Gum Design: when Design becomes a story

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Today, I am pleased to present an interview that brought me both joy and pride. Who would have thought that I would have had the pleasure to speak with Gabriele and Laura from Gum Design and be able to ask them all of the questions I had been wondering about for such a long time? It’s true, because for me, it’s a very creative studio with some of the most interesting poetics of contemporary design.

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Gabriele, Laura and me

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Details – Gum Design Studio

Initially Gum Design caught my attention for the aesthetics and shape of its products. But then after talking with this creative couple, I was really struck by their great attitude: I discovered a world of stories and thoughts with pure creativity and dreams! It was a meeting that enriched me, both from a professional and personal point of view. The enthusiasm and passion that they had whilst talking about their work was really contagious, as well as being a great inspiration for creative people of all ages.

Here is my video interview with Gum Design.

ME > Tell us, who is Gum Design?

GUM (Gabriel)> Gum Design was founded in 1999, when Laura and I met at an exuberant event during the Salone Satellite in Milan. After a while Laura became my companion and then my wife. It’s from that event at Salone Satellite that our enterprise began, bringing us closer and closer to the world of design, graphics, production and consequently to the world of fairs. Today, our studio deals with all of these issues.

ME > Did you know you would be perfect together before you created this wonderful reality that has now grown and is well known?

GUM (Laura)> We come from very different realities, he comes from the world of architecture and I come from the world of design and graphics, it’s this our  diverse backgrounds that has given us the opportunity to confront, discuss and deal with both our life and business. What we really love to do for each design project that we face is to create it together, with a story. We make each project a little bit like reading a book with a story to browse, understand and talk about. We can then combine the story to the more solid part of the design.

ME > Have there ever been any tough moments when you thought: ‘We can’t do it, let’s change direction?

GUM (Gabriel)> Not just for tough moments at work, in life there are also times when you think about changing direction because your life changes. Three years ago we had our little girl, which also changed a whole number of our perspectives. But this is a job that we like very much and it occupies every day of our daily life, we can’t see ourselves doing anything else and this is probably what we will do for the rest of our lives.

ME > So how important is the love and passion in the work you do?

GUM (Laura)> It’s fundamental, in your work there must be love, passion and dedication. You must have all of this because besides the fact that you have to invent ideas day after day, you also must be happy and emotionally involved in your work too.

ME > Define design, what is design to you?

GUM (Gabriel)> Design is a thought, a reflection. There are those who have described our productions as “solid stories.” Behind every product there’s the  initial phase of research, analysis and then above all, as we said before, there is the search for a story. The shape, whilst important with its purpose and logic, becomes almost a secondary aspect. For us the most important part is what the object says because each of our objects has a narrative.

ME > And this is precisely the philosophy of Gum.

GUM (Gabriel)> Exactly. In every project we are looking for something that tells the story and can enhance the object beyond its pure physical representation.

ME > Definitely interesting. I personally know you for your  ‘Calici’ (Goblets), in particular ‘Swing’, which I found to be a very attractive object because it manages to combine form, function and aesthetics, all which interact without contradiction. With your collection ‘Calici Caratteriali’ (Character goblets), I know you have won many prizes for it and that it has become part of the permanent collection of MoMA in San Francisco. So, I’m  interested to know how exciting it is to have your own products displayed in such an important museum?

GUM (Gabriel)>

It is a great satisfaction. ‘Swing’ which was created in 2007 and was later changed to ‘Estroverso’ (the Extrovert) in 2011 when the extended collection of ‘Calici Caratteriali’ was created. Part of this collection is ‘Estroverso’, ‘Introverso’, ‘Rilassato’, ‘Altruista’, and ‘Passionali’, etc. Each of these glasses represents a characteristic aspect of being human. ‘Estroverso’ (Extrovert) is so called because it offers itself to others in a fun, humorous and spontaneous way. It depends on how you move the glass, on one hand it decants the wine and on the other it becomes a moment of play and encounter. Finding this glass on the table, initially generates some amazement, followed by fear of touching it for of fear of breaking it, but then, you start to play with it and it becomes a reason to smile, to chat, for a story, which ultimately brings the table alive.

GUM (Laura)> For the ‘Calici Caratteriali’ (Character Goblets), the relationship between crystal, a beautiful and fragile material and man, with all his vulnerabilities, was the stimulus for this design. Each of the ‘Calici’ (Goblets), remains true to the classic shape of a wine glass, but each character has a small stylistic transformation that gives it a personality.

ME > Are the ‘Calici’ (goblets) the product that represents you the best or is there something else that you are more emotionally or conceptually related to?

