This October, Luisa Bocchietto of Italy is poised to take over the reigns of the World Design Organization, only the second woman to do so in the organization’s 60-year history (Dr. Mai Felip-Hosselbarth of Spain was President from 1993-1995).

In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, we spoke to Luisa about her design influences, the role of women in design, and some of her objectives as President of the world body for industrial design.

What inspired you to become an industrial designer?
I’m an architect, who along the way became an industral designer as a complement to my work.I studied architecture, and I finished my studies in Milano, with Marco Zanuso, who was one of the leading designers in Italy in the heyday of industrial design. In Italy, there is a great tradition of architect involvement in design; for us to work on an architectural project or to create a product in the urban context is all part of the same vision. Italian architect Ernesto Rogers famously declared that he wanted to design everything from “Spoon to city,” explaining the typical approach of a Milanese architect of designing both the buidlings and all the products that go in it. This slogan, From spoon to city, 30 years later, was also the theme of the 13th Icsid General Assembly held in Milano, Italy in 1983.

Who was your biggest influence?
My teacher was my greatest influence; I learned from him that design means not only good form but also the process as a whole. Interfering with the industrial process, in all its phases, in search of innovation is “to design”.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I experienced one of my greatest satisfactions during my term as president of ADI, the Association for Industrial Design in Italy, when I was able to persuade the municipality of Milan to give us a permanent home for the exposition of the Compasso d’Oro Award Collection, including 5000 square meters and the renovation costs of the building destined to house it (project currently in progress). After nearly 60 years of the private prize life, finally, an important public recognition…. through the efforts of a woman president. I worked with passion for this. And it was for me a “design project”!

What are some of your objectives as incoming President of the world body for industrial design?
I would like to convey to a wider public an awareness that, today, design is not simply about designing products; it is also about servicing the community. When we say that “we design for a better world,” I would like the message to reach the places where decisions are made that actually contribute to creating the conditions for a better world. This means not only talking to designers but also to politicians, and using our UN consultative status in order to influence decision makers at the highest levels. I understand that it is an ambitious project but I believe we are on the right path.

What are some of the obstacles you and other women face in the design profession?
Today, things have changed and are still changing in the design profession. Surely, it was much more difficult years ago for a woman to succeed in this area. But this is also true for other professional fields. For young women, the hope is that they will be less burdened by social conditioning.

What advice would you give to the next generation of women designers just starting out in the field?
I would recommend to never stop being curious, never stop being interested in the world around you, and to always desire to be an active part of it. What matters in design is good design and this comes from experience, intelligence and the ability to interpret the needs of all, men and women, regardless of gender.

Luisa Bocchietto, architect and designer, graduated from the Milan Polytechnic in 1985. Since then she has worked as a freelancer undertaking projects for local development, building renovations, urban planning and the spread of design quality. She teaches at universities and design schools, takes part in design conferences and international juries, publishes articles and organizes exhibitions on architecture and design.

She was a member of the Italian Design Council at the Ministry for Cultural Heritage, the Polidesign Consortium of the Milan Polytechnic, and was a member of the CIDIC Italo-Chinese Council for Design and Innovation and the CNAC National Anti-Counterfeiting Council at the Ministry of Economic Development. From 2008 until 2014, she was National President of ADI (Association for Industrial Design) in Italy. She is currently President-elect of the World Design Organization.

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