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James Christopher Postell

Make and thinking about design

01 May 2020 — 1 minutes read

Hello, my name is James Postell. In the fall of 2019, I joined the faculty in the Dipartimento di Design (Product Design) and the service pillar of Landscape, Environment, and Mobility (LEM) after 32 years of teaching in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning at the University of Cincinnati. I bring to the Politecnico a passion for teaching and thinking about design and the making of design.

For years I have been researching, teaching, and writing about furniture and materials. I have written "Furniture Design” (Wiley and Sons, 2007 and 2013), and co-authored with Nancy Gesimondo the book “Materiality and Interior Construction” (Wiley and Sons, 2010). For my books, I researched furniture and manufacturing companies, met with designers, visited offices, showrooms, factories and museums in the States and Europe. Many of the individuals and experiences shaped my thinking about design and influenced my research. I was first drawn to Italy in graduate school, studying in Venice for a semester with my teacher, Marco Frascari. After an introduction to Veneto and to the works of Carlo Scarpa, I discovered Brianza, and there a genuine interest developed in furniture design and the “making culture” fueled by thousands of small bottega. In 1989, I returned to Italy and worked for two months in Pierluigi Ghianda’s bottega. From the experiences in Brianza, I committed myself to teaching, researching, and professional practice. In 1992, I began to work collaboratively with faculty, students, and local craftsmen in the design and fabrication of interior and furniture projects (see From that time onward, practice energized my academic research, and academic research influenced my practice. Both made me a better teacher as someone who cares deeply about students, teaching, designing, and learning. Italian Design interested me because of its complex history and cultural heritage rooted in the arts and humanities and in the craft of making. Now however, just a few decades later, the center of gravity of design in Italy (and abroad) has shifted. Today, design disciplines are expanding in the areas of technical, productive, environmental, and digital-interactive systems. To this end, my research agenda will focus on discovering the culture of design today and how making, materials, and technology shape the culture and disciplines of design.