A love that stemmed from when the Venetian designer (now also based in Stockholm) was only a child.
“I used to be allured by objects and triggered by the desire to figure out how they were made,” he recalls. “I also wanted to understand why I was naturally attracted to some rather than others.
"When you become a designer, you then realise that the world that is hidden behind an object is much, much wider than what you could have ever imagined as a child.”
It is perhaps due to this inherent modesty, and to the serious approach to work that stems from it, that in a span of very few years, Nichetto has become one of the darlings of the most important furniture, lighting and accessories companies, from Bosa to Casamania, from Established & Sons to Foscarini, Italesse, Moroso, Offecct, Refin, Venini – just to name a few.
His birth place, on the Murano island of Venice (the historical glass blowers’ paradise), also contributed to the development of the qualities that today he embodies and that companies have learnt to appreciate: the extreme respect for crafts, the passion for new materials and the desire to turn both into industrially viable solutions.
His very first job for the lighting giant Foscarini, for instance, started as a collaboration involving materials research and product development consulting. “Mine was a down-to-earth approach,” he recalls. “I was very close to production and materials – I used to spend all my time looking at them and studying them.”
After a while, he was asked to actually develop some designs for them and by that stage he knew so much about the company and its processes that his ideas simply fitted like a glove.
The same happened with Italesse, a company that makes food and beverage accessories. “They were founded 20 years ago and were working mainly with catering businesses and in B2B. When those markets started to experience a great turnaround a while ago, they decided to become a brand. They asked me to help them in this process as a creative director,” which Nichetto did, albeit slowly.
“I did not want to walk in and dictate a new way of doing things to people who had been there a lifetime. So I spent a year just trying to understand the company, its people, their way of working. Once I earned their trust and respect, then I started to act. But I did that with them, rather than without them.”
By asking internationally known designers – not only big names but people who actually knew how to solve practical production issues – Nichetto started the transformation of Italesse into a desirable brand, while also providing affordable products.
For instance, he challenged Swedish trio Claesson Koivisto Rune to design an attractive injection-moulded plastic tumbler that uses a minimal amount of material to replace a previous glass model. The result? A better looking product and a €3 cut from the end user price per item.
“I think designers should work less,” he says. “They should design less things but spend more time on each project and aim for perfection. Companies today are experiencing ever greater challenges due to the economic downturn and they cannot afford mistakes. The time for comet-like products – that come and go – is over. We have to strive for longevity, quality and price.”
Which is what he did with another very interesting project of his: the Robo chair for Swedish manufacturer Offecct – a stackable and collapsible chair. The idea came to Nichetto after one of his proposals was rejected by the company because it was too bulky for shipment.
Hence, the idea, and the challenge, of making a seat suitable for flat packing. This meant making the chair a sort of puzzle-like item, with bits and pieces (four legs, one seat and one backrest) connecting together by means of a steel structure (without structure no chair can pass the strict EU regulations for contract seating, which is the bread and butter of most furniture companies).
At first, Nichetto worked with formed plywood, which sandwiched the steel, but the whole process was far too expensive since a special and very precise shape had to be achieved where the wood met with the steel.
When he informed the company of the issue, they suggested he use a felt that comes from recycled plastic bottles, which, when heated and pressed, hardens and shrinks in size (ie, compresses itself).
As the material is soft at the start of the construction process, yet hard by the end, the felt was perfect to seal the area around the structure and to guarantee stability at the same time.
The result is a thoroughly eco-friendly product, made with recycled materials, recyclable itself (dismantling being extremely easy) and cheap in terms of CO2 emissions (and costs!) to ship because it’s flat packed.
“Some designers can ‘afford’ to create things that have perhaps no immediate use,” says Nichetto. “I excuse those who, for instance, have a very high poetic vein in their work, which – through objects – make us think a little bit like artists.
"But overall, in my opinion, design is all about getting your hands dirty and getting down to the nitty-gritty of production and economical issues and to work side-by-side with companies and craftsmen in the workshops.”
After all, as Nichetto noticed when he was a child who would fall in love with objects, there is a lot more behind every item around us than just an attractive shape, material or texture. The challenge for designers is to turn that whole universe of complex issues into a practical, usable, visually pleasing, ecological and affordable solution. It’s not easy. But Nichetto is convinced that “it’s a lot of fun”.