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Zanotta and Steve Jobs, a life in the future
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Estimated reading time
5 Minutes

Zanotta and Steve Jobs, a life in the future

Your entrepreneurial vision, Steve, closely resembles that of Aurelio Zanotta. He was a visionary who, like you, believed in the beauty of simplicity and an all-round innovation. Reading some of your thoughts, one has the feeling of ‘drinking’ from the same source. Do you remember, for instance, when you said that traders and industrialists should enrich the lives of the customers, make them better and happier? Your thought was crystal clear:

You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new.
Steve Jobs
Hiro sofa by Damian Williamson and Basello coffee table by Achille Castiglioni. Right: Quaderna table by Achille Castiglioni; Elipse chairs by Patrick Jouin; Tweed table by Garcia Cumini

Aurelio Zanotta, the founder of the company who, just like a daughter, took his surname, had, years before you, your very same opinion:

I believe that the furniture industry has to continue to strive to anticipate future needs, without limiting itself to satisfying the public’s passive demand. We have to present the public with a range of products with exact purposes and precise functions that embody innovative and emotional qualities.
Aurelio Zanotta, Design Conference, Aspen 1989

This idea should resonate with you, since you have changed people's lives, revolutionizing the way they communicate, surf the internet or listen to music. You attended the Aspen Design Conference in 1981, falling in love with a concept that went on to guide your projects together with your love for Japanese minimalism: the functional simplicity of Made in Italy design.

Lia chair in fabric
Sciangai coat rack in beech wood
Joy 5-shelf bookcase
Quaderna square table
Gilda armchair in fabric
Milleunanotte four-poster double bed in fabric

Zanotta and Steve Jobs, between innovation and design culture

You have always loved Italian design, and Zanotta is a herald of Made in Italy. A company that can join profit and culture in a virtuous circle in which the former finances the latter: a combination symbolized by the two dots of the logo.

It was clear that the role of the manufacturer would be more incisive if his products were also cultural instruments that educated the public. […] It means, in other words, giving space to research understood in all its components: aesthetic, formal, technological and sociological as well as market factors.
Aurelio Zanotta

Risking doing new things: reinvigorated by the economic boom and an enthusiastic and spontaneous approach to industry, the 1950s in Italy, when Zanotta was launched, are similar to the 1980s in America, those of the success of the mouse and the Macintosh.

It is not easy to condense the stylistic approach of a company that was founded a year before you were born, which includes in its catalog over 500 projects and more than 100 prizes, among which three Compasso d'Oro. Think that in the 1970s Zanotta entered the Guinness Book of Records with the Marcuso table by Marco Zanuso, introducing in the furniture field the direct welding of crystal to steel, a technique borrowed from the automotive industry. At the last Salone del Mobile, the table was an authentic protagonist with its concrete top.

Albero by Achille Castiglioni; Marcuso 2530 table by Marco Zanuso; Elipse chairs by Patrick Jouin; Sacco beanbag by Gatti, Paolini and Tedoro.

You have helped change forever a number of industries. Similarly, Zanotta has traced its way through the history of design. Do you have a sofa with a removable cover at home? You should thank Zanotta.

My uncle had the intuition of introducing removable sofa covers while observing the removable covers of headrests on airplanes.
Marta Zanotta
Marcuso square table
Milo mirror
Orione table

What is design?

If technology can be beautiful, beauty (and design) must be technological. And also simple, durable, sustainable, exciting. The Sacco beanbag is unconventional and as welcoming as a hug. Would you believe it was inspired by farmers and their mattresses full of leaves? Like your computers, it has been exposed at New York’s MoMA and is a child of nonconformity.

I do not seek to create objects that set the fashion, because I believe that fashion is conformism and from my viewpoint conformism is a thing of the past.
Aurelio Zanotta
Large image: Kim sofa by Ludovica and Roberto Palomba. Left: Hiro sofa by Damian Williamson; and Mezzadro stool by Achille Castiglioni

Aurelio Zanotta was all for experimentation and he used to like disruptive objects. Think of the Mezzadro stool by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, still a protagonist at the latest Salone along with a re-edition of Albero and the high version of Servomuto. An authentic homage to Achille Castiglioni, who, just like you, was an attentive observer, a supporter of simplicity and one who was deeply interested in the way things worked.

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
Steve Jobs
Mezzadro stool
Bean Bag, large
Servomuto coffee table
Sella stool
Eva swivel armchair in fabric
Servonotte coat rack
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