Flos50 iPad app

May 15th, 2012

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The history of industrial design is very much a product of the complex relationship between creative expression and commercial enterprise; many of the most innovative and transformative designs of the last century were commercially produced and available for sale. We’re always impressed when companies have a keen sense of history, interested almost as much in documenting and preserving the legacy of their firm as they are in turning a profit. Flos, the pioneering Italian lighting design house, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, and to commemorate this momentous occasion has drawn on its extensive archives to create an innovative iPad app that is a testament to the family-run firm’s passion for good and groundbreaking design.

While far too many apps feel hastily thrown together with little attention to either aesthetics or user interface, the Flos app succeeds on both fronts, offering an engaging, immersive experience that traces the company’s illustrious history in playful and unexpected ways. With 360-degree panoramic views and hidden doorways around every corner, Flos50, designed by Paris-based Mobile Dream Studio, literally allows the user to explore the room that houses the Flos archives in the family’s home in Brescia, Italy. What emerges is more than just a corporate history or exercise in aggrandizement; the story of Flos is a narrative of family commitment and the passion and devotion of the company’s founder, Sergio Gandini. The vast amount of material included in the app, from product development to marketing and distribution, is indicative of Flos’ respect for history and its place within the evolution of industrial design over the past half century.

The centerpiece of the app is a wireframe bookshelf that holds more than 70 books, binders and objects that recount the company’s history and the story behind each design. Touching a book on the shelf offers a glimpse into each object’s development including hand drawn sketches, original prototypes, advertising, photographs, and film clips. What distinguishes Flos from the slew of other high-end lighting design firms has been their consistent commitment to research, innovation and a passion for the unexpected, which is revealed in their impressive list of collaborators. From Philippe Starck to Ron Gilad, Jasper Morrison and Marcel Wanders, Flos has worked with many of the most prolific and influential designers of the last half-century. The designers’ admiration and respect for Flos is communicated through the personal, hand written notes that are included with the archival material related to each object.

While traversing the charming archive room, the unexpected lurks around every turn: touching the family’s dog makes him growl, slides on the couch reveal event snapshots, and doors open to play commissioned documentaries that trace of the role of two pivotal figures in the company’s development, Flos’ most frequent collaborator, Achille Castiglioni, and Philippe Starck who indelibly altered the direction of the firm. For those who find video documentation of Starck’s motorcycle ride through Paris at dawn to be a bit melodramatic, the app is also peppered with whimsical and amusing games that allow users to interact with the design objects and learn about additive color and electricity. Other highlights include a graphic history of the Flos logo, images of various iterations of the window display at the Milan flagship, and documentation of the firm’s more conceptual activities like their collaboration with artist Jenny Holzer. More than a just a narrative of product development and financial achievement, Flos50 captures the passion, spirit and journey of a few unique individuals who transformed an idea into one of the most successful lighting design firms in the world. Never one to shy away from a business opportunity, the app is also designed to compliment their latest release, a futuristic looking iPad stand designed by Starck.

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