Designing Is More Complex Than Entrepreneurship, says Stefano Merlo: An Interview

Stefano Merlo was born in Valdobbiadene (Treviso, Italy). He is a multidisciplinary and awards winner designer, focused mainly on Product, Industrial, Web and Communication design. He has been awarded with international design prizes and honorable mention, and his works are published in many international design magazines and books.

He won the first prize of “2nd Outdoor Furniture Contest” by Gandia Blasco in 2007 and was shortlisted at “Bright Led” competition by DesignBoom in 2007, he was featured on “Top 100 designs of the year” by Hugo Boss in 2009. Won first prize again in 2010 in “5th Outdoor Furniture Contest” by Gandia Blasco. Then in 2011, he received the Honorable Mention at the “6th Outdoor Furniture Contest” by Gandia Blasco.

He is also the founder of Noisli.com, a fantastic and good-looking background noise and color generator ideal for working and relaxing.

This is not enough, there is more to this multi-talented and curious minded person, scroll down and see for yourself,

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TechieTonics: Let’s talk about your latest venture Noisli.com. I’m totally in love with this concept, in fact, I have started using it while am on my workstation. Please let us know the inspiration behind such an awesome innovation. When and how did you decide to go about it?

Stefano: I decided to create Noisli just after seeing an article about background noise applications on one of my favourite website.
I already knew the field and which applications were around, and none of them was just satisfying me. For this reason, I decided to do my own application as a side project.

The idea behind is very simple: I tried to do something which I would have later used with pleasure.
It took me one week to create it, and just one week after the lunch, the website was already on some of the most important websites.

The biggest satisfaction of this project is the daily feedbacks I receive from people using Noisli: people working, studying and people that just use it to relax, but also from people affected by Tinnitus and from specialists in the field of ADD/ADHD disorders that are using Noisli with their patients.

There are also a few new things and features I am working on.

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TechieTonics: What is the biggest misconception or unknown about the profession of industrial design?

Stefano: I think everybody outside the design field thinks that designers are just creative people doing this for money. The reality is that just a few can live out of royalties.

The majority of young designers are ordinary people that are truly passionate on what they do and that carry on by doing things they really believe in.

TechieTonics: What are your thoughts on the visual elements of a design that make one product more recognisable or interesting over another?

Stefano: Personally I think design is all about détails.
A product must be in first place useful, and each detail must reflect its function.
I do not love objects that are screaming or that are just trendy. A real design product has barely any visual detail beyond the functional ones.

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TechieTonics: Do you agree with the notion, design will be the key feature in the next wave of sustainability?

Stefano: I think Design in general, and any kind of designer has already a big responsibility.
But Design won’t save the world alone, and this is the reason why Design should have a key role to educate and drive people towards better behaviours and awareness in many fields, not only sustainability. I think to educate people and influence their behaviours and their relationship with objects and their surroundings is a better way to be sustainable.

TechieTonics: Industrial designing fits into the grand scheme of entrepreneurship, the only thing you know (while designing) is to create innovating, invigorating and problem solving solutions. How far I am correct is holding such a view?

Stefano: I think industrial designing is much more complex than that.

Good industrial design products embed not only function and aesthetic, but also subtle social needs and behaviours. An industrial product does not only carry a function or solves a problem, but rather becomes part of our everyday life and rituals.

Hence, designing industrial goods does not only mean solving problems, but also deeply understanding the people that will use it.

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TechieTonics: What made your inclination towards biomimicry and can you tell us some products that happen to mimic, or are inspired by, nature?

Stefano: I do not remember when exactly I became fascinated by biomimicry, I’ve always been curious about just anything.

I think a big impulse was given by reading how ants and bees organise, how they optimise their resources, how they behave and how they build their homes. Also reading about the behaviour of the crowd has been very fascinating to me. The step after was just to search as many other information as possible.

Some good examples of products mimicking nature can be found in many fields.

For example, a team led by the naval engineer Mark Murray, has designed underwater turbines to harness underwater tidal currents, that in order to maximise their efficiency have blades inspired by humpback whale flippers.

Another example comes from how whirlpools and hurricanes work: Jay Harmon uses the spiral shape to generate a whirl and stir 10 million gallons of water with a couple of light bulbs worth of power, keeping hundreds of water storage tanks clean without the use of chlorine or other chemicals.

Or even a lighter and stronger composite ceramic inspired by mother-of-pearl; or a solution for aircraft engines and helicopter rotor-blades that are constantly abraded by atmospheric dust, coming directly from the north african scorpion’s armour that serves to protect themselves from the sand-laden wind; or again a material 10 times stronger than Kevlar by weight inspired by spider’s silk, and that could lead to ultra-lightweight, super-strong and flexible body armour for soldiers and law enforcement officers.

Albert Einstein once said: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

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TechieTonics: Which future technologies are you excited about?

Stefano: I think the most I am excited about are the one related to the research and medical field, such as new techniques to treat and fight cancer with less side effects on the patient.

I am also excited about new technologies and advancements into the Astronomy field, in order to discover and better understand about other planets and the universe.

TechieTonics: What other areas of creativity and innovation have hooked your attention lately?

Stefano: At the moment I am focused on Product and Web design, but I am always attracted by many other fields. I do not always understand everything of what I read in first place, but I always take this ignorance as a starting point to discover more and more.

I continuously follow a broad variety of topics; I love to dig into new technologies and the possibilities it may offer — such as 3d printing and new materials; I follow new discoveries in science, medicine, and everything related to nature — such as biomimicry; I search for the latest web developments, SEO techniques and for any kind of Web, iOs and Mac applications; but I also love to follow new startups both in web, service or product design, I love to search for productivity tips, and try to understand a bit of marketing, entrepreneurship and business related topics. Let’s say a bit of everything.

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TechieTonics: If you had to walk in another man’s shoes for a day, it would have to be?

Stefano: I think it would have been Steve Jobs.

TechieTonics: If in one word, you have been asked to describe yourself, it would be?

Stefano: Curious.

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Thank you Stefano for this wonderful interview, we certainly gained amazing insights into the world of designing and biomimicry. Before signing off, we’d like to wish you luck and success for all your future endeavors.

About Pooja Kashyap

A CPD certified Fitness Trainer, Pooja also likes to spend time reading and blogging the latest research and discoveries in science and how technology is shaping the world. Besides writing, she enjoys reviewing books and taking interviews of creative/innovative people. Currently, she is located in Noida, India, where she actively participates in marathons as well. She is also on Quora l Twitter and LinkedIn.