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9th September 2010, 4:42pm  (updated 9th September 2010, 5:02pm)
Iconic Italian design boss reveals secrets of success - and failures along the way - at Lincoln Performing Arts Centre
Alessi Anna Corkscrews One of the most influential figures in the world of contemporary design, Dr Alberto Alessi, spoke about his experiences of managing Alessi Spa, the family business that is also one of the world's most recognisable brands, and the history of the Italian design factories.

Dr Alessi gave his talk to an enthralled audience on Monday at the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre after picking up an honorary doctorate of arts from the University of Lincoln earlier in the day.

Born in 1946, Alberto Alessi is the eldest son of Carlo Alessi, whose father, Giovanni, founded the family company in 1921. After studying law, Alberto joined the enterprise in 1970. Under his stewardship, Alessi has developed iconic status in the world of design. This is down in part to the use of more than 200 international freelance designers and architects who have worked closely with the company over several years.

But, he revealed, it has not all been plain sailing. Alessi recounted the time he worked with Salvador Dali who designed a range that his father vetoed from going into production. But not before Alessi junior had ordered 50,000 steel hooks that were a component in the salmon kettle that was never made. He is still looking for a use for them.

Alessi also explained his "borderline theory" - the key to keeping Alessi designs cutting edge and yet ensuring they will be commercially successful. Thus concepts the designers develop are on the cusp between being "possible" (marketable) and "impossible", and many ideas are shelved after a lot of work.

"Fiasco is the only way to see borderline and there is a fiasco every six months", he joked, referring to the fine line the company treads.

Of his honorary doctorate from Lincoln, he said: "I know it is typical for universities in the UK to be attentive to what is happening in the rest of the world, but it is not so common in Italy. I am very proud to receive this award because intellectual research into design has always been very deep in the UK."

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