Visitors to Cacao Design's studio are, more often than not, welcomed into the colourful, chaotic space by way of a megaphone (1) on the mezzanine level. It was a 40th birthday present for Masa Magnoni, who founded the studio back in 2004 along with Alessandro Floridia and Mauro Pastore, and is also the means by which the creatives request coffee.
Cacao is located in a historic courtyard in the sociable Navigli area of Milan. "It's surrounded by craftsmen's workshops and traditional 'case di ringhiera' – low tenements with communal balconies," explains Magnoni. "What with the 'aperitivo' being an obligatory ritual after work, we couldn't be in a better location."
The aforementioned hot beverages are delivered via a large coffee bean dispenser (2), which fills the space with a faint waft of caffeine that keeps the creatives perky. Other surfaces overflow with colourful books (3). "We are big consumers of design books," explains Pastore. "They are always interesting, often inspiring, and sometimes they publish our work."
The studio may seem messy, but is actually very organised, insists Floridia. "It looks like a bomb has just gone off, but in fact it's all meticulously thought out. Every object has its own place, and we're careful to put things back where they belong."
A venture back into the depths of the mezzanine level rewards visitors with more hidden gems, including a large, ominous, carved wooden implement (4) that turns out to be a weapon used by the police in Zanzibar. "It was given to me by my kids on their return from a holiday," says Pastore. "It has proved useful to Cacao Design in our debt recovery activities."
This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 228.