We The Italians | Italian design: Collaborative design, where innovation and heritage merge

Italian design: Collaborative design, where innovation and heritage merge

Italian design: Collaborative design, where innovation and heritage merge

  • WTI Magazine #121 Nov 17, 2019
  • 269

Hypersonalization has been a leading trend in the field of services, design, fashion and goods in general. Why is this happening now? Several reasons are contributing to this shift, and all seem to have been accelerated by social media and digital devices. 

Empowered behavior, as consumers have a direct channel to express what, where, and when they want/need. Consumers want to be involved in the creation process to a certain degree, as inclusion is expected to be one of the values of any company. Consumers seem to be performing a twofold role: co-creators and critics.  

According to a research carried out by Deloitte, 50% of consumers not only desire to purchase a personalized item: 48% are also willing to wait longer to have the service or object personalized, while 1 in 5 consumers interested in a customized item is willing to pay 50% premium if the product and service has an added value.  

FabLab: where hearing jewels are made 

QUIETUDE is a collection of jewels and accessories that helps the experience of deaf women in a world of sounds. These jewels are designed to detect sounds and translate them into vibrations, patterns of lights and change form. These accessories allow the person wearing it to feel voices and sounds through their body. 

This collection was developed at the FabLab in Pisa, Tuscany. Fab Lab stands for "Fabrication Laboratory" or "Fabulous Laboratory" and refers to a movement born at the Center for Bits and Atoms of MIT in Cambridge, MA. Prof. Neil Gershenfeld dreamed of a great technological revolution: involving a large number of people, not necessarily technology experts, in the creative process of designing and constructing artefacts by combining physical components and digital. Any FabLab, like the one in Pisa, is an open creative space where everyone, Italian and foreign students and teachers, researchers, (future) entrepreneurs, funders, inventors, policymakers and simply curious can gather and work together. 

Quietude was born in this context of cooperation, under the direction of Prof. Patrizia Marti, in collaboration with Glitch Factory, T4all, Siena Art Institute and the University of Denmark. The idea was to create a functional object without giving up the aesthetic values. And they did it. 

The purpose was to develop a solution that could bring emotional well-being and comfort by reducing the negative impact of the disability. To achieve this ambitious goal, a group of deaf women was involved in the design process, to be sure the implemented solutions were tackling the right problems and in the right way. 

Quietude is the perfect example of the idea behind the creation of the FabLabs: connecting atoms with bits, artisan processes and technology. Indeed, these jewels are not only beautiful objects to wear but have a sophisticated technological functionality: they are connected to an app, developed to control the jewel. Through the app. the user can set the necklace to react to a specific word. For example, it could respond with a particular movement to a personal name while in another way to the word "mom". Thus, every object can be personalized to react to different words.

Around the world there are 1150 FabLabs, 175 just in in Italy: these are the ten I’d like to mention, because worthy of being followed: 

  1. FabLab Torino: the first one to be founded in Italy. They offer 3D printing and laser, a perfect place to create prototypes. They created FabLab for kids, an educative platform for the little ones. 
  2. WeMake: born in Milano in 2014, it is focused on working in an agile model for the designer-producer-company.
  3. The Fablab: born in 2013, it is focused on creating new synergies between University and companies, using the expertise typical of communities. 
  4. Opendot: born in 2014, it focuses on innovation through experimentation in the areas of carpentry, numerical control, electronic, 
  5. FabLab Lazio: located in the headquarters of Spazi Attivi of Lazio Innova, it is active in all the sectors of the Smart Specialization Strategy: aero spatial, life science, art and technologies dedicated to culture, agrifood and green economy, among others.
  6. Makers Modena:partially public and private, the objective of this FabLab is to connect companies with single creative people, such as inventors or individual citizen with an exceptional know-how. 
  7. Mediterranean FabLab: born in 2012 in the province of Salerno, it works on participatory creative processes, and it is dedicated to the creation of prototypes. 
  8. FabLab Roma Makers: born in 2013, this is the first FabLab dedicated to digital handcraft and aims to involve very young students.  
  9. WitLab FabLab:in Rovereto, Trentino Alto Adige, it is the only FabLab entirely privately financed. It promotes actions that will support innovative and green growth. 
  10. FabLab@school: located in Palermo, is the first digital Lab in the South of Italy and it wants to tackle the problem of non-completion of school. 

Italy, with our incredible art and handcraft reality, is the natural setting where digital FabLabs can enhance and contribute to the growth of innovation without forgetting our unmatchable artistic heritage and our exceptional design skills.