Hands on Design is a design brand and production house based in Milan, with a gallery/showroom in a stunning 19th century court that was built for the Brera Art University. Founded in 2015 by Japanese designer Kaori Shiina (born 1962) and Italian designer Riccardo Nardi (born 1958), Hands on Design focuses mostly on tableware, glassware, ceramics, lighting, and interior accessories. Shiina began her career in Europe working with the renowned De Pas, D’urbino, and Lomazzi studio, where she stayed until 1987. From 2005 onwards, she began developing her own industrial and interior design projects. Nardi has been working continually as an industrial designer since 1982, collaborating on a range of product and lighting design projects with Italian and international companies. The duo founded the design and event coordinator agency Shiina + Nardi Design in 2012, working with Japanese and Italian brands. In 2013, they organized J+I at the Oriental Design Week as part of FuoriSalone. The following year they began Hands on Design, initially as a cultural event to merge design and craftsmanship, before transitioning the project into a commercial brand in 2015.
Hands on Design sets itself apart through its unique approach of coordinating international collaborations between talented artists and designers, mainly from Japan and Italy—bringing together two incredibly rich and diverse craft traditions. The brand's approach is to remain intimately involved throughout the entire design and manufacturing process: from scouting the artisans to defining the designers’ brief; from prototyping to art direction; from communication to sales. This attention to detail can be seen in pieces like the stunning blown borosilicate glass Dervish Vase by Kanz Architetti for Hands on Design. Tableware like the exquisitely rendered Sassi porcelain table setting series, by Setsu & Shinobu Ito, or the Pliage collection of centrepieces and vase by Denis Gudione for Hands on Design, embody the brand’s flair for utterly contemporary, fresh design that nonetheless retains a refined—or even classic—nuance. Every piece in the Hands on Design collection is specifically designed and produced for the brand; the common denominator, as Shiina and Nardi say, is “the quality of production, the poetry of the material, the spirit and unique exclusivity.”
Amongst the acclaimed designers that have partnered with Hands on Design are standouts like Giulio Iacchetti, Lorenzo Damiani, Laudani-Romanelli, and Dodo Arslan. Each year, after a briefing process with their extensive list of designers and artisans, Hands on Design selects the best project proposals and presents the new collection during FuoriSalone, Milan Design Week. Furthermore, in 2017 alone, Hands on Design’s work was featured in three significant exhibitions; New Scheme Design at Toyama Design Wave in Japan; Hands on Design: The Poetry of Matter at Baglioni Hotel Carlton; and East Meets West at Baglioni Hotel Carlton in Milan. Hands on Design’s clients are discerning private collectors and interior designers and, alongside the brand’s flagship location in Milan, its collection is stocked by retailers and galleries throughout Italy and Switzerland, as well as in Cannes and Shanghai.