by Aurelio Zanotta, Design Conference, Aspen 1989

"I began producing objects for the home, mainly sofas and armchairs, in 1954.

Those were years of great vitality, there was an explosion of constructive energy, a profound desire to sweep away the past and create a new world. The phenomenon of Italian design grew out of this widely felt urge to renew every¬thing and also the fortunate encounter between gifted young designers - Iike Achille Castiglioni, Marco Zanuso, Ettore Sottsass and many others - with entrepreneurs who Iike me wanted to risk doing new things.

We(didn) 't realize we were creating what is today called ITALIAN DESIGN and that our products would be the pieces that have determined its history and development. Enthusiasm and spontaneity were the driving force of our work. Intuition prevailed over reason; and the work of the entrepreneur, Iike that of the designer, had nothing scientific or calculated about it but was a creative act, pure and simple.

Some firms then had the insight to grasp the crux of the design-produc¬tion problem: namely that they could produce culture and prof¬its at the same time.

A factory-owner, then as now, had basically two choices: to aim directly at profit and so try to optimize the cost-earnings ratio, or else aim at increasing not just the quanti¬ty but the quality of his products. I made the second choice: I wasn't only interested in turning out functional products to sat¬isfy the demand of the mass market and get an immediate prof¬it; I wanted something more.

It was clear that the role of the manufacturer would be more incisive if his products were also cultural instruments that educated the public. Taking this path, making it the firm's production policy, means having a more complex vision of industrial reality; knowing that the invest¬ments and energies deployed, to be effective, have to be substan¬tial and continuous and that they have long response times.

It means, in other words, giving space to research understood in all its components: aesthetic, formal, technological and sociological as well as market factors.

Research was and is the hub on which Italian design turns.

The basic problem is to succeed in reconciling the urge to conduct research with the need to make profits so as to finance the investments required to keep it going.

I believe that the furniture industry has to continue to strive to anticipate future needs, without Iimiting itself to satisfying the public's passive demand. We have to present the public with a range of products with exact purposes and precise functions that embody innovative and emotional qualities. I do not mean innovation of form alone but also of substance. I have always conducted research, invented and produced objects that are not just superficially new; I do not seek to create objects that set the fashion, because I believe that fashion is conformism and from my viewpoint conformism is a thing of the past.

The cultural value of design has formed the core of our history and it is still the winning card for our future prospect if we play it right.