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Vol 57 No. 12 : June 15, 2005
Vol 57 No. 12 | June 15, 2005
Professor, Graduate Create Italian Experience for Industrial Design Students

CSULB 1980 graduate Joseph Ricchio (far right) with Industrial Design students on recent retreat.

On the most recent Italian retreat for CSULB Industrial Design students were Chad Lasoto, Mary Cesario, Rosalind Siv, Patty Yuan, Romero Mejia, Jake Ricchio ( Joe's son), and Joe Ricchio.

Four CSULB Industrial Design majors traveled to the prestigious furniture faire in Milan titled "Salone del Mobile" in April for two weeks experiencing the culture and design when they embarked on the 2nd Cortona Design Retreat. Joseph Ricchio, a 1980 CSULB Industrial Design graduate and owner of Ricchio Design in Seal Beach, created the annual Cortona Design Retreat in an effort to share his 24 years of design, furniture and Italian cultural experience with design students of CSULB. Along with Ricchio, Professor Michael J. Kammermeyer of the Industrial Design Department provided a tremendous amount of support and effort. According to Ricchio, "Kammermeyer's excitement and involvement has been integral in the success of this event." 

The 2nd Cortona Design Retreat was meant to provide a select group of undergraduate Industrial Design majors with the opportunity to experience the Italian culture and its influence on design. To participate, students had to submit resumes, portfolios of work, biography, papers stating what the value of the trip would be to them and be interviewed. Upon their return, the participating students gave a slide show of their experience in the Design Department gallery and hosted a public exhibit of their furniture designs at CSULB in May.

"Salone is the biggest furniture exhibit in the world," said Ricchio. "In 2004, there were approximately 150,000 square meters of exhibits, 1,500 exhibitors and 180,000 visitors to the show. It takes four or five days just to attempt to see everything."

The visit was supported by donations from CSULB alumni and many of Ricchio's clients. Funding was received from such furniture manufacturers as Arcadia, ICF, Knoll International and Peter Pepper Products. Additional contributions were received from Brian Graham Design, Atlantic, Hot Door, John Caldwell Design, Morphix Design, Ricchio Design, Richard Holbrook Design and CSULB alumna Debra George.

"For both years, I have raised $32,000 to make this possible for the students," he said. "Now that I have done it for two years my intent is that it is an annual event sponsored by alumni and clients such as Knoll, ICF, HBF, Davis, PPP and others."

Many of the sponsors have been to the faire or exhibited at the faire. 

"The manufacturers that contribute, the other furniture designers that contribute and even the alumni that contribute do so for one very simple reason: they are all aware of the value of stepping 'out-of-the-box' and experiencing design and other cultures on a global level," said Ricchio. "For some of the students it is a very eye-opening experience with it being their first time out of the U.S. Both years, some of the sponsors have met us in Milano for dinner to discuss design, the faire and simply everyone's time in Italy. It is great exposure for the students to have this kind of first-hand casual exposure to clients and professionals."

Besides the sheer size and international flavor of the show, each year the students really enjoyed "Satellite," the student section of the show. 

"There are usually 50 or 60 schools from across the world exhibiting," Ricchio explained. "It is great for the students to see whom they will be competing against in the marketplace. Also, each year everyone enjoys Zona Tortona, a neighborhood outside the fairgrounds where up-and-coming young designers and firms exhibit their work. There was lots of cutting-edge design, exploration and very hip evening parties and openings."

Several of Ricchio's Italian clients believe the experience for the students is a great one and enjoy spending time with them and sharing their insight and knowledge. 

"I would love to see the furniture design class and the students develop to the point whereby CSULB can participate in the faire as part of 'Satellite,'" he said.

In both years of the visit, an effort was made to make the trip not only about design but a mix of design and culture.

"This year we went to Vinci, the hometown of Leonardo da Vinci and saw his home and a museum of his work," Ricchio said. "We also visited Venice, Florence and Siena. And of course, hence the name of the retreat, we based ourselves in Cortona, a medieval hilltop town about 45 minutes southeast of Florence. The goal is to expose the students to the contrasts of Italy, from very small towns like Cortona to the hustle and bustle of big cities such as Milano."

Since graduating in 1980, Ricchio has tried to stay in touch with CSULB, its faculty and his classmates. "Simply put, CSULB was a great value and experience from the Design Department to International Programs. I have been fortunate and successful in my career and believe it is a result of my schooling," he said. "Also, I very much believe it is important to 'give back' when possible. The school was good to me so I felt it important to return the favor. My involvement in the department, my part-time instruction of furniture design and the Cortona Design Retreat is my way of sharing my experience, knowledge and good fortune. It allows me to share about design, my professional experience and my understanding of Italy."
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