People + Places

Exploring the Design Process of the Alessi IN-possible Collection

No one can deny that New York City in May is the place to be for design lovers. The reason? May is the month that hosts NYCxDesign, New York’s official city wide celebration of design, now in its 5th year. We’re taking a look back at one of our favorite exhibitions from AlessiSpanning all disciplines of design, NYCxDesign hosts many different events throughout the month, including exhibitions, installations, trade shows, talks, launches and open studios.

Photography courtesy of Alessi S.p.a. Image via

One of the many events that falls under this umbrella is WantedDesign. A platform dedicated to promoting and fostering the creative community, WantedDesign hosts programming and exhibitions in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Marking their third appearance in WantedDesign, Alessi brought an interesting and unexpected exhibit to New York.

“Alessi IN-possible. Before an idea is brought to life” is a presentation that focuses on the creative and research process involved in bringing a design to production for the mass market. However, this collection offers a unique twist by focusing on designs that failed to make it out of the studio and into production.

Spider Bowl by Scott Henderson. Image via

This exhibition is dedicated to the dialogue between the designer, the company and the collaborative process. Through it, the viewer is allowed a seldom seen peek into the inner workings of Alessi’s world. Revealing the myriad of reasons why a design didn’t survive the crucial discovery phase opens a door for the viewer, allowing them to briefly become part of the process.

Each piece in the exhibit piques your interest with visual appeal, curiosity or both, and then shares its story. Curated by the Alessi Museum, the collection features projects from 1920 through present day. It includes collaborations with well-known designers Philippe Stark, Zaha Hadid, Patricia Urquiola and many more.

Visitors were encouraged to vote for their favorite projects that never saw the light of day at Alessi’s special mini-website: Alessi IN-possible. If you weren’t able to catch Alessi IN-possible during design week, don’t worry! We’ve rounded up some of our favorite IN-possible designs, so you won’t completely miss out.

Flower Holder Necklace, designed by Jan Kaplicky of Future Systems, 2004

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Looking to turn fresh flower blooms into jewelry with an original spin, this piece began as a brooch. Eventually the project evolved into a very intriguing necklace. Large in scale and draping across the body, this piece required the use of silver as the medium for production. Unfortunately, the project was suspended due to an unpredictable increase in the price of silver, which rendered the necklace too costly.

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Giulio Iacchetti (Art Direction): Research For A Collection of Native Digital Pens, 2013/2016

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Conceived to take advantage of 3D printing technology, this project was originally initiated when Iacchetti invited ten of his colleagues to design some digital pens. Looking to have complete control over an object’s production, 3D printing seemed the way to go. However, this total autonomy proved difficult to manage, so Iacchetti proposed to develop the collection with Alessi. After two years of research, design and experimentation, the collection remained too expensive and elaborate to produce, which contradicted the project’s original goal.

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Kettle, designed by Patricia Urquiola, 2005

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I just happen to adore tea pots and kettles, so this one definitely caught my eye. The unusual angles that create the body of this kettle, combined with the lacing-style handle, are definitely unique.  Related to the “Orioff” bowls Urquiola had designed for Alessi that same year, the specifications for creating it in kettle form proved too costly. And the desired handle was not reproducable in a material that met the safety regulations governing kettle production.

Kettle molds. Image via

Folding Ladder, designed by Gary Chang, 2008

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This is one of my favorite pieces from the Alessi IN-possible exhibition. I love multi-functional pieces, especially since living in the Bay Are often means that space is at a very high premium. Designed to be a table, seat and step stool, Folding Ladder seems to have it all. The tallest step of the ladder is a stationary piece, while a folding section can be pulled out to create a ladder with three steps. Sadly, it didn’t make it to production at all due to the complex safety regulations that govern these types of products in Italy and throughout Europe.

The Alessi IN-possible exhibition is definitely a treat. It’s not often that a company shares their ideas that didn’t work or weren’t feasible for some other reason. Taking a look at what could have been–and then taking a look at what Alessi has made possible in their current array of offerings–just goes to show the dedication it takes to make great design.

Nicole Tatem

Nicole Tatem

Nicole is the Sr. Site Merchandiser for Accessories, Kids, and Textiles at YLiving. She is obsessed with great design in all forms with a special love for jewelry, wine bottle labels, and tableware. When she’s not exploring the many museums and art galleries of the Bay Area, Nicole spends time looking for and visiting obscure and unusual destinations (locally and abroad) while practicing her photography skills.

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