Mario Trimarchi


A designer in Italy plays a highly specialised and, on occasion, somewhat unexpected role. Until a short time ago, it was mainly the differences between products that distinguished one company from another in the same sector. Even within similar product sectors, product performance and design only created a pattern of easily identifiable differences that bestowed each product with a ‘personality’ or identity. This situation was however based on differences that the consumer could perceive and could thus use to identify and select the product that best suited his or her needs. This applied despite the fact that other products were similar both in terms of technical characteristics and appearance. Products spoke for themselves, identified themselves, bore their brand names and happily chose their customers. Recently, however, there has been a silent revolution that has brought new rules to the game, and now includes a new species of designer.

The first element of change without any doubt regarded the similarities in product performance, which meant that frequently there was no one product in any particular sector capable of leaving competition far behind. There was little difference between the technical specifications that we used to use for comparison. Nowadays, cars and laser printers all go at the same speeds, computers all have the same memories, watches are all accurate, washing machines all have the same programmes, etc.

The second element was more subtle but had an even greater effect. As various manufacturers quickly understood, their products, per se, would not create the essential differences for much longer, given the global diffusion of technological know-how and expanding customer sophistication. The manufacturers thus invested in creating and developing a brand name, modifying some of the techniques from the world of fashion and transporting them to seemingly far removed sectors.

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Design Management
VIZO Workshop

“Design makes the Difference”
Brussels, Belgium - 29/30 November 2002

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