Are objects really functional without an emotional purpose? Interview with Simone Bonanni

More than objects, Simone Bonanni’s designs are meant to trigger our emotions. He believes in the power of aesthetics and its interrelation to function in products.

Simone Bonanni is exploring the world of creativity through product and furniture design. In 2015, he established Simone Bonanni Studio (SBS) in Milan, where he works on multidisciplinary projects that combine the context, function and meaning of objects to bring out their aesthetics.

More than just physical entities, Bonanni perceives products as “activators of emotions” and shifts the focus of his work from the technical design of an object to the design of the emotion that can arise from it.

SBS is currently working on projects for selected international brands such as Alessi, Moooi, MDF Italia, FIAM, Falper, Mingardo and many others. DesignWanted took the chance to talk to Bonanni about his latest works, his process and his approach to design.

Simone Bonanni Studio (SBS) was established in 2015 in Milan, focusing on multidisciplinary projects – ©Davide di Tria

Who is Simone Bonanni? How did the journey for Simone Bonanni Studio (SBS) begin?

Simone Bonanni: “I’m a designer based in Milan. As a young student, I applied to various Italian architecture universities but for some reason, I was always rejected.

At that point, “design” was just an interesting alternative, and this was the exact moment when the journey began. I graduated from IED Istituto Europeo di Design (Milan) in 2011 with a project awarded with Honourable Mention at the 23rd ADI Compasso D’oro Award.

In 2012, I left Milan and joined the Marcel Wanders team in Amsterdam. I worked there as a product designer and project leader for 3 years. I came back from the Netherlands in 2015 and founded Simone Bonanni Studio (SBS) in Milan.

You constantly aim to create a relationship between the object and its user that is first affective, then corporeal. What role does product design play in this?

Simone Bonanni: “The approach to each of my projects is not just about personal taste, a specific production need, the achievement of a target price or the expression of a trend, but about the result of an analysis, how it should be perceived in a given context, and the emotions it should arouse through its aspect.

The project is about envisioning a new emotion and the shape is the direct consequence. Colors, materials, the temperature of the surface, the smell, weight and silhouettes, together contribute to raise feelings and generate value.”

Curious to know about other designs meant to make us feel pampered? Don’t miss the Hortensia Armchair by Andrés Reisinger & Júlia Esqué.

The Hana Armchairs are sculptured around the human body and its need to be pampered and embraced for long stretches of time – ©Davide di Tria

At SBS each project is brought to life in a different dedicated manner. When working on a project, out of the many ideas you generate, how do you identify a good one?

Simone Bonanni: “Time. Time is the most precious tool to rely on when it comes to taking decisions, uncovering beauty and discovering mistakes. Even though this makes my design process rather slow and focused on only a few projects at a time, I find it necessary and eventually rewarding.”

Theo a series of dining tables for FIAM Italia – ©Davide di Tria

Which role is nature playing in the selection of materials for your projects?

Simone Bonanni:I aim to design objects which would look beautiful for their spontaneity and genuineness, trying to select materials and envision silhouettes that are able to attract my audience through an emotional and visceral connection. Exactly like Nature does to attract and evolve.

In these terms, Nature becomes a crucial source of inspiration.

Considering aesthetics as a consequence of a deep understanding of the essence, context, function and meaning of a certain typology of objects, how do you combine aesthetic and functional features within a product?

Simone Bonanni:I see aesthetics as a kind of emotional function. Technical functions, performance and ergonomics are nothing if wrapped into the wrong aesthetics. For this reason, I simply believe that there is no need to consider aesthetics and function as two separate features. They just grow and blend simultaneously with no real need to force them together.”

Theo portrays a neoplastic painting turned three-dimensionally – ©Davide di Tria

SBS is currently working on projects for renowned international design brands. How do you measure success in the design industry?

Simone Bonanni: “All those who do a job that depends on the approval of others, eventually aspire to be successful. It just depends on what meaning we give to the word success as it is very personal.

To me, success is not about the companies I collaborate with or the number of projects I present every year. It is far more rewarding to receive honest appreciation exclusively for the work I do by those who I respect, admire and love.

Theo is the result of a process of graphic synthesis and research of the right balance between solids and voids – ©Davide di Tria

What do you believe are the main trends & future directions within product design and what do you think of them?

Simone Bonanni:I’m curious about trends and obviously take them into consideration when designing a new object. However, I cannot say they are one of the main ingredients of my final recipes. As we all know, trends tend to become shorter and shorter, sometimes they vanish in a single month, it gets difficult to only rely on them as a designer.

I have to say that one of the latest scenarios that caught my attention is the mystic field of crypto-art and crypto-design. It’s scary and fascinating at the same time, dynamics we are perhaps not ready to understand yet … like all the greatest inventions in the past human history.”

What is the next step for Simone Bonanni and SBS?

Simone Bonanni: “At the moment I’m working on several projects, both from furniture, exhibitions and installations. This May, I’m launching a new bed and a set of drawers for the bedroom in collaboration with an Italian company. On the occasion of this event, I will be exhibiting 10 large artworks that aim to frame and define my approach to design.

Moreover, I will be presenting a new dining table with a Dutch company which I’m collaborating with for the first time. In 2022, two large outdoor furniture collections are in the pipeline and more to come. It will be an exciting year.”

It takes more than technical skills to make good designs, discover the ‘SMILE’ philosophy by Robert Bronwasser.

Kandinsky is born out of a consideration about the upcoming evolution of our domestic spaces – ©Davide di Tria
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