Massimiliano Busnelli, third generation of family-owned premium furniture company B&B Italia, was in Singapore recently to launch the brand’s latest collection from Milan Furniture Fair 2012 at Space Asia Hub. We spoke to him about his work as director of the company’s Research and Development Centre, and the creative dialogues he shares with designers.
6 November, 2012
What are some key R&D areas for B&B Italia?
Each of our products has been designed by an external designer. So a key point of our R&D is to collaborate – to establish and keep alive very fruitful, long-term, and trusting relationships with selected designers – the best in the world. From discussion, new projects will emerge.
How do you decide which designers you’d like to work with?
That is part of our R&D. We look for designers, and they come to us. We receive proposals from new designers almost every day, but we don’t just pick up designers and projects here and there. There has to be a good relationship with each designer – the result of open discussion.
Canasta (B&B Italia Outdoor) designed by Patricia Urquiola
What departments make up your R&D centre?
We have two main sections: the offices and the laboratory. The laboratory is the heart of the R&D department. The office is divided into four departments: product development, graphics, PR and communication, and layout. These four different departments allow us to control the image of the company. The laboratory is where we build all the prototypes, hold meetings with the designers, and control all the phases of the development process.
How many prototypes do you make every year?
Oh, hundreds. It is the way we work. We don’t like to spend too much time on paper, since we trust our designers. We take their drawings and we start making the first prototype quickly. If you have a prototype, you can start to metabolise the project and understand what the designer has in mind. You can start testing the comfort, and more easily compare the product with existing products. When we meet with the designers, we work on it, change it, and do a new prototype. Our laboratory is full of them.
Frank (detail) (B&B Italia) designed by Antonio Citterio
Theo (B&B Italia) designed by Vincent Van Duysen
Do you keep all the prototypes?
We have a small basement space where we try to keep the first or last one – the most significant prototype of each project.
Of all the projects you prototype, how many go into production?
I would say less than 50%. We could probably stay on paper and decide only to go ahead with the ones we’re really convinced about. But sometimes, after you start working on a product, you arrive at something else – you see that that there was a good idea, but perhaps a different kind of product could express it better.
Charles Outdoor (B&B Italia Outdoor) designed by Antonio Citterio
Husk (B&B Italia) designed by Patricia Urquiola
How do you marry the company’s goals and directions with those of your collaborating designers?
We have to trust each other. When we launch a product we are usually both very satisfied with the result. Sometimes the designer will have an idea that we don’t see immediately. In the end, it is good to see that they are often right. That is the best quality of the good designer – their vision.
As the geography of your customer base shifts, does the way you develop products change?
Each market has its own tastes and preferences. We listen to the market. We do some different finishes and colours that don’t influence the design. We launched a table in Milan in April that was specially developed from the requests of the Asian market. It’s a large round table with a marble top. The result is really nice, and it also sells very well in some other parts of the world.
Mera (B&B Italia) designed by Antonio Citterio
Mini Papilio (B&B Italia) designed by Naoto Fukasawa
Mart (B&B Italia) designed by Antonio Citterio
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