Distance Learning Takes a Lesson from Design

Alessia Musillo
·5 minuto per la lettura
Photo credit: Courtesy Nidi
Photo credit: Courtesy Nidi

From ELLE Decor

Some middle schools, but not kindergartens. High schools and technical institutes running at 100%, although it depends on the color of your region, the number of cases in each territory, and the individual choices of principals… In short, distance learning isn’t an exact science. Criticized and discussed both in parliament and at the café counter (when they were still open), and disapproved as much as it is defended, we wonder if online education is a temporary practice or a new approach to studying. And while we can’t see the future, we can observe how the trend is requiring our homes to provide their very best. From Zoom to Teams and Hangout, class gets closer to the kitchen and learning goes online.

Life continues even beyond the screen, in the homes of professors and students. Wasn’t it ill-advised to cross the private threshold between those teaching and those learning? How much would we have loved to find that our philosophy professor hung a messy poster of Sartre with sunglasses next to their bookcase? Distance learning changes — drastically — our methods of studying, that of teaching, and the relationships between one another. Students peer at the titles of books behind professors and teachers get a look at the taste and order of their students’ homes — personality is served front and center. And while everything is based on technology, the tablet and Wi-Fi should work to perfection, just as domestic spaces should respond to our needs: the right light, a comfortable seat, and a large desk — elements that serve both children and adults alike.

Gone is the teacher’s podium, along with the back row seats. “Spatial hierarchies exist no more: there’s no head of the table for a boss, and none of their faithful followers to flank them. In the grids that divide the screen, we appear one next to the other, enlarged, only when one speaks,” writes Gaia Manzini in Il Foglio. The students might be the same behind the screen, but the atmosphere has changed. Nobody is sitting in the front row, and class has less to do with the physical space and more to do with a temple for the mind. Lessons aren’t held face to face, but in solitude, where nobody is called to the blackboard. Behind the computer or just next to it — as long as it’s out of view — we’d all try to keep the book open for a test we didn’t prepare for (as long as teachers don’t use applications like 110 Cum Laude, preventing copying).

Photo credit: Mikko Ryhanen
Photo credit: Mikko Ryhanen

Dividing spaces. Teachers stuck with limited square meters in a studio apartment might do well to opt for a screen that separates, covers and provides privacy. This historic model designed by Alvar Aalto for Artek is an icon of at-home “division”. Realized in 1936, it’s a timeless object made of thin strips of pine wood aligned vertically.

Photo credit: Courtesy Vitra
Photo credit: Courtesy Vitra

The missing podium is replaced with a desk. The Home Desk by George Nelson for Vitra, a classic since 1958, would make any professor feel at home. Realized in laminate and originally conceived as a secrétaire for gentlemen, today it’s used as a desk or workspace.

Photo credit: Courtesy Nidi
Photo credit: Courtesy Nidi

The philosophy behind the design for distance learning introduced by Nidi doesn’t look to revolutionize the rooms of young students, but rather to mix spaces dedicated to leisure and play with those for studying. There’s no need to move chairs and thus the allure of the entire room: one desk is enough to read both comics and a science textbook.

Photo credit: Tommaso Sartori per De Padova
Photo credit: Tommaso Sartori per De Padova

In propylene and complete with wheels, if a book is suddenly needed during class, the professor can roll from one end of the studio to the other, conducting class seamlessly and comfortably. From De Padova, the solution comes in Silver, the iconic chair from Vico Magistretti designed in 1989.

Photo credit: Courtesy Pedrali
Photo credit: Courtesy Pedrali

Vibrant colors are synonymous with playful leisure, while solid support respects posture in Odoardo Fioravanti’s Snow 303 JR, realized for Pedrali in propylene. Light and playful, it transmits the masterful sense of sitting well. The definition of efficient design embracing aesthetics.

Photo credit: Courtesy Louis Poulsen
Photo credit: Courtesy Louis Poulsen

The perfect light to illuminate your notes come from the Aj Table Mini by Arne Jacobsen for Louis Poulsen, projecting clarity in space. Exploring new colors, this pink version is a new addition in 2020, while the lampshade continues to optimize the distribution of light throughout any environment.

Photo credit: Courtesy Seletti
Photo credit: Courtesy Seletti

For the little ones, we might opt for the imaginary and visionary design of Seletti. Here, the Mouse Lamp takes the signature of Marcantonio Raimondi Malerba and is so realistic — realized in resin — that Step, Lop and Mac, the three mice, seem to help concentrate while holding a bulb ready to illuminate books, notebooks, and entire lessons.

Photo credit: Courtesy Fabriano
Photo credit: Courtesy Fabriano

Write, draw, erase: class isn’t an exercise you can past entirely online. You need paper — and what a paper! Fabriano is an experience in style alternating notebooks, planners, diaries and pouches. This year, they focus on blue — a color that plays its part even while keeping serious and organized.

Photo credit: Courtesy Danese e P di Pigna
Photo credit: Courtesy Danese e P di Pigna

On one hand we have Danese, who marks the time — so uncertain and confusing during this soft lockdown — with the timeless Timor calendar by Enzo Mari. On the other, a collaboration between Danese and P di Pigna, who reorders the words and numbers on paper. Scripta manent remains true and notes and ideas are written in a notebook with a cover illustrated by the maestro of design, Enzo Mari.

Photo credit: Courtesy Stendig Calendars
Photo credit: Courtesy Stendig Calendars

Time isn’t only a matter for the desk. For a more realistic atmosphere, and for a professor that looks beyond the screen, the calendar by Massimo Vignelli for Stendig Calendars draws the passing days, transforming the wall into an artistic reminder. Plus, the piece has even been spotted at MoMA!