interview with cinelli’s chief art director alessandra cusatelli
image © designboom
images courtesy of cinelli




following the interview with cinelli’s head engineer fabrizio aghito, designboom continues its three part studio visit series by sitting down with the italian bicycle manufacturer’s chief art director alessandra cusatelli, to understand more about her experience of growing up and studying in milan, her design philosophy and the possibilities for the company in the future. after studying at the istituto europeo di design and politecnico di milano, and working for design studios and in her independent practice, alessandra has been in the role at cinelli since 2001. she has overseen the charismatic decoration of the bicycles and merchandise ranges that cinelli are famous for, and has managed the collaborations with multiple artists including; mike giant, zio ziegler, and carlos and miguel donjuan.




designboom (DB): please could you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to work as the chief art director for cinelli?


alessandra cusatelli (AC): in 1986 I took a degree in industrial design at the european design institute in milan. in the 1980s the city – my native city – was a hotbed of creativity, where cultural movements like memphis and alchimia were the leading players. major exhibitions at the triennale offered extensive tributes to design where the buzzword was experimentation. this was the period in which the international council of societies of industrial design (ICSID) came to milan, bringing greater fame to the city and thanks to the collateral activities organized by associazione per il disegno industriale (ADI), with the visionary support and intelligence of small and medium italian companies, the future of what was to become the capital of design began to take form. today the period of the salone del mobile is an enormous international event with all that it entails… for better or worse.


to get back to my own experience, after working in some well-known designs studios I started my own independent practice, designing objects for different sectors, including sporting goods. at first I designed bike components for 3T, and later I worked on the colors and graphics of cinelli bicycles. after a few years of independent work, I realized that my way of designing and having an impact on the progress of companies was only partial. I felt a need to expand my project range so I went back to school and completed a masters program in strategic design at the milan polytechnic. this led me to corporate positions, first with kappa and then with cinelli, where I’ve been working for 15 years.

alessandra (left) at eurobike show 2014 with team cinelli chrome rider kelli samuelson (right)




DB: who / what has been the biggest influence on your work to date?


AC: I have already mentioned the cultural scene in the 1980s which if you were living and working in the city where many of the greatest designers were located, was undoubtedly stimulating and a source of inspiration. at the time we young milanese designers, by birth or by residence, were a small but very active international community with a great desire to do things, to learn and to exchange ideas. certainly a part of this was also the birth of the domus academy which brought vitality and experiences from all over the world to our city.

design templates displaying different color combinations
image © designboom




DB: overall – what would you say is your strongest skill and how have you honed that skill over the years?


AC: intuition and the ability to interpret certain languages thanks to a constant passion for contemporary art, time spent in museums, and a feminine sensibility we ‘girls’ should all be proud of.

the 2015 ‘strato faster’ has a renewed body and soul




DB: where do you look for new ideas and inspiration?


AC: there is no precise or constant area from which I get inspiration as it varies depending on the project of which I am working on. often the creative ‘antennae’ which have a life of their own, guides you to one context as opposed to another. in other cases it might not even be correct to talk about inspiration because the objectives are so definite and the constraints so precise, that the work practically runs along a very clear track.


DB: have any other designers or artists influenced your way of thinking?


AC: definitely the masters of italian design, like magistretti, castiglioni and munari. they are examples of intelligence, humanity, irony and surprising inventive force.

the 2015 ‘very best of’ bicycle in its new three tones livery




DB: are there any colors/designs you personally try to avoid using?


AC: I can mention a phrase I read on the cover of an issue of domus a few years ago, ‘my favorite color is the rainbow – and at the end of the rainbow there is a treasure chest with also gold and silver…’


DB: are there any new projects that you are working on? if so, could you enlighten our readers with some information?


AC: we are designing the 2016 line of bicycles and accessories, and moving forward with some interesting product partnerships.

mike giant’s artwork for cinelli




DB: is there a artist/designer that you would love to see collaborate with cinelli and if so, who?


AC: luckily some of the artists I most admire already work with cinelli, or have done so in the past. keith haring who decorated the laser track bikes which are now an icon and the synthesis of the cinelli philosophy, is one such example.


we have done very successful projects with mike giant, both futura 2000 and death spray have decorated cinelli frames and parts, while the door of our warehouse was decorated by zio ziegler – a very young and talented artist from san francisco.


the covers of our catalogs have been completed by young international artists. art is part of the company’s DNA. its president and owner, antonio colombo, is a collector and he also owns an art gallery. his passion is an integral part of every product – right down to the names – and it intertwines with all our design actions.


one designer with whom I would like to work with is jony ive. I met him last year in new york, at a benefit auction organized by bono of U2. we had a conversation there, and later, reading the biography of steve jobs, I realized his design approach is very much in tune with that of cinelli, and certain similarities made me think that our company is like a small apple in the world of bicycles.


DB: do you have any advice for emerging students who would like to specialize in art the way you do?


AC: young people have access to much more information than they once did and its easier to get involved in movements through different cultures. they already have great skills so I don’t think I should be giving them advice related to that but I recommend that they nurture their curiosities and passions. as well, they should try and range as widely as possible in design because its wide variety of applications, is an activity that lets you have all kinds of experiences.

the cinelli laser nostra auctioned for RED cause at the sum of $47.500




DB: what are you passionate about besides your work?


AC: I love to travel, and I am passionate about art, cinema, architecture and sports.


DB: what’s your personal motto?


AC: one thing leads to another.