Irvine2 Irvine11 Irvine10 Irvine9 Irvine8 Irvine7 Irvine6 Irvine5 Irvine4 Irvine3 Irvine12

James Irvine

— interview with James Irvine


James Irvine was born in London in 1958 and graduated from Kingston Polytechnic Design School (1981 BA) and The Royal College of Art (1984 MA). In 1984 he moved to Milan. From 1984 to 1992 he was a design consultant for Olivetti, designing industrial products under the direction of Michele De Lucchi and Ettore Sottsass. In 1988 he opened a private design studio. Clients included Cappellini, CBI, BRF and SCP. From 1993 to 1997 in parallel to his private studio, he was a partner of Sottsass Associati and was responsible for the industrial design group. In 1993 he had his first personal exhibition at the Royal College of Art in Stockholm. In 1999 he completed the design of the new city bus for the Hannover transport system. 131 buses have since been built by Mercedes Benz. Today his design studio in Milan is working with various internationally renowned companies including Artemide, B&B Italia, WMF, Alfi, Magis, Whirlpool, Arabia, Mabeg and Canon Japan.

excerpt from http://www.designboom.com

Interview Ideas

  • "The Italian Way": Irvine's article from Casa Vogue, published October 2001. It discusses the state of Italian culture, innovation, and design, written from the perspective of an outsider.
  • Italy versus America: The contrast between the Italian focus on quality and style and the American focus on low price and materialism. The formation of the cultures, the trends in modern society, and how an Italian mindset will never succeed in America.
  • Success of Small Companies: The problems with public companies and shareholders, how Italian firms have managed to survive due to being privately owned risk-taking companies.
  • Sustainable Future and the Reality of Design: The current state of consumer culture, the need for a heightened sense of environmental and material awareness. Design not being something sacred, the possibility of design to be used to make a significant change in consumer habits.
  • "Italian" Design: An invasion of foreign designers given the freedom to design with Italian companies, and how this has kept Italian design in Italy innovative.

Video/Key Quotes

  1. Defining Italian Designopen link
  2. Italian Consumerismopen link
  3. The Future of Italian Innovationopen link
  4. Sustainability and Social Responsibilityopen link
  5. Overemphasizing Designopen link
  6. Innovationopen link
  7. Why Small Companies are Successfulopen link
  8. Innovative Designopen link
  9. The Decline of Product Qualityopen link
  10. Bigger is Betteropen link
  11. Bella Figuraopen link
  12. Globalismopen link

What We Learned

James Irvine gave us many direct and precise explanations of the state of modern Italy. His position as a foreigner living in Italy gives him the ability to objectively study Italian culture and what traits make up Italian society. As an experienced industrial designer, he gave insight into how Italian industry arrived at the state it is now in, and how it will be in the future. Irvine's confidence in these issues was self-evident; he clearly understands Italy and Italian design. This interview gave us great insight into how small and big companies in industry work, how they exist as companies and how their contrasting design processes shaped them.

What was incredibly valuable about interviewing James Irvine was his willingness to explain what he sees around him. He freely talked about Italians, designers, companies, cultures, lifestyles, without being afraid to speak his mind. The relaxed conversational tone helped everyone loosen up and be willing to question Irvine's theories. This was our second-last interview, and in many ways it proved some of our theories of what Italian design is and how it operates. Furthermore, Irvine seemed to be able to discuss anything with us, having knowledge on topics as diverse as marketing, fashion, and global sustainability. In the end, we walked out of Irvine's office with a heightened sense of how Italy works and why their design industry will continue to be a global force.