Wednesday. 6/7/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Three cheers

We visit a historic villa furnished by Frama, talk technology and design with Yves Béhar and enjoy a well-packaged tin of Canetta. First, Nolan Giles on annoying advertising.

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Turn it down

We live in an age when we’re constantly bombarded with bad design – bad advertising, to be specific. Jarring banner ads pop up as we scroll through articles on our smartphones and high-street shops use every square centimetre of window space to shout for our attention, typically in a crass and confusing way.

This approach feels increasingly out of step with what consumers want. Given that we are always busy, advertising that draws upon simplicity and clarity should surely enjoy the most cut-through. The world’s most successful company, Apple, subscribes to a marketing approach of minimalism – its ads are imbued with calm, impactful messaging (typically typeset in a crisp sans-serif font) – so why have so few others followed in its footsteps?

A result of all the noise in the advertising world, from out-of-home billboards to tiny banner ads, is that, thankfully, good stuff does stand out. Take our Canetta wine can (see story 07, below), for example. It’s a can of good wine, in a bright package, decorated only with the brand name, which is set in a beautiful custom typeface. When the French brand wanted to advertise a Paris pop-up it simply put up posters featuring the words “Pop Up”, the location and images of its lovely cans. Smart graphic designers should spend more time preaching the “simple is best” truth to brands.

The Project / Villa Medicea di Marignolle, Italy

Public house

Spanish-born independent film-maker Albert Moya has collaborated with Danish furniture firm Frama on an installation at Villa Medicea di Marignolle in Tuscany. Moya, who owns the stately Renaissance-era home, and Frama’s creative team have furnished the living, working, sleeping and dining rooms with a selection of the brand’s timber seats, including its Chair 01 and AML stool, as well as grander pieces such as the Farmhouse coffee table.

While modern, Frama’s pared-back pieces complement existing details in the villa, such as the wood-panelled living room. The result is an atmosphere that’s ideal for relaxed socialising, which is appropriate given that Moya will be opening the villa to the public for exhibitions and talks. “I want it to be a place where everyone can learn something new, absorb knowledge and exchange ideas,” he says.

Design news / Gentleman Wardrobe, Italy

Cupboard love

Italian furniture company Poltrona Frau is celebrating its 110th birthday this year and Ceccotti Collezioni is marking the occasion with a special edition of its Gentleman wardrobe. The Tuscan furniture brand, owned by Poltrona Frau since 2018, is releasing the new piece – originally designed by Milanese modernist Guglielmo Ulrich in 1932 – with a number of contemporary features that combine the companies’ expertise.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Andrea Pugiotto

“Ceccotti Collezioni has the same passion for wood that Poltrona Frau has for leather,” says Franco Ceccotti, founder of Ceccotti Collezioni. As such, the new wardrobe will feature drawer fronts covered with Poltrona Frau leather. This, in addition to a dedicated compartment for watches, complements retained features, such as a brush-and-wax holder and full-length and face mirrors. “It’s a beautiful tribute to Poltrona Frau,” says Nicola Coropulis, CEO of Poltrona Frau. And a beautiful addition to any gentleman’s home.

Words with... / Yves Béhar, USA

Tech support

Born in Lausanne, Yves Béhar moved from Switzerland to the US in the 1980s to study industrial design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Now based in San Francisco, he’s currently chair of the industrial design programme at the California College of the Arts and founder of Fuseproject. The latter is a creative studio renowned for working across disciplines and its diverse client list, which includes companies such as Google, Louis Vuitton and US furniture giant Herman Miller. We caught up with Béhar for ‘Monocle On Design’ to find out more about his approach.

Image: Justin Buell

You have a reputation for integrating cutting-edge technology into your practice. How do technological advances affect your work as an industrial designer?
There are so many incredible scientific developments that we can work with as designers. But technology isn’t just sensors and microchips – it can also be a new material, a new type of assembly or a new way to manufacture something. Often it’s simply a more sustainable way to do things. And so, whether it’s a computer or a chair that we’re working on, we always try to make it very advanced technologically.

Do you have an example of an unexpected piece of industrial design that you created with this outlook?
I always point to our Sayl office chair for Herman Miller, which we launched about 12 years ago. It’s a desk chair that uses existing technologies, such as injection moulding, in a new way. As designers, it’s our responsibility to innovate in the ways that make the products too.

Is there ever any merit in using a new technology simply because you have access to it?
There’s a huge amount of responsibility that falls to a designer. If you have new technology and you apply it in the wrong way or design an experience around it that doesn’t work, then you slow down its development. So, finding the right design for new technology has consequences beyond whether a product works or fails; it determines whether that material, process or product gets adopted and reaches its potential.

For more from Béhar listen to ‘Monocle On Design’.

From the archive / Etcetera lounge chair, Sweden

Memory foam

At the Swedish Furniture Fair in 1971, the young designer Jan Ekselius caused a sensation when he presented Etcetera. The furniture series, which included this Easy Chair, was made out of foam-padded tubular steel frames bent into various squiggles and upholstered in brightly coloured velour. The designs startled Swedes, who were used to seeing pared-back timber furniture at the fair, and the Etcetera became a bestseller.

Illustration: Anje Jager

Today the Etcetera series is considered an icon of design by aficionados and was reissued by manufacturer Artilleriet some years ago. However, while the original was created to be as affordable as possible, costing the equivalent of just €160 today, the reissued Easy Chair retails for more than 10 times that price. And while we believe in paying appropriately for good design, it wouldn’t hurt to have a less expensive alternative available now. After all, a key tenet of 1970s design was the idea that well-designed (and flamboyant) furniture should be available to all.

Around the House / FDB Møbler J178, Denmark

Seat of nature

Designed by Stine Weigelt, the J178 oak chair comes with a choice of two seats: hard oak or handwoven cord. Its elegant and simple form is inspired by the stark landscapes of Denmark’s northern coastline. For proof, look to the sturdy timber construction and the durable, natural paper cord seat option, both of which reference the raw materials found in the region.

“The North Sea has always been a fascinating and frightening inspiration for me,” says Weigelt. “Here only the hardiest plants and animals survive. So only the most essential elements from that environment have found a place in the construction of the chair.”

In The Picture / Canetta, France

Yes, we can

The concept of wine in a tin might feel a little kitsch but a new product from sommelier and restaurant entrepreneur Luca Pronzato proves that this doesn’t have to be the case. It’s called Canetta and its fun and quirky cans were conceived by Djelissa Latini and Amélie Warnault, the duo behind Paris-based Odds studio, who oversaw the entire packaging and visual identity. “From the beginning, we had in mind something very Mediterranean for Canetta,” says Latini.

Image: Djelissa Latini / Amélie Warnault

Working with type designer Benoît Bodhuin, the pair created playful letterforms that referenced sunny and futuristic typefaces from 1970s Italy – and their own childhoods. “I had a very vivid memory of striped, scalloped beach umbrellas from my summers spent in Italy as a child,” says Latini. “I thought that could be a very interesting shape to play with for the label.” The result is a smart piece of graphic design – one that we’ll certainly drink to.


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