Mauro Porcini joined Pepsi in 2012 as its first ever Chief Design Officer. Living in NYC and Italian native, he shares with us his experience during the Covid-19 epidemic. Mauro is an expert in design as well as global branding, a supporter of the Made in Italy and Italian style. We have asked his view, experience and a message for businesses and individuals during this global pandemic.
- Who has been or is inspiration and reference for you?
First of all my parents, though I may sound pretty obvious, probably for many. I took for granted for a long time. They taught me the importance of culture, of knowledge and of learning with curiosity. Culture was the most important thing in my family, and they passed on the love for it, leading by example. They studied, they read and they were interested in anything that was relevant. They were in owe of and loved people with culture: University teachers and people in television that somehow were showcasing that level of culture.
One very important value they taught was the need of being a good person. They are devoted Catholic, very Christian, very religious. My father is an architect and a painter, so I was surrounded by paintings in my house. So that was a great inspiration for me on the art side, and as a kid, I could draw very well. So it was really fun for me to draw with him and learn all kinds of techniques.
My mother instead was in love with literature, writing and reading and she loves writing poems with religious backgrounds and content.
Still today they work together to publish daily paintings and thoughts online. You know, my parents are totally non technological but they figured out how to create a blog. They self-published different books, paintings, sketches with poems. They have been such an inspiration all my life.
2. Your personal definition of design and how did you apply it in your professional experiences?
Design is all about people. It’s all about understanding the needs and wants of people. Therefore, understanding what is important, what is relevant, what is meaningful to people, and then creating solutions. It could be a product, a service, a brand, an experience: all solutions that solve those needs and those wants, those desires and dreams. This is what designers do.
To do that, we need to understand three dimensions. One is the world of the human beings, psychology and anthropology. Semiotic and semantic, hence understanding people. Second dimension is business: how to do branding, distribution, how to work with your customers: it is important because once you understand those needs, you also need to find a way to create solutions that can be sold. Third dimension is technology: the one of the product, to manufacture the product.
The product needs to be feasible, sellable and you need to have the right technologies to do all of that. The connection between people, strategies slash business and technology is the key to create solutions that are meaningful to people to their needs and wants. Design is all about people and is all about fulfilling those needs, and those ones in a meaningful way.
3. How do you live in New York and how does it influence your work? What are the other places that inspire or relax you?
I deeply Love NY, I define it as the capital of capitals. People all around the world come to NY to do business, to create and inspire. There is a density of unbelievable people with great ideas and unbelievable drive to change the world that you cannot find in any other city in the world. This makes NY an amazing “piazza” where people with ideas meet people with resources to make things possible.
Having this density of people with amazing ideas, drive and energy to make things happen is very inspiring, but at the same time could be draining. You always have the desire to be out and join and meet these people that can inspire you.
To balance this out I have a house where I can escape in nature 2 hours away from the city, in the Hamptons. I love waking up and seeing deers in the garden and the sound of the fireplace crackling. In my life I have always been in a sort of suspension between two worlds: on one side a full energy of the city and on the other the full energy of nature, I love them both and a balance of two is what I feel comfortable with.
4. How are you facing the coronavirus situation and which stereotypes or preconceptions would you like to fight?
Mauro takes a deep breath and sighs, and I know he is gearing up to deliver his honest opinion with most empathy. If you follow Mauro on his IG account you already know his posts are often filled with social involvement messages and human sensitivity. The impact of coronavirus issue, the healthcare shortage of staff and gear, the impact that this pandemic has on our country and the others, is one that he has deeply at heart.
The Corona virus situation is absolutely mind blowing in so many different ways. Nobody expected it. Nobody understands how to face it: it’s scary and difficult to understand. The problem is that many people are underestimating the magnitude of this crisis.
As an Italian living in New York my message is “Wake up! This is not just something happening in Italy”.
Italy has the second-best performing healthcare system in the planet according to the World Health Organization. The US is far behind: there are by far less hospital beds per person than Italy.
My thoughts and my prayer go to all the families and all the individuals that have been and will be impacted by this. We need to make sure we are safe as individuals, families and if we have teams and companies is necessary to prioritize the safety of our people. We also need to find ways to maintain the basic business needs, in specific industries in particular: healthcare system, food and beverage, production and delivery, the production of any safety equipment, as well as information and entertainment.
