What is Italia Design

italiaDesign is an undergraduate field school and research program offered by the School of Interactive Arts + Technology (SIAT) at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. This website represents the eighth year of the study;  a legacy project conducted in the area of design and innovation, under the directorship of Russell Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Design, SIAT since 2004. italiaDesign seeks to contribute back to the Italian community.

The most significant contribution to the field are the interviews conducted each year in Italy with industry-leading designers, architects and design manufacturers. Over the eight years italiaDesign has conducted over 120 of these interviews with Italy’s emergent and established players in the design community. Each year, a new team builds on the previous year’s research. italiaDesign is an open source network that values above all knowledge-share on a global scale. In 2011, we began a complementary program, dutchDesign to study design in the North of Europe to compare the two cultures, and the two programs now run in alternate years.


ItaliaDesign is a competitive-entry program that selects twelve students each year to participate and make a one-year commitment to the program, for twelve university credits. An Italian Language course must also be completed. Applicants from SFU the SIAT program receive priority and a senior level of design knowledge is a minimum expectation. Each year a new group or in Italian, “gruppo” is formed who will work extremely closely for the 12 months of the project. This is the eighth gruppo: Grupp’otto.

You can watch video and read comments made by each member of Grupp’otto in an interview conducted after the in-field portion of the project. The students express their thoughts as to what they value about the program, what they learned and what were its challenges. Prospective applicants should watch these interviews to gauge their own suitability. Each gruppo passes on everything they have learned to the next group as the new baseline. The Director ensures the passing of that ‘legacy’ torch and subjects are thus able to progress each year, with minimal repetition year to year. 


ItaliaDesign conducts 15-20 interviews each year with leading design professionals, primarily in Rome and Milan. A virtual “who’s who” of Italian Design welcome us into their studios each year and generously share their wisdom with our students. Lasting relationships and networks have been built between SFU, its students + some of the world’s great designers. Important historical artifacts have been gathered in speaking with the maestros of Italian Design, such as Alessandro Mendini, Piero Lissoni, Carlotta da Bevilacqua, Matteo Thun, Andrea Branzi, William Sawaya and Artemide’s founder Ernesto Gismondi, and many others. Italy’s emergent new leaders in design share their thoughts with us, including designers such as Giulio Ceppi, Matteo Ragni, dotdotdot, Ma0, OFL and Leftloft. And manufacturers such as Alessi, Artemide, and many others, open their doors to us each year. This year we had the pleasure of conducting a series of interviews and gaining full access at the Vitra campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany. These “conversazioni” are documented in “Interviews” section.


“What do you do on the Field School?”, can be seen in the short films and Documentary films we produce each year. In 2010 after the study in Italy we produced the film, “Emotion in Material”. In 2011, after the study in the Netherlands and Scandinavia we produced the documentary film, “Dutchness”, and in 2012 after the work in Italy, we produced our third feature length film, “Progetto”.  These films take all of the contextual film we make and the interview materials and combine them to make a narrative of high content and quality. ItaliaDesign seeks to connect “design” to everyday life.


If you want more information, please contact the Director, Russell Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Design at the School of Interactive Arts + Technology, in Vancouver, Canada, at, rgtaylor@sfu.ca .