Words with Masters

We ask a group of leading designers about their careers, their inspirations, their thoughts on the current state of design, and their advice for the generation to come.

 Roberto Palomba | Architect, Designer and Founder, Palomba Serafini Associati

Who are some of the design icons that you have looked up to throughout your career?
Each period of design’s history has its icons. Charles and Ray Eames are for sure people to admire: they were able to design a monolithic object that was at the same time sensual and light, such as the RAR chair for Vitra, which represents the maturity of the Eames and their ability to design innovative products. Another example could be Achille Castiglioni, who reinvented lighting with his Arco lamp, designed for Flos.

In addition to iconic designers and architects from the past, we have cultural or historical influences, like the moviemaker Pedro Almodóvar, artist Ron Muek, Russian composer [Modest] Mussorgsky, or the Italian poet Eugenio Montale. They are all fragments of a unique universe made by references.

At what point did you start to realize that people look up to your own work?
When we saw that more and more of our products have been copied.

What is your design philosophy? How do you work with your wife and partner, Ludovica, to make design a reality?
Our creations, whether they are pieces of design or architecture, are derived from observations of change in human behavior. Our initial drafts are projections of our own needs. Our two visions are complementary and our design consensual.

The challenge of our work is merging function, innovation, and longevity. We seek to project courage and serenity through the purity and originality of our work. Perhaps we are trying to pluck our creations from a collective unconsciousness; our task is to mold and deliver them. That is what characterizes our creations: research—often long, difficult, and exhilarating—to finally reach what is evident.

What most excites you about design today?
All of the new materials are very interesting, for example LAUFEN’s SaphirKeramik ceramic, which provides me with the opportunity to rethink ceramic design. There are always new challenges in terms of innovation. The real innovation must be 360 degrees—not only aesthetic but also functional and sustainable.

Do you have any advice for fledgling designers?
Be curious, always. Find your own style, even by making mistakes. Never forget your originality and taste while looking for what is new. It could be hard work, and we are not saying that it will be simple to find your own way, but there are no secrets to becoming a designer. You have to study, to work with companies and professional people that can teach you something new. It’s a path where you can spread competencies and passions. And last but not least, be yourself.

Tell us about your favorite place to work.
On a plane, because I can design without any interruption—there are no phones (although I’m afraid that in a short time this will change, too).

What’s the one piece of furniture you can’t live without?
It’s not a piece of furniture, but I can’t do without my iPod, because I can’t live without music.

What is your favorite interior space?
There is no one in particular, but for sure it is a space full of natural light.

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