“If you're reading this it's too late” would say Drake, because you’ve already missed the first episode of Designers in the neighborhood, the periodical column that gathers outstanding designers I have met in and out of exhibitions all along these years, who are worth being known for their personal vision of thinking, creating, and for collecting significant (and often hidden) points of view on the multifaceted Design matter.

After introducing Alberto Ghirardello in the first episode, today is the turn of my second “neighbor” of the designers village.

A fresh mind of the Italian Design landscape, a seeker of the intrinsic beauty of things and a brilliant personality you can happen to talk with. 

He is Isato Prugger and we recently had a conversation about what is happening in his work.

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Isato Prugger 
© Tomaso Carbone

I had the chance to personally meet Isato during Design Antidoto (Milano Design Days, 2020) the Call for Designer launched by Illuminazioni exhibit, which aimed at gathering projects born from the quarantine we have globally experienced, showing how Design can deal with covid and post-covid time. The Call for Designer ended up with the aforementioned exhibition of 7 selected projects among which there was BicèBio, the bioplastic material cup designed by the creative duo  behind MAIS Project, Isato Prugger and Matteo Mariani.


Bicè - Bioplastic cup, MAIS Project, 2020
© Tomaso Carbone

Bicè - Bioplastic cup during Design Antidoto exhibit, 2020

MAIS works within the fences of Industrial Design (the duo debuted with FLAI, the nomadic lamp designed for Diomede light at Euroluce 2019, Salone del Mobile) operating across product design and strategic design consulting. The designers have founded BicèBio to be brand of reusable tableware in plant-based bioplastic, whose advantage is a total independence from oil in the production phase, which makes the cups 100% recyclable thanks to the compostable material they are made of.

BicèBio cleverly matches the quality of polymers, like lightness, low costs and reproducibility, typical of the series production, with conscious design and Made in Italy.

The long-term vision behind the product is replacing the abuse of plastic for the disposable objects with products that comes from renewable resources: the hot topic of world pollution, that became tangible when the world stopped during the last lockdown.

BicèBio has been awarded by Packaging innovations 2020, within the under 30 category.


“Proposed as an alternative to plastic disposable cups, Bicè is a bioplastic material cup with excellent resistance to wear and high temperatures: these features make Bicè ideal for food service industries, as it holds up very well to intense cycles of use and industrial washing”, BicèBio, from MAIS project website, 2020

After having worked in various design sectors, gaining experience in Milan, Stockholm, Tokyo and Dongguan (China), he founded his independent studio in 2016 works which operates in the field of product design.


FLAI (by MAIS Prj) for Diomede Light presented at Euroluce Salone del Mobile, 2019, Milano


FLAI (by MAIS Prj) Diomede Light presented at Euroluce Salone del Mobile, 2019, Milano

Coincidentally, is “the quarantine theme” that led me back to Isato. We met thanks to Bicè, a product born from a widespread reflection on pollution, in which the driver of Industrial Design is the effective way to largely spread virtuous models. The temporary stop of the lockdown made even more necessary focusing on the issue.

It is precisely within this stasis that Isato find a way to refocus on the role of Design, like a moment of meditation to return to the very root of the creative act as designer.

studio lamp, 2020

As a matter of fact, I contacted him a few days ago, after seeing one of his latest works, studio lamp, an example of artisanal manufact that deliberately takes the distances from the contemporary minimalist aesthetic trends on which Industrial Design has found its solid roots for the Product area, due to economic and feasibility reasons. 

studio lamp deliberately exacerbates the organicity of the object with its lines, and even with the interesting use of the wood, like material and “speaker”: although being one of the lightest material, the wood intentionally becomes “heavy” in its unmistakable, naked aesthetic. A living presence.

The mainstream contemporary object seems to be guided by digital (=geometric) shapes. Is there still space for analog (=human) beauty?

studio lamp - @isatoprugger

Isato, designer of opposite poles, moves between the industrial and the limited edition, always looking for a value in the product he conceives, while taking advantage of this wide spectrum of expertise: aware of the potential of designing not as a mere creative end or just a product to be manufactured, Isato makes the product an act of research, analysis and communication.

I had a chat about it, hoping that I could learn more about this vision to make it mine. And yours too.



V: “I have noticed studio lamp, your latest work on your Instagram profile. Knowing your works, your latest release is a kind of caesura in respect of what you focused on until now, isn’t it? Why did you feel the need to take a step back from Industrial Design?"

I.P.: “The world of mass production applies the sacred law of standardization and reproducibility, which inevitably leads to manage standard forms that contain costs, for the industry first and for the designers consequently. The result is: all the products begin to look a bit alike. Talk about diversity! - he says laughing -.

So, during the pandemic I had time to develop a different kind of project, where the Form had to regain dignity, positioning itself like a middle ground between design and sculpture. 

Due to my background, I was intent on creating a table lamp. Solid wood is a mangy material for the industry nowadays and even more for the world of lighting, as it is a bad conductor of heat. I saw a possibility there, which tastes of not yet explored paths that could be expressed throughout new forms.”

studio lamp, 2020

V: “So studio lamp is like a statement of a self-awareness on the role of design in your life?”

I.P.: “We often forget the real weight of things in space, the responsibility we have for what we possess. I always liked the idea of an object reserving its presence. A bit like art pieces. You wanted me here and now you’re not getting rid of me easily, baby!

I designed studio lamp with the aim of sculpting the form of stability, of a stoic and silent presence, emphasizing the characteristics of the material.”

studio lamp, 2020

V: “Is like you would recenter the human gesture on the use, a trace of the usage right behind the shape of the object.”

I.P.: “The shape making work started with the rejection of the "digital" aesthetic I anticipated before.

I am convinced that the massive use of digital has exceedingly shaped the contemporary way of drawing.

We are so accustomed to the 2D screens representations that often, when designing real objects, we forget the third dimension, the one we live in: I see more and more often works by other colleagues based on compositions of geometric solids, regular lines and circumferences. 

“How good! They know how to use Illustrator!” 

On the contrary, human aesthetics are beautiful because they are subjective, imperfect and made up of intentions, not definitions. At the design level, this translates into a more sculptural and analogical approach, the most delicate curves of an object are always modeled freehand on plasticine.”

studio lamp, 2020

V: “Last but not least, the ritual question of the column: who would be the next-door designer in your neighborhood?”

I.P.: “I'm not a big fan of "mundane" design, lone players have always fascinated me instead. Not just for their work (which sometimes I still struggle to understand today, but I leave this difficult work to the critics) but for the life experiences and related stories. Sottsass for mysticism, Wendell Castle for being a master of elegance, Yohji Yamamoto for indomitable, Brancusi for the courage. Or maybe it's just the wrinkles and beard that make them alluring, I don't know…”

The collection studio lamps, which includes 100 numbered pieces in different essences (Walnut, Chestnut, Wenge, Padouk) and finishes, will be officially released in May 2021.

Stay tuned and check the works of Isato Prugger on his website.