Most collaborations are focused on trainers or items of clothing, at least the ones you end up reading about here. Except for music, where producers and guest vocalists, arguably, also collaborate with artists, fashion is where most partnerships are formed. It’s easy to forget about all the other creative disciplines where artisans are looking up each other in order to create a new and unique product. Product design is one such area and the recent collaboration between classic Italian weapon manufacturers, Beretta, and industrial designer Marc Newson proves that point. Newson, Sydney-born but UK-based, Marc is an excellent example of a designer working across the board, constantly challenging others and himself. For over 10 years Newson has collaborated on a clothing line with denim experts G-Star and in September this year he also joined Jonathan Ive as a designer at Apple. Not satisfied with jeans and phones, Newson hooked upearlier this year with Beretta, a classic firearms brand with a documented history going back all the way to 1526. Making over 1,500 guns a day, Beretta specializes in over-and-under and side-by-side rifles, semiautomatic rifles and carabines, express double rifles, semiautomatic pistols and assault rifles.
The 486 by Marc Newson Beretta rifle, a side-by-side shotgun, has been modified both in terms of technology and design. The traditional tail of the receiver has been lowered, allowing the wood to separate the receiver and the safety/selector like a wooden bridge over the steel. Meanwhile, the engraving is a clear homage to Asia as the homeland of the pheasant. The unique design is made possible by the high-tech laser technology used in the manufacturing process, ensuring the best texture wrap over the entire surface of the receiver while allowing for a deep contrast and sharp resolution in all the details of the engraving. Mixing Beretta’s technologic expertise with Newson’s eye for details, the 486 is arguably one of the most effective and stylish guns around. Here Newson explains the background and details of the collaboration.
How did the partnership start?
I was introduced socially to Franco Beretta and his wife Umberta, who is a serious art and design aficionado. She knew my work and had mentioned to Franco that I could be a collaborator in a project with Beretta at some point. We hit it off and eventually I was asked if I would design a new side-by-side.
What was the biggest challenge for you as a designer?
To respect the DNA of the product typology while creating an innovative and modern design.
What were the biggest differences compared to the other projects you work on?
My approach to every project is actually always the same. It is all design for me – the only difference ever is one of scale. Of course, the research part is particularly interesting and diverse. What I love about my job is the opportunity I get to acquire knowledge about the different processes, technologies and materials utilized in various industries. It has been fascinating to visit Beretta, a company which has its roots in the Italian Renaissance and to observe its standards of excellence.
Do you shoot? Have you tried this gun?
I have only been on a few shoots, as a guest, in the UK and no, I have not tried this gun as yet.
What does Beretta mean and stand for, according to you?
I hugely admire companies such as Beretta with its long history of superior manufacture and craftsmanship. It is a thrill for me to work with companies that have such a commitment to maintaining and delivering supreme standards of quality and excellence in their products. It is what I strive for in my work – I am pretty obsessional myself and fixate over details to the bitter end.
How do you modernize a design that is so ancient and traditional?
During the manufacture of my design in the Beretta workshops I got to observe the fascinating mix of traditional skills employed by Beretta’s craftsmen in conjunction with the most impressive state-of-the-art engineering processes including the use of intricate x-ray equipment, sophisticated laser technology and robotics. With these standards of ingenuity in place I endeavored to focus my design of the 486 on simplifying and rationalizing all the surfaces. Specifically streamlining the area of the action.
Where did you look for inspiration for this project?
My initial source of inspiration came from the Far East and from the fact that I already knew that pheasants originate from and are native to Asia, before being widely introduced elsewhere as a game bird. For me, it was important to somehow pay homage to this and incorporate a subtle Asian influence into the design.