The collaboration with Kristalia
In the first place, it’s a token of appreciation for the extraordinary ability that Ruggero Magrini has proved to have in the course of time to evolve and expand his knowledge because, when I met him – although he definitely mastered other types of knowledge – he did not have a design culture. He manufactured products that I somehow approached, although I didn’t like them, because he asked me to design other things.
But I never refuse to discuss things with a customer – a personality trait that my children sometimes tell me off for – because if the customer is capable of producing and selling certain things I think it is right to design things he can produce and sell: this is a fundamental point that should be taught to students. Going back to your question, the answer is that when I met Ruggero, his production had a very Baroque style (you can cancel this later!) and I designed something that could somehow fit in with that. We cleaned them up a bit but they were completely different from the things that really sealed my relationship with Kristalia.
The relationship with Kristalia evolved. It started when Ruggero Magrini began to make some proposals that were nearer the mark from our point of view. I must say that he was very clever because he captured the true significance of these things and then moved on, went ahead.
If you look at Kristalia now you can’t imagine what it used to be like because it is now connected to all sorts of communication tools – this is fundamental – to how to develop a relationship with the right designers who are aimed at and targeted to the right market.
You know who you want to sell to and how you must communicate with these people; the things we mentioned before were very evident in our relationship with Kristalia, a company that – I must admit – I like.
Anyway, our relationship started with the products: Bebop, to mention one. I really liked the idea of using materials in a particular way, exploiting the flexibility of plywood to adapt it to the design and create a structurally strong shape using a very lightweight material. All this attracted me a lot, it was so beautiful that it was difficult to communicate it to the public, but Ruggero tried to do that.
Some products were born after that, Sushi and then Joko…..
The revolution moved towards products with very strict formal contents, but also interesting technical and functional ones. Perhaps the evolution consisted in managing to construct interesting shapes, but also to offer performances that determined the success of some products and, consequently, of the company. To the extent that, in the case of Sushi, this minimal shape was copied by the competition that captured the essence of the product but was not as skilful at developing a family of products as Kristalia was.
Above all, I would say, they were not able to communicate them to their customers in a coherent way and keep them alive with proper marketing techniques; one of the aspects that ensues from this trait of Kristalia is the possibility of transmitting certain things that, concerning the project, the product and the designers, are fundamental for those using the product. In the other cases the product is so anonymous; it is served up by computers, by printers and backed up by such distant relationships that its essence is hardly ever truly conveyed ……
The communication tools employed by Kristalia that involve the potential user in the history of the product, in its birth are really important, they are fundamental; they show you what’s behind the product.
After this presentation, that I think was made in 1998, it is in fact true that the first products we launched were a sort of compromise between what Kristalia represented at the time and what it became after a few years, but this phase was very short, it lasted a year. As early as a year, a year and a half later, Ruggero was able to seize the opportunity and the prospects available by giving a more focused direction, a more rigorous strategy to his company. His great ability, working together, was that of capturing the type of design culture we tried to communicate to him initially and then pursue it, combining it with clear strategies and objectives. It is unusual to come across companies able to pursue a goal in the course of time, even when the going gets tough, through a crisis, with all the things that can happen in the life of a company.
I think Ruggero’s steadfastness and his clear intentions in developing his business project are very praiseworthy. It is quite unusual to meet a company that has the perseverance to pursue a specific idea without getting overwhelmed by fashions, by a crisis or by somebody saying he needs a certain product rather than another. In other words, the clarity of mind to pave the way and decide which resources were needed and then put together a company organisation to walk that path in the best way possible. It is fundamental to know how to choose the right collaborators; in this, Ruggero has proved to be a very efficient business man.
Although it wasn’t the last and perhaps isn’t the one that, from a formal viewpoint, interests me the most from all the proposals we have made to Kristalia, Sushi has been a fundamental product. It has been so important for us and for the company that I would define it as the most significant product born from our relationship with Kristalia. Firstly, because we started off with quite a scant briefing, therefore, the fact that we managed to find this solution within that theme and develop it to become a system, in such a significant way for the company, gave us great satisfaction in the end. This was also acknowledged by the fact that many companies either talked about the product or copied it. Therefore, from my point of view, this remains the most significant product. I think it also marked a certain maturity, of the company and of our project for the company, because this was perhaps the first time that Kristalia tackled a project with the technical, technological and rigorous approach that subsequently became a distinguishing feature of all its products. Well, there was definitely an improvement in the company’s ability to develop a complex product that was accurately fine-tuned and communicated in an equally substantial way.
Another important product was the Joko chair, because it was the result of a long process, a long gestation, a matter of taking material away from the form. I am fond of this product because I think that, in this case, we really finally achieved a balance between form and matter, which we could no longer continue to remove. It was a really long job focused on the prototype. I really must say that the prototype, for Joko’s development process, was fundamental because for this model the computer was used later. My attachment to the product also derived from this physical work that was performed on the product.