Brera Design District Brera Design District is a project by Studiolabo
Con il patrocinio del Comune di Milano

In 2014 Brera Design District set up the Premio Lezioni di Design

This prize is awarded to those who have distinguished themselves with their work in the Italian or international design field. The winner’s experience becomes an example, a lesson in design for everyone if it contributes to design culture according to the principles promoted and shared by the Brera Design District.

The prize has a symbolic value. It is awarded during the Fuorisalone week and published on the web platform and via the BDD communications tools.

BDD set up the prize with a twofold aim: to share a case history of success as an incentive and encouragement to all those working in the field, and to take advantage of an “ambassador” figure to represent the district during the event and to become a spokesperson for the shared values of the event throughout the year.

2014 - Ambra Medda2015 - Martino Gamper2016 - Giorgia Lupi2017 - Fabio Viola2018 - Constance Gennari2019 - 10 anni

Il premio per l’edizione 2014 è stato assegnato ad Ambra Medda, per aver promosso un nuovo modo di comunicare il design online, in un mix tra design, arte, moda e musica, dove s’incontrano pezzi d’autore, volti nuovi ed e-commerce limited edition.

Ambra Medda è Co-fondatrice di Design Miami, un evento che ha rivoluzionato il format di fiera d’arte - e co/fondatrice e Creative Director di L’Arcobaleno, magazine e shop online dedicato al design da collezione, fucina creativa per designer, galleristi e curatori.


How important is the Design District concept to you? What is the strategic value for an international city such as Milan or Miami?

AM/ At its best, a design district presents a collaborative moment that brings together a city, a population, and creative and commercial industries and organizations for mutual benefit and inspiration. A design district can also provide a curated experience, which allows any city to tell the design stories it deems most important and to offer a particular point of view or context. By its nature, design is accessible and easily relatable, which makes it a perfect draw for a diverse audience.

L’ArcoBaleno provides a new format for communication and promotion of design / project culture. How does the online forum best benefit design brands? What online tools do you find most useful?

AM/ We created L’ArcoBaleno to celebrate design on a global platform, making it accessible to a worldwide audience. We’re also aligning content with commerce: The site is carefully curated, which means that every piece we choose is incredibly high quality; at the same time, we’re providing layers of editorial context so our readers understand the pieces’ importance, the process and stories behind them, and what makes them so valuable. By combining the best of both worlds—traditional and more contemporary media—we’re able to celebrate design from a variety of angles.
We offer longer form, in-depth editorial by a talented roster of writers and photographers that allow our readers to delve deep into the people, places, and ideas shaping design culture. At the same time, we feature more spontaneous elements like daily blog posts, videos, and an Instagram feed, which allow us to communicate on another, very visual level; these are powerful tools for keeping our readers up-to-date on the work we see and the people we meet. In its entirety, it’s like a design universe.

What are your thoughts on video as a format for web-promotion of design pieces? Do you think it is a vital tool in the presentation of a work? Do you currently use video on L’ArcoBaleno / do have plans to integrate video further?

AM/ We do plan to develop more video content for L’ArcoBaleno. I think video is the most powerful and immediate tool one can use to communicate today; it is beautiful, engaging, and fast. It can be both educational and entertaining, and it allows for very fast dissemination of information, which is perfect for our fast-paced world. Beautiful/interesting/fast.

With Design Miami as a reference point, how do you think the fusion of Design with the Art and Fashion industries will affect the evolution of the Design market?

AM/ Each creative realm carries its own strengths, and it’s great to be able to combine them into a much more complete and multifaceted experience. And by bringing them together, you have the opportunity to speak to a much broader audience. There is so much cross-pollination between the creative fields these days – in film, art, fashion, music, architecture, etc. – it encourages new perspectives and innovation.

What do you look for when choosing designers and objects presented for sale on L’ArcoBaleno?

AM/ The most important criteria for me are quality and soulfulness—things that I believe will stand the test of time and that carry a feeling that resonates beyond the intellectual analysis. I’m always looking for things that are really beautiful, really practical, and especially things that are both simultaneously. I get especially excited when things also offer a fresh approach. And I love to support emerging talent and exceptional artisans from around the globe.

