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Settled, but still setting standards: How one company is building the next design generation

We all must lead by example, but how can you lead an industry and, thereby, lead the future? We look at how Schiavello is nurturing tomorrow’s design greats.

Settled, but still setting standards: How one company is building the next design generation

One of Australia’s longest-running emerging design programs, Launch Pad, has been a pioneer of more hopeful, optimistic and co-operative industry standards for tomorrow’s design industry greats. True to its name, Launch Pad has provided the lift-off points for the careers of many local industrial designers across Asia Pacific. Since its origins fifteen years ago, the initiative has developed into an annual competition, exhibition and mentorship program, propelled by the critical gap in an emerging designers’ career path.


“One of the hardest parts of being a designer is being able to produce; finding the right manufacturer that is willing to support you and take the risk.” – Louise Olsen, former Launch Pad judge and Director/Founder of Dinosaur Designs


Nurturing tomorrow’s talent, the Schiavello-way


Supporting fresh minds at exactly this point, Launch Pad aids in taking a design concept from prototype to production – a business reality that is not often covered by tertiary institutions, and can mean the difference between success and starvation for an up-and-coming designer. 


For the second year running, Schiavello is the proud Official Partner of the Launch Pad program. With authenticity and innovation as the core pillars of its philosophy, Launch Pad’s objective is at the heart of Schiavello‘s desire to be a positive force in our combined industries. Schiavello recognises the challenges of being the ‘new kid on the block’, and wants to do something about it. So when I visited the brand’s Sydney showroom last May, I was not surprised that this was displayed in full force in front of some of our industry’s current and future leading talent.


“Design is important. We want to stretch the boundaries of the way our products look and function. The look, the feel, the touch, are equally as important as how well our products work.” – Peter Schiavello, Managing Director


Welcoming seven of this year’s Launch Pad finalists into their home, Schiavello lead by example, sharing the brand’s insights into every process of the business of design – from prototyping and development, through to nurturing business acumen,  and developing a brand identity that will weather and reimagine the changing shape of this industry well into the future. With presentations from Tom Skeehan (former Launch Pad alum) on the trials and tribulations of running a design practice, IndeisgnLive’s very own Aleesha Callahan on how to engage media attention, and Maria Olsen of Banki Haddock Fiora on navigating the difficulties of intellectual property in our industry, team Schiavello was joined by the 2018 jury, including Henry Wilson of Henry Wilson Studio, Terri Winter of top3 by design, Aidan Mawhinney of Living Edge and Raj Nandan of Indesign Media Asia Pacific.


It struck me as I listened to the seven finalists’ pitches and the jury’s feedback that so much of what was happening in the room is also in a very large sense part of the fabric of the room too. To me, the Launch Pad and Schiavello pairing is a match made in heaven because so much of Schiavello’s 50-plus-year history is coloured by supporting generation after generation of emerging design talent on our doorstep.


One need only look at day one of the Schiavello brand, when Tony Schiavello migrated to Australia from Italy in the 1950s, bringing with him the tenacity to succeed and a ‘can-do’ attitude. He developed a small family owned and operated company dedicated to providing clients with the best service and the highest-quality furniture. Obviously, this has never changed for the brand. And, what’s more, even though Schiavello has grown from humble beginnings into the design powerhouse that it is today, there’s something touching, thoughtful and definitely unique in the brand never forgetting its roots, its story, and that feeling of what it is like to be the ‘new kid on the block’.


“I don’t think I will ever completely understand or appreciate what my father and uncle have achieved. To come to Australia with little-to-no knowledge of English and create this kind of opportunity is nothing short of inspirational. They taught us to take nothing for granted, treat everyone with respect and believe that anything is possible. Culturally, this is what is instilled within our business today.” – Christopher Schiavello, Director of Schiavello Construction and International.


That dictum – ‘Anything Is Possible’ – lies at the heart of both Launch Pad and Schiavello. It’s this same attitude of hope that underpins design inspiration, and in part plays a role in Schiavello’s history of embracing change and innovation as the root of design. When the company begun developing office furniture from the late 1960s onwards, it declared that the future of the corporate environment would be one based on individual empowerment, collaboration and diversity. Enter several game-changing furniture systems including Climate and Sesto, that Schiavello developed to address solve issues of evolving working styles, allowing workers to adapt between individual and team tasks quickly.


Being involved in several large fit-outs across Victoria at the time solidified Schiavello‘s position within the industry – a step-and-a-half ahead of the zeitgeist. But the brand had its eyes set on something bigger, so when presented with its first international contract from Washington D.C to design and provide over 20,000 workstations, Schiavello knew that Australia’s prowess in commercial environments was making waves across the world – and, what’s more, they had a key role to play in helping to change the way the entire world went about work in the future.


But revolutionising workplaces through furniture systems alone didn’t seem to be enough. For a company that brims with youth, vivacity and excitement for tomorrow’s designers meeting tomorrow’s workers, there was always space to grow and evolve. The Construction business is an integral division of the Schiavello Group giving it an extra insight to the commercial landscape. Naturally, by 2016 there was plenty to celebrate – not least that the brand had reached its 50th anniversary. Rising awareness across the industry about what work lives would be like in 2030, it prompted people to rethink entire design practices, embrace originality, accept the forces of change and consider how technology would impact these spaces. 


If you step inside one of Schiavello‘s showrooms, it’s impossible not to notice all of this. And I mean ALL. In particular, it’s impossible not to notice just how much (and for how long!) Schiavello has kept a watchful eye over tomorrow’s design greats, offering them support from so many angles of the brand’s expertise. It’s refreshing to see a brand embrace the possibilities that arise from helping to develop the next generation in design. But for me, it’s the innovation and comprehensive nature of the Launch Pad program that Schiavello props up – one that has attracted the support and involvement of notable industry figures whilst connecting finalists with a network of commercial suppliers, retailers, consumers and the media.


Who are your 2018 Launch Pad winners? Read the announcement and their fascinating design journeys, here.

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