GUM (Gabriel)> It’s hard to say precisely because all of our projects contain narrative paths that are difficult to conceive and elaborate, they are all created with emotion. However, the ‘Calici’ are perhaps the product to which we are more attached to because they marked the beginning of a new design path for the Studio. It is from the ‘Calici’ that we started to design with the philosophy of storytelling that characterizes us. They are a bit like a first child, the beginning of a maturing design process. They are objects that have given us a great deal of satisfaction, being displayed in the permanent collections of the MoMA, the Glass Museum in Shanghai and the Triennale, also they are products that work well commercially.

ME > From the beginning of your adventure, right up to this day, and then on into the future, how does Gum Design adapt to the changes in lifestyle and to the different things people want?

GUM (Gabriel)>

Our Studio, being a small studio by our design, is able to be very flexible and this flexibility enables us to adapt to different social needs. Often we create events that later turn into real business projects. We think that this can be a smart solution to address a market which is constantly changing. It’s for this reason we design objects, houses and graphics, but, we also create containers/spaces in which we insert a series of ideas of different design approaches, involving other designers, and people that we value.

Our latest project of this type is ‘Biloft’, it was created for the Fuori Salone of Salone del Mobile Fair last year, it was a container that is still continuing to be transformed, becoming a real shared business project.

After the fair at Salone del Mobile we took ‘Biloft’ on tour, stopping in Riccione and then in September we will stop in Venice for the Biennale of Architecture, where we will have a large space of about 200sqm near the Arsenale.

ME > You are definitely busy with projects for the future!

GUM (Gabriel)>It is a way to keep up with changes and reality in our business. Besides that, for about the last year and a half we have embarked on an experience of self-production with ‘La Casa di Pietra’ (The House of Stone) project.

‘La Casa di Pietra’ was created for the Marmomacc fair in Verona and from an initial exhibition with 12 product collections on display, today we have 31 products to display and in July we will be in Rome for Altaroma in Via Margutta.

‘La Casa di Pietra’ has thus become a real entrepreneurial project that involves only Italian craftsmen selected from Italy. We have started to build a catalog which now contains about 120 products, all that combine stone and other materials.

ME > What do you wish for the future?

GUM (Laura)> Happiness!

GUM (Gabriel)> It’s everyone’s wish … peace of mind … But do you mean  from a professional point of view?

ME > Yes, anything ..

GUM (Gabriel)> Yes, the most important thing is to be happy. Happiness can also influence you from a professional point of view. Happiness is an aspect that must be present to be able to plan well, to be harmonious and balanced. In our studio, we have a lab, it’s a kind of studio within a studio, where we welcome young designers who want to experience Gum Design. The Lab is very important for us, a constant stimulus that keeps us close to young people and gives the studio an increasingly dynamic aspect, always changing, in fact, the only ones who stay the same are Laura and I. In addition to the Lab we do university courses at the IED and other schools, all of these make very interesting meeting moments.

ME > How long do young designers stay for who are interested in having an experience in your Lab?

GUM (Gabriel)> 3 to 6 months usually, but in some cases they stay longer with a different relationship. 3 to 6 months is the minimum time to be able to understand, learn, and develop our design process, which is not so easy and quick to learn. The first month is a month of study, then the second and third month they start working and assimilate our creative process which will then become either their future or not, but it’s still an experience. Some are established and have already started their path, others who were with us have started working together and this also gives us a sense of satisfaction, because we see that they have passed through our Lab, they are not lost but they are motivated to move forward and grow.

ME > Do you have any advice for young emerging designers who want to start their own business?

GUM (Gabriel)> Of course, do it!

ME > Take action then!

GUM (Gabriel)> Yes, and never lose heart.

GUM (Laura)> Always believe in yourself; you must always try.

GUM (Gabriel)> Then we also need luck, we want many things, but to believe in it is essential.

ME > To  conclude, can you summarize Gum Design in three words?

GUM (Laura)> I always put the dream into a story …  I’ll leave one to you Gabriel.

GUM (Gabriel)> Hugs and kisses.

GUM (Laura)> There are now Four.

(Laughter)

Gabriel and Laura have such a fresh, dynamic and versatile approach to design that it’s impossible not to get involved. Do you feel it too?”

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I am wearing the bracelets from “La Casa di Pietra” project by Gum Design

Useful Links:

Gum Design

The “Character Wine Glasses”

The “La Casa di Pietra” project

Credits:

Art Direction by Giulia Grilli

Photos and Video by LSDP Creative

Salva

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