Living and designing beyond boundaries: the story of Gabriele D’Angelo
From crafting wooden products inspired by the local environment to his role as a hands-on art director, Gabriele’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of design, proving that innovation knows no borders
In the realm of design, geographical boundaries no longer define creativity’s reach. This article explores the story of Gabriele D’Angelo, a designer from the picturesque Sicilian landscape, and delves into the unique challenges and opportunities that arise when pursuing a design career outside of traditional industry hubs.
I reside in a small town nestled in the heart of Italy, a considerable distance from the epicenter of the design world. Over the years, I’ve carved my path to collaborating with companies outside my immediate territory, even reaching beyond the borders of my country. This journey has afforded me the opportunity to work with individuals and entities from diverse locales, and it’s been an incredibly satisfying experience.
However, one inherent challenge of this unconventional approach is the absence of written rules. Each region possesses its unique approach to design, and there are parts of Italy where pursuing a career in industrial design might seem like an insurmountable task. I’ve played by my own rules, but these principles can’t be universally applied.
Today, I want to shine a spotlight on another design outsider who has been playing his own game far removed from the traditional design hubs: Gabriele D’Angelo, a designer hailing from the beautiful island of Sicily. Sicily is renowned for its splendid weather, delectable cuisine, and inviting getaways—ideal for a summer sojourn. But what about design? Does design have a place here?
What I’ve come to realize through my own experiences is that design exists everywhere. It’s not solely the sleek lines of a metal faucet produced in Germany; it encompasses a multitude of opportunities waiting to be discovered and developed. If you were to imagine being a designer in a bustling metropolis like New York City, your career path would typically start with an internship, progress to junior roles, then senior positions, and so forth. There’s a well-defined trajectory to follow, with a clear sense of what’s expected.
However, for someone like Gabriele D’Angelo, who resides in a region where creative agencies and companies aren’t teeming with designers, navigating one’s path becomes a unique challenge. Gabriele’s journey as a product designer began with a collaboration with Ferrantelli, a Sicilian carpenter who shared his vision.
Together, they embarked on the creation of small wooden products inspired by their local surroundings. Subsequently, Gabriele honed his skills as an art director, overseeing ventures like Zag Design and Kimano – a brand by Ducale Marmi – (which continues to thrive). What sets these collaborations apart is the hands-on approach.
While conversing with a Milanese art director might reveal a role primarily focused on guiding artistic endeavors, Gabriele D’Angelo actively engages in the entire process. He contributes to strategic planning, handles graphic design, collaborates with other designers, and personally designs pieces for the collection. In many cases, businesses only recognize the need for a design-driven approach when someone draws their attention to it.
In such instances, a brand might require a complete overhaul, essentially starting from scratch. This scenario resonates with the post-World War II era in Northern Italy, where visionary entrepreneurs and skilled designers forged long-lasting brands. For a major company dealing in marble, producing home accessories may seem to have a negligible impact on overall revenue.
A few chopping boards won’t make a substantial difference if you’re primarily selling large marble blocks. The significance lies in the cultural approach and the enhancement of brand image. Stepping into the world of design introduces a fourth dimension—an intangible quality that transcends the tangible aspects of design.
It’s a blend of elements encompassing communication, style, and strategy that collectively creates a profound sense of accomplishment. This intangible essence can truly set a brand apart. Moreover, delving into the design world provides access to new realms and the opportunity to engage with individuals who can open doors to fresh prospects.
Attending events like 3DaysOfDesign in Copenhagen or simply being part of Milan’s Fuorisalone offers a breath of fresh air and exposure to new perspectives. This journey toward design emancipation empowers individuals to make a lasting impact over time and equips companies with the tools to elevate their game.
It’s a transformation that transcends boundaries and enhances competitiveness across the board.