How does the Internet contribute to the larger conversations within contemporary design culture? For instance, do you think it opens a dialogue between established master works with contemporary styles? In what way?

AM/ The ecosystem of the design world is fed by the media, shops, galleries, studios, fairs, and auctions, and the internet is now the fundamental portal to keep up with everything that’s happening globally. It’s so great that the young designer in Korea knows about the new products from design superstar in London who’s aware of up-and-coming tech-driven creatives in LA who are inspired by craftsmen in Japan. It’s exciting because there are ever greater opportunities to share, collaborate and discover new perspectives.

What are your thoughts on the cross-pollination of design and art? Do you see this as a temporary phenomenon, or something more meaningful?

AM/ The two realms still operate quite separately, but they certainly complement each other. I would add craft into this cross-pollination discussion as well. It’s wonderful to see the audiences for each growing and overlapping. Individual artists, designers, and makers today have the freedom to work however and wherever they choose. So it’s easy to find similarities between certain art, design, and craft pieces—especially when they’re made by hand—but they’re not necessarily trying to achieve the same goals. This diversity of creativity makes the world a much more interesting place.

In its second edition, the “Premio Lezioni di Design” was awarded to Martino Gamper, a designer who best interprets and integrates into his work the values at the basis of this year’s theme of the Brera Design District.

Marked by a distinct signature style and approach, the work of Gamper (born in 1971 in Merano) has always been swinging between art and design, sometimes demonstrating an interest for the psychological and social features of the latter; his creations are often the synthesis of stories of the materials, techniques, people and places that are hidden behind the finished product.


What does the phrase “Design is a state of mind”— which is also the title of a series of exhibitions you did at the Serpentine in London and the Pinacoteca Agnelli in Torino and soon at the Museion in Bolzano—mean to you?

The state of mind idea is about the way we look and experience design, in this case in an exhibition, I wanted it to be a very personal experience, but also an active rather then passive experience. I'm interested in how people respond to an exhibition, and what an exhibition can trigger. I wanted to create a narrative around these objects and collections.

“Project Form(s) Identity” is this year's topic, chosen by the Brera Design District to investigate the centrality of planning—which is inherent in design reasoning— when building and consolidating an identity. How important has been the “design culture” in developing your practice through the years?

There would not be any design without this design culture that surrounds it; we would have to call it engineering or something else. The creation of identity is a very vital part in what designers do: it creates a curiosity to go beyond the planning. In my case, the search for identity has been part of my practice since the very beginning, and its still very much part of what I do everyday.

Considering that there can't be identity without a project, we could say that formation, meant as research, learning and knowledge, is what brings together the two expressions of this formula. How much influence did your education (for instance as a student of Ron Arad at the Royal College of Arts) have on your actual work?

The RCA was an amazing place for me to connect learning and playing. Ron managed to put an amazing mix of designers and teachers together. It was also the place where I rediscovered furniture, and how to better understand my identity as a designer.

Speaking of formation processes, what is your relationship with the Italian design history? In your project “100 chairs in 100 days”, you have (also) deconstructed historical works created by major designers: was it your personal way to get rid of history or, on the contrary, did you want to pay a tribute to it?

History can be very restricting sometimes, especial in a place like Italy where we have so much of it. I wanted to re-work some of those pieces in a way to digest and lear history by creating something new.

Your signature style and approach is easy to recognize, even if you deliberately keep it hybrid and therefore free from categorizations: at times it is called design, at times visual art. What are the limits and opportunities when moving within this frontier? Is there any hierarchy between the two worlds?

I see my self as a designer, but my way of working and thinking is very much that of an artist, and I don't really believe in the art-design-craft hierarchy. My practice is very much about walking in between these restrictions and creates new possibilities. But I also think that creativity and ideas aren't linked to a specific dimension: I enjoy working with both art and design— autonomous sphere of creation and the culture of mass production—in parallel; they both teach me something new about the world everyday.

