Italian designer Valerio Sommella is rising as one of the few acclaimed artists who took their own spot into the world of light. Valerio Sommella’s products tell us about innovative approaches and groundbreaking design solutions that speak with an astonishing simplicity. We interviewed Valerio to know more about his story and his vision about lighting.

1. Valerio, tell us more about your background and journey as a professional.

I must admit that I got close to product design without much self awareness. I can say that I have been quite lucky: when i started my studies in 1998 at the Milan Polytechnic, industrial design wasn’t a thing as it is nowadays. After graduating with honours I started working right away for different design studios between Milan and the Netherlands. These were some truly enriching experiences as I was able to test my knowledge and operate on the field on a variety of topics. In 2009 I got back to Milan where I started my own studio and it led me to where I am right now.

2. How did you get close to product design and lighting solutions? How did the latter impact your professional journey?

I got close to product design by chance, and now I can say that I have been lucky enough to work for a thing that I was very passioned about. I got close to lights when I first designed a project in 2009 with a friend of mine, Alberto Saggia. We met an entrepreneur at Salone del Mobile who gave us the chance to design our very first project with light. I actually worked on many different projects in product design, but nowadays light has become the core of my business. Lighting has the characteristic to be a very wide filed of research, you can range from technical lightning, to decorative lightning to lighting for architecture and so on.

3. Your works are acclaimed by many and some of them, such as the Altura project, have been awarded on numerous occasions, including the IF award. What is your inspiration in creating your work? In your opinion, what are the aspects of Altura that have guaranteed victory?

What inspires a designer? That’s a very recurring question. I don’t believe in the imagery of the designer as an artist getting inspiration from ethereal matters. Today being a designer is a very complex job, so inspiration and ideas are the result of a complex process of thought which takes into account a variety of elements. Working for a client is a very specific job where you have to combine the will of the client without alienating your own vision of design. Let’s say that there is a background theme for inspiration that relies on where you take your project references from.

As for Altura, which is bound for other prizes, I would say I had several project references. In Altura I managed to create a very simple, almost obvious project. The “curl” element you can see on top of the product is a very simple structure, still nobody managed to put it into reality: it’s a very basic element, yet never seen before. Finding simple, effective and aesthetically pleasing solutions is a very difficult task. This is why Altura is a very accomplished project and I can say its simplicity is timeless. This is what in my opinion had Altura be so successful. I actually got inspired by fishing rod fastening systems. I had a technological transfer take place: it’s when you take a technology from a context and you apply on a totally different field. In this case it comes from the world of fishing and the sea, which I am really attached to.

4. Lighting is what gives a soul to any interior: what is the process of transforming your ideas into reality? What are the downsides of working with light?

It’s important to say that my job relies a lot on great partners or clients who share my vision and gives you the right tools to operate. This is where the ideas as a designer take place and become reality. Working with lights is an ever-changing process, which goes through a technical and technological evolution. You can build a chair by using the same technologies that have been used for 100 years. However, with lights you can nowadays create a product with technologies you could never imagine a few years ago. You always have to keep up with the pace.

5. How has social media influenced your career and exposure as a designer?

I have to admit that in product design people understood the importance of social media a little later than other fields, such as fashion, for instance. Maybe it was because people thought the buying process of a design product had different, less impulsive dynamics. Now I can say the importance of social media is undeniable, as many architects get both artistic inspiration and commercial solutions from platforms such as Instagram. The role of the image in a brand or product is crucially changing. In my field, for example, primarily we don’t have images shot for a paper catalogue anymore: nowadays you need to have more immediate, easy-consumption images that need to be sent out with faster roll-out schedules.

6. What can we expect from you in the future? Are you working on some new projects?

I am currently working on other side projects and I’m thinking to bring an innovative twist to the lighting sector as well. It’s about a new kind of relationship you have with the clients or the public in general. As an artist, I often feel the urge to create new, groundbreaking products that might not fit the serial production and the usual commercial approach, so I would like to design on a custom basis, which is a totally new direction I am excited to try out. This would translate into bringing these new products into galleries or having a direct relationship with the end customer. I am thrilled to show you more about my projects in the following months.