The Italian home-ware design company, Alessi, has produced some of the most memorable classics that come out as witty and playful to one group of people as they appear jaunty and annoying to others. However, the second perspective is often out of un-appreciation of Italian design history. From the squirrel-shaped nut-crackers to the bunny toothpick holder, Alessi products are founded around the idea that design is a poetic and artistic discipline. They are aimed to amuse the users, form memories, create an element of surprise and express the designers’ artistic creativity without undermining functionality. Through these designs they introduce the emotional interaction with items by embedding recognizable, symbolic and psychological character on the products.
History Of Alessi
The company was founded by Giovanni Alessi in 1921 as one of the long line of metal-ware companies at Ormegna in the Alps’ Strona valley, beside Lake Orta, in Italy. It remained a recognized brand for high-standard workmanship producing metal wares, but it was only between 1935 and 1945 under the stewardship of Carlo Alessi, Giovanni’s son, that they gained recognition with its signature Disney-esque forms and cartoony look that would typify their products for the next century and beyond.
The first son of Carlo, Alberto is the force behind the wide Alessi brand expansion and his work spans throughout the 1970s to 2000s involving serious transformations and change of direction in Alessi design several times, sometimes bringing fortunes and others proving disastrous for the brand. Throughout his long career, he has stood his ground in promoting the interdependence of art and design and has even considered himself as the rightful heir to the arts and crafts movement initiated by John Ruskins and William Morris in the 20th century Vienna workshops.
The success of this company, on a great extend, resulted from long term collaborations with design luminaries like Achille Castiglioni, Ettore Sotsass and Alessandro Mendini. These design titans helped raise the Alessi profile and created diverse home-ware products including; kitchenware, clocks, watches and soap dispensers that deviated from the harsh geometries and monochrome surfaces to more organic childlike, humorous forms with the playful Alessi look.
Popular Alessi Products
Magic Bunny Toothpick Holder By Stefano Giovannoni
Released in 1998, this is one of the most popular products that resulted from the F.F.F (Family Follows Fiction) meta project. The plastic bunny possessed long pointed ears, in a similar color oversized plastic hat. The humor in this product is by lifting up the hat to reveal the presence of the toothpick hidden underneath.
Other notable designs are: the Juicy Salif’ citrus juicer by Philippe Starck (1990); Michael Graves’ 1991 ‘Piazza’, a coffee and tea service and Carlo Alessi’s ‘Bombe’, a coffee pot made of stainless steel in 1991.
Product design has in the past focused more on utility side of products at the expense of sensitivity and emotions. However, more studies are continually focusing on human experience in product design central to which is communication and emotional appeal. They might not have had the advanced knowledge on human design when they first set to produce fuzzy things, but their appeal to pure human relaxation and joyfulness laid a fundamental benchmark to present and future human design approach to products.