Friday Five with Michele Caniato

Michele Caniato is a man with not just one impressive job, he has two. In 2001, he co-founded and became president of Culture + Commerce, a design consultancy that partners renowned designers with major companies to help make design more accessible to the masses. Remember when Philippe Starck took Target by storm? We have Caniato to thank for that inaugural deal. At the same time, he was working with Material ConneXion, the leading worldwide materials library for which he eventually became president of in 2008. Both companies were acquired by SANDOW in 2011, with Caniato still president of both, and he continues to broker deals that run the gamut – from consumer products to hospitality design and interior design. With no signs of him slowing down, let’s take a look at what this game changer chose for this week’s Friday Five.


1. Anna Castelli Ferrieri
A co-founder of the Kartell furniture company, and one of Italy’s first graduate female architects, she taught us that “it is not true that what is useful is beautiful. It is what is beautiful that is useful. Beauty can improve people’s way of life and thinking.” To me, she was the embodiment of drive and the Italian creative philosophy that advocates design in everything from teaspoons to cities. I was lucky enough to grow up with her influence as my great aunt, but her sentiments influence so many of us and continue to hold true.


2. “Airtime”
I collect model airplanes, and I really view this collection and its metaphorical play on “airtime” as a symbol for the growing importance of live conversation and face-time now more than ever in our virtual world. I try to take in-person meetings (even when it requires flying across the country or around the world) or phone calls whenever possible instead of relying on email, because I believe there is no greater power and energy than looking someone in the eye and connecting in real time.


3. “Playtime”
I also collect Kidrobot toys – I have an entire shelf in my office dedicated to them! I feel that they illustrate the fact that we are nothing if we don’t have fun in our process and follow whatever pursuits bring us genuine joy and energy. My collection also reminds me of my children, as I am in my office all day long and it keeps me focused on my family and the important things in life.


4. Materials
I started my company, Material ConneXion, because I believe that materials are truly the starting point for innovation. This idea still holds very true. Right now at Material ConneXion, we are very interested in elastomers (rubbery plastics) in 3D printing. It allows us to create a much wider range of designs and products that play with hard and soft surfaces, as well as flexibility. Ninjaflex is leading this area of innovation in additive manufacturing with a range of materials with different rubbery properties in striking colorways. With these resins, your imagination is really the only limitation.

Photo source unknown

Photo source unknown

5. Portofino, Italy
I grew up going to Liguria, Portofino every summer as a child. It is the most romantic place I have ever visited in my life, the perfect balance of an incredible sea village situated around a plaza, great food, beautiful color and all of the emotions of my first ice cream with my grandfather to proposing to my wife, Margaux. We are going back this summer with my two boys to continue the tradition.

Caroline Williamson is Editorial Director of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.