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cimbali2How often do we think or say to ourselves: I wonder how they arrived at that? In our fast paced society, we often put the “new” invented, “new” improved, on a pedestal. But how do you get from one thing to the next and what is the impact of the (r)evolution on life, environment, others, the planet etc., etc. Now, not all of this is purely philosophical or only material, especially when we also ask the question : Is it an improvement of the previous “idea” or object?

Series of questions like these and this mode of questioning is at the very essence of looking at design or understanding a better industrial design. Here is some food for thought.

Often, we look and assume somethings have been around forever. Take for example, the simple housewares or tableware that stack, meaning they occupy less space as a direct consequence of a design process brought to a good finish. Very often this evolutionary process relates to the types of materials used and the final form these materials can take.

In glass tableware, it was not until 1938 when Wilhelm Wagenfeld, who had studied and taught at the Bauhaus, invented the stacking tableware called the Kubus series.  These were various food containers able to be stacked neatly on a tray (shown below).

So far so good, now let’s talk about the oldest material in the world still available today, CLAY. The Italians have a lot of design “firsts”. One of these was the ceramic stacking cup like the one (top of post) still used today in most Italian coffee shops. In the 19th century, Italian makers of ceramics like their counterparts in the Northern European countries tried and succeeded in giving different shapes to those ordinary every day objects like tableware. New shapes in this process were often influenced by other trends in the Arts like Cubism or in the case of Italy Futurism.

andloviz3The tableware (shown above) made by a very small Venetian ceramics company Martini and Vianello had a distinctive shape, spout and handle. This did not necessarily lead to an improved use of its basic cylinder form, nor add to a more functional use for the purpose of drinking. In 1933 its functionality was considerably improved or expanded. First shown at the 1933 Monza Triennale Fair this simple unadorned blue glazed ceramic set had stacking cups. (shown below)

andloviz1Unfortunately, we do not have two cups available to show you, however, the recessed base is clearly visible, perfect for stacking. Designed by Guido Andloviz of the SCI Company (Societa Ceramica Italiana di Laveno) located in the town of Laveno Mombello on the Lake, Lago Maggiore.  Andloviz was the Director for almost 40 years from 1923 to 1961 of this prestigious company and helped shape the direction of the Italian ceramics industry. This plain set was modernism at its best and a first! A few years later Andloviz would bow to market pressure and like so many other companies be influenced by either color, shape or both. (shown below)So here is how we got from there to here.

The stacking cups would find a lot of use in the galleys of various airlines like Lufthansa, KLM, Alitalia just to name a few. This was before declining profits took a toll on good design and gave us the throw away cup (paper or styrofoam), unless, you are in one of those places where you find these niffy Cimbali stacked cups!