Finally, what is your relationship with the territory? You were born in Merano, now you live in London, where you also studied; before that, you went to the Academy of Vienna and you also lived in Milan, where you had a two year experience at the studio of Matteo Thun. What is the place you call home? What is your relationship with Milan and the Brera district in particular?

I live and work in London, and have lived in many different cities and places, but real home is in the mountains, the other places are transitory houses. My relationship with Milan is very much about love and hate, just like that of the Milanese people in general: they love their city but also loath it. And Brera is of course a very special place for me in Milano.

Interview curated by Paolo Ferrarini.
Giorgia Lupi is an Italian information designer living in New York. Her work in information visualization frequently crosses the divide between digital and print, exploring visual models and metaphors to represent rich data-driven stories. Giorgia challenges the impersonality that data might communicate, designing visual narratives that connect numbers to what they stand for: knowledge, behaviors, people.


In order to do your job, you must “listen” to the world, you need to set yourself in hearing mode all the time. How do you do that? Is it something spontaneous or is there a specific method you apply?

Yes, absolutely. To be a data visualization designer you have to find new ways to attract people’s attention through new languages and new solutions that besides being functional, accurate and appropriate must be magnetic and surprising. To this regard, I believe that learning how to “visually listen” to the world is essential: learning how to SEE is essential to learn how do design. Learning to see and to understand what are the aesthetic qualities that attract our eyes about our surroundings is essential for creators of any kind. What I always do when I start every kind of project is allowing myself to get truly inspired by the world that is around me. Looking for clues in unusual contexts is a valuable way for me to discover and dissect the aesthetic qualities of all the things that I naturally like, as a constant resource for inspiration, and in order to be able to abstract them and introduce them as core principles and guidelines in my work. Just by paying attention to what happens in our mind while looking at the world around us ,we can force ourselves to learn how to see, and how to recognize the qualitative features of all the different images we see. With time we can learn to parse these features and recall them while creating something new.


You have said that you are particularly attracted by common forms of visualization. What is the relationship between familiarity and innovation in your work?

I realized I am mostly inspired by visual languages that are somehow already conventional, the aesthetics of which are familiar to our minds: if a set of aesthetic rules for shapes, for colors, and for spatial composition works in a context I observe, I believe there should be a way to apply them to the designs I am working on. The visual contexts I am referring to are abstract art, but also the repetitive aesthetics of music notations, especially contemporary music notations, or the layering systems of architectural drawings, or even the shapes and features of objects and natural elements: visual environments our minds can refer to even without really getting it. I would then define successful designs as the ones able to balance convention (i.e. familiar forms our minds are already familiar with) and novelty: new features that can engage and delight people in the hope they will stick around our visualizations a bit longer, and in the hope we can help the conversations in our fields moving forward.


Could you be defined as an artisan of data? What’s the role of hand-crafted in your job?

I like that! :) I indeed work with data in a very hand-crafted way.
When I work on any kind of data visualization projects I produce tons of sketches even before pulling in the data in any sort of tool that can return me with a draft chart. I sketch to understand how to spatially organize data, to define both the architecture of the composition and the visual aspects of the tiny details. I’ve always used this laborious process as a way to engage with my data before creating the final digital visualizations. For many readers, the word “data-visualization” might be associated with heavy programming skills, complex softwares and huge numbers for the most part, but, believe it or not, lots of data visualization designers use old-fashioned sketching and drawing techniques on paper as their primary design tool: they sketch with data to understand what is in the numbers and how to organize those quantities in a visual way to gain meaning out of it.

Many people fear that the excess of data could kill spontaneity, but you said that data can help us live a better life. How is this possible??

For the Dear Data project, ( I’ve spent over one year collecting personal data around different topics (my obsessions, my routines, my desires, my negative thoughts, my positive feelings, bits of my relationship with my partner….). But instead of relying on a self-tracking digital app, I collected my data manually, adding contextual detail to each one of my logs, and thus making them truly personal, about me and me only. In a moment when self-tracking apps are proliferating, and when the amount of personal data we can collect about ourselves is increasing over time, we should actively add personal and contextual meaning to our tracking. We shouldn’t expect an app to tell us something about ourselves without any active effort by us, we really have to engage in sense making of our own data. I like to say that data can be a state of mind, that data can be an attitude more than a matter of skills and tools, and ultimately that data can help us becoming more human and connecting with ourselves and others at a deeper level if we put on the right glasses to see it.