The solution is to stay home. Many of us will need to be in the front line fighting this virus. Some of us may be able to work remotely, while many other will not.
Try to better yourself, to do something to grow: You have an amazing opportunity to invest your time. “Beat this virus with creativity.
In my case: I’m reading multiple books that I was planning to read and I never had time for, I started drawing again. I’m also writing my book. Actually, I’ve been writing this book for years. But now I am full on dedicated to it.
My goal is to grow and become better as a professional and also as a human being. So this is how I’m reacting to this virus and how I’m fighting it.
5. Your message of solidarity and energy to overcome this moment
My message of solidarity is: Beat the virus with Creativity.
As I mentioned already, we are living a tragedy with a very heavy death toll, but we also have the unique opportunity of getting time back in our life to slow down, invest on yourself and grow as a human being by learning new things. Read as much as you can. In brief do something that you always wanted to do, but you never had the time to.
This is how we’re going beat this virus from an emotional level. Obviously, you know, we still need to fight obviously this virus in a more practical way and contain it.
Let us use creativity to better ourselves, to grow and eventually share it also with others in order to inspire as many people as possible in this moment of difficulty.
6. Let’s talk about Made in Italy, of which you are a big supporter, and specifically how the role of the designer in future business in a world where the impact and physical interaction seems to be less and less prevalent?
A designer is a creator of meaning. A designer is somebody that understand the needs and wants of people and creates solutions. In the past those solutions were often material, and the material we were working with was wood, metal, or leather. These materials will stay in the future as well, obviously, you know, as there will always be a place for physical things.
Today, there is a new material that designers can play with and need to play with and it is bytes and gigabytes of information that you can translate in so many different ways: videos, digital content, all those megabytes of information the fly in the air.
As yourself: how does communication among devices work? what is the user interface and how do products connect with each other creating dialogue with each other? how do human beings connect with those products from their smart thermostats to wearable technology to their smart phone or device of the future that will interact with their home and their clothing and car. We design the connection of all these devices. Even when is intangible we design the way you interact with them and how user friendly, intuitive, simple to use it is. We design something that at the end of the day can be synthetized and defined as an experience and therefore there is a physical component of it and there is also an intangible component of it
At the end of the day, however, we do exactly what the designers of the past were doing. We understand people, their needs, their wants, and we create solutions that are meaningful for them, where material is not just wood metal or plastic but also intangible as bytes and the intangible experience of people with these contents made of bytes and these physical products that some how carry, receive or send the contents away.
7. Have you traveled the world to educate brands and their professionals on best practices : an advice to brands in this moment of stalemate and crisis?
My recommendation to any brand around the world right now is to be sensitive and be part of the global conversation. Create a content that is authentic. It needs to be aligned to your brand promise, to what you stand for. It needs to be relevant to your target audience. Be part of the conversation, have a specific message that invokes energy and positivity or offer solutions that can be informative or entertaining. Offer value to your audience in a way that is informative, entertaining and authentic as possible, aligned to your promise, to your positioning and with the tonality that is typical of your brands.
8. Last but not least Mauro let’s talk about YOUR SHOES. you left NY temporarily to stay at home in the Hamptons, to stay at home, retreat and to contribute and rightly follow the guidelines dictated by the concept of “Social Distancing” as a weapon to combat the spread of this terrible virus. Are your beloved shoes (from you and us) now in quarantine?
My shoes, I miss my shoes in New York! I have my emergency collection you know, Here in America some people have collections of tomatoes and flowers and cookies and chips to use this in case of catastrophes, I have that and my shoes, about 50 pairs of them. It is you know My emergency collection!
“In this way,you know, while the other pairs, stay in New York resting and being safe, I will just as safely, enjoy this smaller collection here. “
He jokes about it, but truly Mauro is a lover of shoes and he has a collection of approx. 350 shoes, 50 of which now in quarantine with him, the rest back in his apt in NYC..
We wish Mauro to be safely reunited with his beloved quarantined shoes soon, curious to see what he will design next, and we wish all of you to stay safe, stay in and work on a better future by utilizing Creativity to beat the virus!
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