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Design Voices | Elisa Ossino

Elisa Ossino is a Milan-based designer and architect leading product design, art direction, set design and styling at her multidisciplinary studio.

You trained as an architect at the Politecnico di Milano before working in visual communication for the university. Has your architectural background influenced the way you approach creative direction and design?

My training is certainly the starting point that I have enriched with continuous research over time. At the Faculty of Architecture of the Milan Polytechnic, I collaborated with a research group formed to explore new multimedia languages. It was a very formative experience that allowed me the opportunity to meet and collaborate with extraordinary personalities from different cultural areas. It taught me to have a varied and layered design approach which has become my modus operandi on all projects.

In 2006 you established Elisa Ossino Studio as a multidisciplinary studio focused on residential and commercial interiors, product design, art direction, styling and set design. Do you find there are threads that support creative thinking across all these disciplines?

All aspects of my work support and influence each other. The common thread is the project; all the experiences acquired in these various thematic areas combine to create a broader design vision, which takes into account the centrality of the space, but also the importance of communicating it, of making it strongly iconic and of making so that it remains in the imagination.

Your highly conceptual approach has led to collaborations with Italian heritage brands. Is it hard to ensure that you are cultivating a unique visual message for each?

It is the starting point of my work, both when I design an interior and when I design an object. It is essential that the project is tailor-made for the brand I am collaborating with, which reflects its identity as well as mine. I work a lot on defining all the elements that make it unique and recognizable, on the aspects which combine to create an image identity.

 

Photography by Jessica Soffiati

Photography by Jack Milenkovic

We’re interested in your product designs, many of which are a result of these successful collaborations. When you review your personal design history, do you see clear ways in which it has evolved over the years?

I can definitely see the moment in which I am, which is naturally linked to the historical moment in which we find ourselves, to the evolution of taste, to the trends I feel in the air. I work with an instinctive projection towards the future, which allows me to intuit the next evolutions.

Art is a driving source of inspiration in your product design work. Does art also inform your use of form and colour in your projects, and what aspects of it do you find yourself most drawn to?

Art is one of my main interests and has always inspired me. It feeds the soul, helps me reflect, and amplifies emotions. The historical and cultural moment we live in, and all its artistic expressions greatly inspire me. The aspect that attracts me a lot is the conceptual one, the starting point of all my projects, but in some cases, the compositional and formal aspects.

You’re responsible for a number of independent projects, such as tile and surface design company H+O, alongside Josephine Akvama Hoffmeyer. What is the importance of these independent projects to your practice, and how do you like this kind of collaboration?

These are projects that I have been very passionate about and that have given me the energy and joy of living. At the same time, they have allowed me to explore topics of interest dear to me and to build synergies with very stimulating creative people. The H+O project, founded with Josephine Akvama Hoffmeyer, deals with surface design, multidisciplinary exhibitions and installations that explore new languages for interiors and contemporary ways of living. H+O Apartment is located in Brera, one of the best-known districts of Milan. Once again, this space has become a place to present projects but also a meeting place, an exchange of thoughts, and a meeting place for dinners with friends and creatives.

Working across so many facets of design, do you ever find that because you do many things and are not just singular in your approach, the industry doesn’t know quite how to pigeonhole you?

It is not easy to classify myself. I think this is a very positive aspect that reflects my personality a lot, in my work, I always try to bring together my interests and my personal vision, which is made up of a stratification of insights into different disciplines, it is my way of looking at the world and translating it into my projects.

 

After participating in so many Milan Design Weeks, what were you excited to present in 2023?

I am always very attached to the projects I present at the Salone. In particular, in 2023, I loved Fluxus, the experimentation conducted with Stefano Roveda for Vzug – a participatory and interactive theatre installation with natural interfaces that aimed to involve the public in an experience by exploiting modern immersive video technologies. It invited guests for a short journey inside a metaphorical and abstract universe designed to induce spectators to transform themselves into actors in collective action naturally.

Another project I love is Honoré, a sofa and coffee table designed for De Padova. Again, I tried to work with organic shapes, pushing the design towards an extreme abstraction while trying to give a soul to the objects.

Venetia, made with Wonderglass, is an extremely poetic work created thanks to the great wisdom of the Murano glass masters, tapestries created by sewing glass tiles made using the fusion technique. The Ciclopi carpets transform into seats that introduce a new way of living space. They are made in organic wool with natural processes and painted with vegetable colours.

What’s the biggest issue or change facing design in 2023?

To be able to be inclusive.

What do you do in your downtime? (If you have any)

I take refuge in nature. I am always hypnotized by its beauty, it helps me stop thinking, and it leads me into a state of contemplation and meditation.

Honorè collection by Elisa Ossino for De Padova | Photography by Jack Milenkovic

And finally, your favourite:

Milan bar?

Fioraio Bianchi Caffè

Milan restaurant?

Trattoria Arlati

Historic building in Milan?

Villa Necchi Campiglio

Milan showroom or store?

Vincenzo De Cotis and Via Privata Fratelli Gabba.

This feature originally appeared in the Milan 2023 Special Issue of est magazine. 

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