Caleido interviews Federica Biasi, designer e art director based in Milan. Welcome to Caleido, an inspirational diary, that narrates many stories: about creative people, trends, travels, objects. / Read the Editor’s letter here / Watch the Instagram live interview here (in Italian language)
Diary of: @federicabiasistudio
1. Many people use words like soft, delicacy, grace and smoothness to describe you, adjectives that reflect the style of your work. Do you recognise yourself in these words?
It is always very difficult to talk about yourself, let alone define yourself in a precise way… It is others who see me in this way, who like to associate my work with a “gentle” style. If we talk about me as a person, I don’t consider myself very “soft”. I am a very bubbly person, always on the move. Sometimes perhaps impatient. I have certainly tried over time to find a compromise between these two spheres: I find that it is fundamental, at work but above all in life, to find an agreement, and to understand for oneself when it is time to take a stand and when, instead, it is better to let go.
2. Referring to this subject, I am curious about the compromises you make in your work. You have designed many objects belonging to different product categories, but in all of them there is a distinctive trait of yours. How have you managed to keep your DNA intact? How, as a creative, do you manage to safeguard this?
I am really pleased that you see a constant trait in my work. To tell you the truth, I don’t always feel that way, on the contrary, sometimes when I see my work I get angry or sorry because I feel I haven’t preserved my identity enough. The truth is that we designers always try to keep our foundations firm. As for me, I have a sort of mental “double-column” decalogue: on the one hand, those things that I am willing to change and, on the other, those that absolutely must not be touched. It’s obvious that if a client asks me for a design, he/she certainly can’t expect something completely different from my style. But it’s not always that easy.
3. Apart from the world of product design, is there any other field you would like to design for? Something you have never done and would like to explore now?
Good question. Yes, I would definitely like to design fashion accessories, like backpacks, bags, jewellery. I’m not doing it now, but I’d like to investigate this sector a lot. I would love to work in this field, even though, to be honest, I am not a great expert in the fashion world. I like fashion, but I don’t follow it very closely.
4. Let’s take a step back in time for a moment, when you spent two years in Holland before opening your studio in Milan. What are the memories you keep? Is there something you remember with particular fondness? Or maybe something you prefer to forget?
I wouldn’t want to forget anything. The experience in Holland was a wonderful time in my life, a carefree, happy time. It was a light, stress-free time in a country where the quality of life is very high. I don’t have bad memories, on the contrary, very good ones. First and foremost, I carry with me the memory of so many people: some whom I got to know well, others whom I only crossed in my path. In addition to them, I also made my passion for the Nordic style my own, which in some ways has become an integral part of my DNA. That period taught me to have what I would call a more relaxed approach. Holland has been a breath of fresh air for me; it is a place of the heart that I am lucky enough to visit often.
5. Speaking of research, how do you approach your research activity? In a physical way or do you also use digital tools? Most importantly, how has this particular historical period influenced your creative routine?
To do research, the real research, you have to go on site. As long as you use tools like Pinterest, accessible to everyone, you will do things that everyone can replicate. Having clarified this, I too, for obvious reasons, use digital tools, but I do so with the intention of investigating in depth. This period has completely overturned my habits. I am a very communicative person, who needs to see people and talk to them in order to find inspiration. Now it has become a bit complicated to bring out the creative side.
6. I follow you a lot and I see that you are very close to everything in the production process. Have you always had this predisposition towards practicality?
It sounds trite to say something like this, but I only understand something when I see it physically. I need to realise what I have in front of me. That’s why prototypes are so important to me; we produce dozens of them, if only to assess a slight variation. But I’m a very impatient person, so I need to see everything right away. The PC? I use it very rarely. As soon as I can, I get away and go to a production lab.
7. One of your most visible projects is the one you did for Nespresso with the “famous” cup. What is an anecdote related to this project?
The “famous” cup? If you say so! Where did I start from? I simply started studying cups from all the bars I went to. Then I started analysing them, one by one. It was a long job, not so much in the creation of the project – because I had very clear ideas – but in the attention to detail. The thing I worked on most was the tactile effect and the section of the part where the lips rest on the cup: I wanted it to be very thin. It was a long process of reasoning about shapes, precision, millimetric details, which is my favourite part, the one I enjoy the most. Now that the project is over, I’m very sorry, it was a work of almost two years, it had become part of the study days.
8. Let’s change the subject and talk a bit about social media, where you are very active. I notice that your profiles are very well maintained. What is your relationship with them?
Personally, I have always loved communicating, so I don’t find it difficult to do it on social media. I am very impulsive, and sometimes I get “caught out” for my extreme spontaneity in posting photos without paying much attention to planning. I am aware that social media are a very strong communication tools today, but I always like to say that they should not become the only channel of communication.
9. In addition to your work as a designer, you are also Lecturer & Teacher of CMF design at IED. You are therefore always in contact with the new generations of creatives. What do you look for in them?
This is a very difficult question… I am impressed by those who can communicate themselves well! What do I look for? Undoubtedly competence and skills, but not only that. In my world, people often talk about who is more or less good, but I find that this is not enough. What you can express about yourself also counts a lot. Certainly what I appreciate most is seeing how much of a personal aspect there is in a project that is realised.
10. What is an object in your home that you would never give up? What is the memory associated with it? Can you send us a photo taken by you?
It may sound absurd, but I am very attached to the bamboo steamer. I take it everywhere, even in my suitcase if necessary. I love cooking, it is a passion that I cultivate with great interest, it helps me a lot especially when I need to free my mind. Over the last few months I have studied a lot of recipes that required the use of a steamer and, for a while now, it has become my favourite object. I like it in many ways, not least of which is its appearance.