How to explain technology through poetry and play?
Italian designer Matteo Loglio plays with the future of products, interactions and tools
The career of designer Matteo Loglio has been punctuated by a series of lucky encounters. During his Masters in User Experience Design at SUPSI, Switzerland, one of his tutors was Massimo Banzi, co-founder of the legendary open source hardware and software company Arduino, who became a mentor for Loglio and hired him to work for the company in 2011. A few years later, Loglio meets the creative entrepreneur Fillipo Yacob, an old acquaintance of his native Bergano. They joined forces to launch Primo Toys, and its first product, Cubetto, was a simple wooden robot designed to teach children the basics of computer programming using a set of colorful coding blocks. His Kickstarter campaign in 2016 attracted nearly $ 1.6 million in funding, a record crowdfunding investment in an educational invention at the time.
Perhaps the most important meeting for Loglio was with Bill Verplank, a pioneer of interaction design, who came to the Primo Toys booth at the Bay Area Maker Faire in 2015. Verplank stopped by to play with Cubetto, then started discussing the project with Loglio. while drawing on a sheet of paper (Verplank sketches are known to simplify complex concepts). Through his sketch, Verplank demonstrated the evolution of Cubetto’s interface – something Loglio had designed intuitively but, it turned out, was firmly anchored in interaction design practices. The sketch is still one of Loglio’s most treasured possessions and has been on his bedroom wall with every movement.
Matteo Loglio: design journey
Design has always been part of the world of Loglio. As a teenager, his obsession with video games led him to explore technology, coding, and web design. “At one point I had a skateboard label with my friends. I was immersed in the world of design before I knew what it was. It was just creative exploration at the start, ”he explains. When he discovered that design was “one thing,” he enrolled in a class in classic industrial design at Politecnico in Milan, before tackling (and being aspired to) interaction design. “In particular, I was drawn to physical computing, this world that sits somewhere between technology and design,” he recalls. From there, his interest turned to creating interactive products and elevating the code into a creative matter.
Cubetto marked the official start of Loglio’s technological adventure. For its design, Loglio took inspiration from the logo of Seymour Papert, an educational programming language developed in the 1960s at MIT and featuring an on-screen turtle that would perform user-generated functions. Based on a similar principle, Cubetto is a wooden wheeled cube that can be controlled by a series of colored tiles arranged on a separate wooden panel. “I wanted to create a physical version of Logo,” explains Loglio. “So I made this prototype with a small car and put it in my portfolio – that was the end for me. Then Yacob offered to launch it as a product and brought an entrepreneurial touch to the idea. The creators of Cubetto described it as “tangible, inclusive and accessible to all cultures”: user-friendly and without a screen, it sits somewhere between a toy and an educational tool, encouraging the technological culture of young people.
Roby, Creative Director of OIO AI
In 2020, after three years at Google’s Creative Lab, Loglio launched OIO, a creative consulting firm “made up of designers, technologists and bots”, based at the London Here East innovation and technology campus. . Encompassing physical objects with a technological slant, as well as speculative or purely digital creations and collaborations, Loglio’s work sheds a human light on the future of AI. “Human-AI collaboration is one of our key themes,” he explains. “We like the idea of the post-human: in the past humans worked with animals, and we think in the future we will be working with newly created artificial intelligences.” One of OIO’s main work in progress includes an AI Art Director, a tool based on a series of algorithms that allows it to recognize and generate furniture designs. Nicknamed “a non-human member of the team” and named Roby, it is both a provocation and an inspirational tool to “support an ever-changing creative process”.
More recently, Loglio launched Many intelligences, published by Corraini Edizioni, with the aim of explaining artificial intelligence to children through simple concepts. This is the result of another happy meeting, with publisher Pietro Corraini, who had been a fan of Cubetto since its inception and who had asked Loglio to write a book summarizing his work. ‘By teaching [at Central Saint Martins and HEAD Genève], I had to develop simple ways to explain AI and technology to designers and artists, people who often don’t know much about technology, ”he explains. “I often have to find metaphors to explain the basics. Over the years, I developed an AI story that I thought I could translate into a book, to explain these concepts to kids. So the idea of Many intelligences was born. The book presents a series of stylized illustrations and a brief poetic text (entirely created by Loglio), addressing the many facets of intelligence: human, animal or other. Through these essential concepts, he weaves a narrative that moves between worlds, from the starfish to the toaster.
Among its extensive catalog, Corraini is a publisher known for design titles such as Bruno Munari and Enzo Mari – two designers who are proper ancestors for the work Loglio has done over the past decade. “What Munari, along with many great 20th century designers, did was try to domesticate industrial production, a concept that was alien to most at the time. The same is happening now with 21st century technology and designers, ”says Loglio. He believes that the essential role of a designer is to understand human nature and its emotions, and at the same time to speak the language of technology and to be able to switch between these worlds. “I feel like I am part of this movement. My job is to take something as foreign as technology and translate it into a home environment, make it familiar, playful. ‘ §