We asked award-winning designer Andrea Ponti some questions about his work: he specializes in product and industrial design.
Andrea Ponti is an Italian industrial designer with 15 years of experience between Japan and China.
He graduated from Politecnico of Milan and started as a researcher in industrial and transportation design at Kyushu University in Fukuoka.
In 2013, he moved to Hong Kong where he founded Ponti Design Studio: a product and industrial design studio, based in Hong Kong, with Japanese design consultant Shiori Kuroiwa.
He is synonymous with dualistic concepts, as his projects combine the elegance of Italian design with the minimalism of Japanese design.
He designs for global companies such as Panasonic and Philips.
His projects are recognized internationally by major design award organizations. He has won international design awards such as the iF Design Award, the Red Dot Design Award and the Good Design Award.
He also has a universal approach to design thanks to his forward-thinking ideas.
Here are the questions we asked Andrea Ponti:
- What makes you decide to work on a project? Where does your inspiration come from?
- Those projects are highly technological design concepts. How do you see the relationship between technology and design?
- What similarities do you see between Italian design and Japanese design, if any?
- If you could choose and combine any two design cultures, which ones would you choose? And why?
- Your designs are forward-thinking and look gorgeous. Do you keep any of your products in your house?
- Of all the design projects you’ve worked on, what’s your favorite?
- How do you see Italian design evolving in the near future? Do you see any specific themes emerge?
- You have designed many smart watches and rings. How do you think smart products fit into the fashion world? For example, the Apple Watch has become a fashion statement for many. Do you see a specific future for this kind of products?
- What is your favorite part of Asian culture in the fashion world?
- If you could work with any fashion designer on a project, who would that be? And what kind of project would it be?
- Have you ever played any games on the Playpulse One?
What makes you decide to work on a project? Where does your inspiration come from?
Each project starts with an idea, a spark. Sometimes the spark comes from the client, and we interpret it and develop it through the design process we have refined over the years. This allows us to create highly innovative products that fully reflect the client’s vision.
Other times the spark comes directly from us, and we develop highly innovative concepts based on our extensive experience across industries. Usually these aren’t meant for the market: their purpose is to show the Ponti Design Studio’s vision of how design and technology can improve our life.
After moving to Hong Kong in 2013, much of my inspiration and professional growth have come from this city and its approach to design. Here I have learned how to design for the international market, and create products that resonate with the end users precisely for their innovative user experience.
Hong Kong’s vibrant atmosphere, constantly in motion, inspired some of our best projects, such as Island, Kite, and Agora E.
Those projects are highly technological design concepts. How do you see the relationship between technology and design?
Many designers recoil from technology, thinking it turns products into empty shells. But at Ponti Design Studio we embrace it: we employ its full potential to create innovative products enhanced by technology. Technology enhanced design put us on the map and has become our signature service.
In the last few years we’ve started developing concepts such as Island, Kite, and Agora E about public mobility in Hong Kong: I am very passionate about reimagining public mobility with technological vehicles that are the result of product design rather than transportation design.
What similarities do you see between Italian design and Japanese design, if any?
Perhaps two things that Italian and Japanese culture have in common are high attention to details and a passion for superior quality products.
To be honest, I think they are complete opposites in terms of design language, process and final product. And precisely because of that, I think they can complete each other, and for us it’s very exciting to create hybrid design forms inspired by both design styles.
If you could choose and combine any two design cultures, which ones would you choose? And why?
I think a combination of Italian and Japanese design may be the most sophisticated, not only in industrial design but also in fashion. Italy and Japan have ancient cultures, rich in art and history, and this shows in their product and fashion designs.
Japanese design is characterized by a sort of rigor of the materials, shapes and colors, and driven by fearless innovation and experimentation. Japanese products have timeless, iconic designs that never seem to age.
Italian design, on the other hand, continuously references the past, even when it is light and ironic. Italian products have a unique expressive force that shows especially in their unconventional materials and colors.
Your designs are forward-thinking and look gorgeous. Do you keep any of your products in your house?
Thank you. My house has a very minimalist style, with a few items I have compiled over time, and very very few items I designed. I don’t want to contemplate my past creations, I prefer to focus on new projects.
Of all the design projects you’ve worked on, what’s your favorite?
This is a tough question, because I really enjoyed working on all of my projects: to me each of them is special and tells its own unique story. So my favorite project is always the next project, one we haven’t worked on yet.
With every project we learn and grow: we hone our design language and techniques. This is why we try to work on nearly every project we get, with humility, passion, and a growth mindset.
How do you see Italian design evolving in the near future? Do you see any specific themes emerge?
In these times of transition it’s hard to make predictions. Perhaps two key themes are sustainability and mobility. Millennials and Gen Z are deeply concerned with sustainability, which is why our products are highly sustainable.
They are high quality, made to last a long time, and made from materials that are recycled, upcycled and plant based. Our entire production process too is designed for minimal environmental impact.
And mobility is seeing significant changes in many large cities, such as Milan, which are introducing more smart and sustainable vehicles.
Ponti Design Studio is at the forefront of this innovation, with cutting edge mobility concepts that combine design and technology for a safe, efficient, and comfortable experience.
You have designed many smart watches and rings. How do you think smart products fit into the fashion world? For example, the Apple Watch has become a fashion statement for many. Do you see a specific future for this kind of products?
That’s right. We designed our first smart watch in 2013, two years earlier than the first Apple Watch: it was a series of highly innovative concepts for Tesla.
Unfortunately, they were not put into production, but we were very clear about the potential of this product. It’s still one of our best projects to date.
And hats off to Apple: the Apple Watch has won over even the most skeptical users and now boasts a range of colors and accessories much like a fashion house!
I think the future of wearables is in their charge. A few years ago Ponti Design Studio designed the Matrix Powerwatch: a revolutionary smartwatch entirely powered by body heat.
Developed by a Silicon Valley start-up, the Powerwatch was a huge success and it prompted a whole generation of wearables powered by body heat. I do think that this is the way to go for sustainable wearables.
What is your favorite part of Asian culture in the fashion world?
I think it’s the power of emerging brands. Last year on a project for Haier (manufacturer of affordable high-end appliances) we created a series of products whose colors, materials and finish (CMF) reflected the hottest fashion trends, and especially resonated with Gen Z.
Our cross-industry research revealed a wealth of emerging streetwear brands, mostly Chinese and Japanese.
They dominate on social media, especially Instagram, and have huge followings among the younger generations, to the point that major fashion brands have started to imitate them!
These emerging brands have crossed the line between street wear and haute-couture, are gaining market shares among fierce competitors, and are influencing both the fashion and the design industry. I find that amazing!
If you could work with any fashion designer on a project, who would that be? And what kind of project would it be?
There are so many talented designers out there, that it would be a shame to pick out just one. As with the design world, in the fashion world too my favorite products are the next products: those whose innovation and expressive force take some getting used to.
I’d love to design for this hybrid of street wear and haute couture, adding some product design to the shape and materials. The beauty of the industrial design process is that it applies to any product, from electric vehicles to clothes.
Have you ever played any games on the Playpulse One?
I sure have! We test every product extensively, before launching it onto the market. Playpulse One was a huge international success thanks to its unique design and especially its engaging user experience.
Some may think that design is all about form and function. But in the last few years, design has become all about the emotional experience of the end users.
Lighting the spark I mentioned at the beginning of the interview in the users too is what I’m most passionate about. Generating that spark in the end user is what pushes us to innovate and experiment project after project.
Thanks to Andrea Ponti for have taken the time to answer our questions.
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