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a look back

The product development studio at SowdenDesign has evolved over two decades, taking its identity from both the postmodern design movement and the birth of high technology

SowdenDesign was founded in 1981, in Milan, by George J. Sowden and has grown over the years with important partnership relationships: Simon Morgan, Hiroshi Ono, Davy Kho and Franco Mele, and great collaborations with associates: Christian Hartmann, Stephen England, Cynthia Viale, Giovanni Amenduni, Christopher Coombes, Guillaume Delvigne and Tomas Ortiz Ferrer. George Sowden started his professional career in the 70s as a designer at Olivetti, a well known Italian electronics manufacturer.

His work there on some of the earliest computers and peripherals formed the basis for SowdenDesign's ongoing focus in electronics. 25 years later, Sowden was still a senior design consultant for Olivetti's consumer and professional electronics division.

Equally influential for Sowden was the postmodern design movement. The 80's were a revolutionary time for design and, being in Milan, Sowden was in the thick of it. He became a founding member of Memphis, a maverick group of designers, artists and architects whose work defined the post-modern movement.

Centered around Ettore Sottsass and the Italian counter-culture, Memphis shook the design world with its brazen new style, vivid colors and combinations of materials.

Sowden spent the 80s exploring textures, furniture and architecture with Memphis, while at the same time expanding Studio Sowden and continuing his electronics work as a consultant for Olivetti. Back in Sowden's days at Olivetti, industrial design meant a huge staff, drawing boards, shuffling papers, endless revisions and the constant fear of making mistakes that were hard to correct.

That experience stood in sharp contrast to the creative and quality advantages that stood out as Sowden started investigating new computerized design tools in the early 90s. Digital design completely revolutionized the way SowdenDesign does its work, and the adoption of CDRS and Pro/Engineer in 1992 was a huge breakthrough for the studio.

CDRS is an intuitive software application that allows designers to create complex free-form surface models -- work that once used to be done by hand in clay. Now even our most basic design concepts are presented as 3-D computer models, which we then develop and engineer in parallel. Our process has become so refined that we use the CDRS and Pro/engineer programs almost as if they were one piece of software, designing and engineering a product simultaneously.

Even in the midst of so much technology, the foundation of our design process remains very simple: collaboration. As the SowdenDesign team works, there is a constant synergy of creative feedback among our designers and engineers, as well as with our clients. An open atmosphere where each individual's ideas are valued creates a dynamic work environment that fosters creativity and teamwork at all levels. This organic approach is what has enabled us to become recognized as one of the world's leaders in product development.

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