What’s the role of art in your job? How can you merge such an artisti and poetic touch with the hard cold data?

I personally see data visualization as the combination of my ‘artistic’ (or, better said, emotional!) side and my rational and scientific one; I have a background in architecture and my mind needs to structure and organize information, but my eyes and my spirit need to see and invent unexpected visuals every time, I guess. I enjoy designing visual artifacts that have a logical and structural sense, I don’t take pleasure in producing graphic designs per se, I do instead take pleasure in shaping visual ways to represent quantitative and rigorous parameters. What drives me in what I do is the overlapping space between analysis and intuition, between logic and beauty, between numbers and images.

If you were a teacher, what would you teach?

The mathematic of art, or the art of mathematic.

The 2017 Lezioni di Design award was given to Fabio Viola: among the world’s TOP 10 gamification designers, he coordinates the advanced training course Gamification ed Engagement Design for IED Milano. He is author of the book Gamification – Videogames in everyday life and of Engage me, to be released by Hoepli. He worked for videogames multinational groups such as Electronic Arts Mobile and Vivendi Games contributing to launching great successes such as Crash Bandicoot, The Sims e Fifa. Over the last few years he has been exploring the connections between game and everyday life supporting public bodies, cultural institutions and big companies in their “engagement” processes towards the public.
We asked Fabio to tell us about his work and his view of contemporary design.


Gaming is your passion, before being your job. When did you understand that this would become your profession?

As long as I can remember, there are two big passions in my life: history and videogames. Still in the late 1990s these latter were not based on any academic studies, so I opted for archaeology at university. After 5 years working my way up on the first websites that talked about videogames, as imprudent as only a 22 year old guy can be, I founded my first “start up". Despite closing it up after a few months, that was the very failure that convinced me that this would be my way in the years to come. Quite fast, while my friends were still studying, I found myself immersed in a dream as I ended up working with many of those companies that had taken my time and money during my adolescence. I have been country manager for Vivendi Games Mobile, communication manager for Electronic Arts Mobile, I have produced and developed several “indie” games and designed some of the Lottomatica social games. My life has always been made of cycles; the last one coincided with the publication of "Gamification – Videogames in everyday life" in 2011. Since then my personal and professional interest has been increasingly focusing on gaming experience design and gamification in everyday life contexts.


What kind of relationship do you think exists between playing and designing?

For long time we have designed highly standardised experiences in continuity with the ideas and practices of the first two industrial revolutions. The result is a too rigid, inhibited and pyramid-shaped world that is creating a short circuit between the needs and expectations of the new generations and the world they live in.
Playing means placing the individual and his emotions back in the centre, moving the axis from the vertical to the horizontal level where the main trigger for every project is engagement. I think the time is ripe for going beyond stereotyped phrases like “stop playing” or “this is not a game”, that seem to relegate to specific moments a learning and discovery method that is in fact essential in the early years of our life to learn 90% of the concepts that will guide us throughout the whole life.


The videogame industry is currently one of the most booming ones and its turnover is growing exponentially every year. What is the reason for that and what do we learn from this model?

It is an industry that was able to intercept – and very often anticipate – social, economical and technological changes occurring over the last 30 years. Let’s think of the functioning of videogames, which necessarily requires the engagement and interaction of the players. hey offer freedom of action and, even more, decision-making power. They are structured by objectives of growing difficulty, they stimulate competition but even more often they push cooperation between the players, they allow self-expression through the personalisation of houses, vehicles and avatars. These features, that I roughly summarised, perfectly correspond to the differences that the new Y and Z generations bring with them, if compared to their parents and grandparents. At economical level, videogames have shown us how it is possible to generate billions of dollars worldwide through the free distribution of the product – the so-called “free to play” model. And last but not least, at technological level they have often been ahead of time introducing 3D, augmented and virtual reality, peripheral devices with sensors. Personally I am sure that this is an extraordinary lens through which to look at the world some years ahead!

