At Design Miami, we had the opportunity to sit down with Alessi's President Alessio Alessi and his son Giovanni Alessi Anghini, an industrial designer. Traveling with their family, they were on the last stop of a U.S. trip to celebrate the opening of a new retail space for Alessi in the Miami Design District. Giovanni is one of four children and the first of the fourth generation to start working for the family business. I was surprised to learn that there are no in-house designers at Alessi, just five engineers who work with a pool of 200+ external designers that are either commissioned, invited to participate in workshops, or have approached the company with their product idea.
A family affair
Being born into a family like Alessi and choosing the path of a designer is both a blessing and a curse, on the one hand your exposure to design thinking and the design world is infinitely better than any schooling could provide but the expectations (both personal and public) that come with the territory could easily be debilitating. Giovanni however seems totally at ease with the challenge and it's no accident. His father and uncles (the third generation) made a rule that their children had to prove themselves working outside the company before joining, and even then they have to apply, this also ensures they have the opportunity to explore other career options before entering the business.
Abatjour, 2011 by Giovanni Alessi Anghini and Gabriele ChiaveAbatjour, 2011 by Giovanni Alessi Anghini and Gabriele Chiave Pop-Up, 2008 by Giovanni Alessi Anghini Pop-Up, 2008 by Giovanni Alessi Anghini
A culture of risk
Anyone familiar with the evolution of Alessi's product lines, particularly in the last 30 years, knows they are not afraid to experiment. In fact Alessio's brother Alberto who typically speaks on behalf of the company is renowned for reciting his biggest failures, and claims it's this freedom to fail which has lead to companies repeated successes.
After spending the afternoon with Alessio and Giovanni, I was overwhelmed by their close bond, sincerity, and shared passion for design. As a father and mentor, Alessio exudes a natural sense of leadership that has contributed to the business by understanding how to get the highest level of work out of their designers, and to raising four well grounded, happy children. Working for any family business is challenging, even more so when there's multiple generations and a legacy at stake but the Alessi's have found a balance and make it work.
You can view more of Giovanni's work at: www.gaadesign.net