movement can do so. Now we have the possibility to own a unique object at a reasonable price, but also to make it for ourselves.

You've just started collaborating with an architecture studio in Brussels; in the past we know you've worked with Tuscan manufacturers on projects... tell us a bit about the extended world of Di·segno and the role of collaboration in design.

Di·Segno is a small company but we're full of energy and we have always been interested in partnerships and sharing experiences. We're active members in many cultural associations and often we collaborate with other designers or professionals when participating in architecture, design, art and communications competitions. When we work as decorators, we often partner with architects, and in these cases we try to interpret and accurately complement their visual language. As creatives, we have designed objects and displays for companies including Mariplast, Thus and Mammarò.

At the moment I am trying to concentrate on the following two projects:

  1. The collaboration with ARQEH architecture studio in Brussels, for whom we will be carrying out our decorations as well as making self-produced design objects with the goal of creating a co-brand for ecological design;
  2. I have recently founded a communications company GENAU, in which I am a technical consultant and creative.

What do you like about MakeTank and what objects did you put up for sale in your shop? What's the story behind them?

Block Lamp - for sale at www.maketank.it!

MakeTank is a project that invests in new technologies and in creatives. What could be better than that?!

At the moment, in my shop I have put a table lamp called BLOCK and the MacBLOCK notebook stand, both of which I made with my little 3D printer in PLA. These objects are experiments in domestic 3D printing. I was wondering what the limits and advantages of this kind of production are, what kind of finish and detail I could reach, and if it is possible to really produce saleable objects with this machine. (The answer is 'Yes.')

The results are these very artisanal but digital objects that have small differences amongst them, details due to the machinery used, that make them not at all defective but rather fascinating. Each one is similar but unique.

Printing in 3D right now reminds me of when I first experimented with some of the first digital cameras. The amazement in discovering a new medium, knowing how to appreciate pixels as big as grains of rice... I feel the same pioneering pleasure again today, during this potential turning point for these new technologies.

Buy Stefano's creations on MakeTank


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