The MoMA included in its permanent collection 14 videogames, defining them as a “form of art”. How would you define a videogame?

Only forty years after their birth, videogames have become not only the main world’s creative industry in terms of time spent on them and turnover, but also one of the most complex – and least understood at institutional level – cultural expressions of our time. Creators express ideas, develop creative and language models, tell stories and give different views of the world on a new, fully digital type of canvas. And they do it allowing the user to act and react, making authorial production somehow liquid and for this totally different from all the other artistic expressions in which meta-reflection stays on an inner level, without reaching the aesthetical one.

Many companies are slowly approaching the concept of gamification. Could you explain it in a few words to those who are not familiar with it?

Gamification is a practical methodology to design products, relations and processes. The idea is to create a super user experience borrowing many of the basic principles of videogames and mixing them with elements of psychology and behavioural science. To give an idea of the phenomenon, the gamification market was born in 2010 and last year it earned producers about 2 billion dollars, with a forecast of reaching up to 11 dollars in 2020. Despite this dramatic growth though, many problems have not been tackled yet: first of all the training of expert gamification designers.

In what way will companies benefit from adopting gamification dynamics and concepts?

I was lucky enough to work at dozens of gamification projects in the most varied fields: loyalty programs, marketing campaigns, sales force motivation, physical retail spaces, e-learning, public bodies and cultural institutions. The first big benefit is a systemic change in dealing with problems; design follows a process of analysis of the public, their needs and motivations to identify the best possible solutions. An environment where the protagonist is engaged or highly engaged makes it easier to obtain cascade-like positive metrics: retention, the average time spent in a physical or virtual place, the viral coefficient, the average growing receipt and so on. To mention a real case, in the 2015 edition of the initiative #IoLeggoPerché promoted by the Italian Publishers Association they decided to introduce gamification for the first time as a means to stimulate a series of virtuous behaviours in reading. In less than 3 months users uploaded over 50,000 contents, overcome more than 100,000 missions and 25,000 messengers, i.e. people who had to unlock several missions and get points to achieve that title, were certified. In this way gamification becomes an “engagement by design” tool that drastically reduces marketing and communication costs in favour of organic ambassadors and the word of mouth linked to the internal gameplay.

Could you now tell us something about your next life cycle?

I would like to try and bring my two main passions back together. I founded the association TuoMuseo, winner of Fondazione Cariplo Innovazione Culturale call for proposal in 2016, to experiment new methods for using our cultural heritage. Among the main projects in progress I am particularly proud of Father and Son, a real videogame whose publisher – the only case in the world – is a museum. The game, promoted by the Naples National Archaeological Museum, aims at reaching new global audiences and raise awareness on the importance of our past combining new languages, technological innovation and culture.

According to the Brera Design Week Theme "Be Human: designing with empathy" the 2018 Design Lessons Award goes to Constance Gennari, founder – together with Marianne Gosset– and creative director of The Socialite Family, a platform that by telling personal stories reveals daily objects and places connecting design with the lifestyle of contemporary families. In an engaging overlap of content and container, the readers will identify themselves with the characters described in the stories, but also with their houses and with their favourite pieces. Empathy and identification were the starting point for the creation of a brand inspired by the most iconic objects photographed in domestic interiors located in Paris, London, Milan and New York and described on the web and on social networks.

According to the Brera Design Week Theme "Be Human: designing with empathy" the 2018 Design Lessons Award goes to Constance Gennari, founder – together with Marianne Gosset– and creative director of The Socialite Family, a platform that by telling personal stories reveals daily objects and places connecting design with the lifestyle of contemporary families. In an engaging overlap of content and container, the readers will identify themselves with the characters described in the stories, but also with their houses and with their favourite pieces. Empathy and identification were the starting point for the creation of a brand inspired by the most iconic objects photographed in domestic interiors located in Paris, London, Milan and New York and described on the web and on social networks.