Pierangelo Andreani ’s work revolves around widening his horizons. Pragmatic and good at keeping things simple, he always gets to the heart of a project effortlessly
by Niccolò Volpati – photo by Andrea Muscatello
As a young pupil, Pierangelo Andreani was once told off by a teacher with the words: “Andreani, stop your doodling, this isn’t Pininfarina!”. In the end, however, in the early 1970s, he actually did end up at Pininfarina, the Italian car design firm, after a year and a half working at Fiat’s design centre in Turin.
«I was very lucky to be good at drawing», he said. In those days, there was no such thing as a design school. The standard route to go down was to study architecture, but Pierangelo Andreani wanted to gain experience instead. University, where the tendency was to pass everyone, regardless of merit, had little appeal.
So as a result, after graduating from high school, he started sending out CVs, and, at the insistence of his mum, also sent one to the design centre at Fiat.
He also tried applying to Pininfarina, but they told him that they had just taken on two other youngsters, so he accepted the offer from Fiat. «Working there really honed your technique», he recalled, «Because, after having finished the drawing, the pattern makers were on hand to turn your designs into a plaster mock-up at a scale of 1:1».
So that’s how he worked. There were no computers or software. Andreani created models one to ten for the Fiat Ritmo at the Fiat design centre. The car was launched exactly 40 years ago, in 1978, when Pierangelo had already left Fiat, having been received another call from Pininfarina.
«That was my salvation, after a year and a half I couldn’t take working at Fiat any more», he said. «The atmosphere for designers was poor. Fiat was all about connections, and the manager had been forced on us because his father owned an important vehicle body shop».
At Pininfarina, however, the atmosphere was completely different. «In a strange twist of fate, the first thing they asked me to do was design the wheels of the Ritmo», Andreani continued. In this new setting he began to expand his horizons, no longer limited to just designing cars, but also moving into other sectors.
At the time, the word ‘design’ was only associated with the world of cars. «If you said you were designing a piece of furniture or an armchair, people would look at you as if you came from another planet», Andreani said.
However, a little bit at a time, thanks in part to design centres like Pininfarina, design took hold in all areas of industry. Against this background, it seemed only right to ask him the million-dollar question during our interview: What is design? Pierangelo Andreani took his time, sighed, and then said: «Design is the spark needed to create a mass-produced product». It’s an excellent answer.
The more I think about it, the more I think he’s right. I’ve interviewed lots of designers in the past, and I have to confess I was expecting a vaguer response.
One of those answers you have to write down carefully in your notebook because you haven’t really understood what they’re saying. Andreani is not like that.
He’s very pragmatic, and easy to understand. More than that, he makes the things you thought were complex seem simple. «I think the boating world contains both artists and designers. The artists are the ones who design boats more than sixty metres long».
This is because they do not have any specific limitations, and have more creative freedom. Perhaps the only restriction is meeting the requests of the owner, which are sometimes a bit bizarre, but there are no discussions with the sales team, marketing directors or production managers.
Meanwhile, working for a shipyard that churns out large numbers of boats means talking to lots of different people and inevitably reaching compromises. Before they can draw a single line, designers receive lots of instructions: how big the boat should be, how much it should weigh, what category it should fall under, how many berths it should have and, above all, how much making it should cost.
«Today’s work is very closely tied to economics», Andreani said. «When I was asked to update the range of trawlers at Bénéteau it was essential to stick to the spending limits. In the end we managed. It wasn’t easy, because you have to come up with a good, high-quality product but which also avoids wasting any money».
And Bénéteau must have been delighted with Pierangelo Andreani’s work, because after the 30 they commissioned the 35, launched a year ago, and he is now busy designing the 45, which will be ready next year. He has recently also designed his first sailing boat for the French shipyard, the Oceanis 62.
Andreani has an incredible amount of experience, not only in every area of industry you could possibly imagine, from cars, motorbikes and bicycles to lawnmowers and coffee machines, but also in the world of boating. The first shipyard he worked for was Cranchi, and the partnership lasted a long time – he designed all the boats they built between 1975 and 2004.
It therefore seems logical to ask him what differences a designer encounters when creating a boat for Cranchi, compared to working for Bénéteau. «When I worked for Cranchi, I only had one point of contact», he explained, «and assuming he had reasonably clear ideas, it was pretty easy to keep him happy. With Bénéteau you’re dealing with a team, and so right from the word go you have to balance different requirements».
Large groups take instructions from dealers, sales people and marketing directors, and there’s no guarantee that the people in the roles won’t change before the project is finished, meaning everything is constantly subject to checks and alterations.
However, the advantage of this is being able to carry out more detailed research. «You always have to remain curious», he explained, «and never satisfied. Designers need to know everything there is to know about the materials, how they are moulded, how much they cost and what advantages they offer, or they won’t be ready to share ideas with a team of professionals».
Another advantage of a large shipyard is having lots of skilled people on hand to research innovative solutions. Because, in essence, what we have understood from Pierangelo Andreani is that a designer’s job is to introduce new features, but not too many. A new boat has to be better than the previous one, without turning everything upside-down. Almost as if it were a natural evolutionary process.