Design process, Sustainability, Luxury, and the beautiful world of craftsmanship, we met with Joy Herro who is leading the way to a more sustainable future in luxury.
Joy, you’re in your early 30s’ and you have already accomplished so much. Interior
designer graduate, art gallery manager, co-founder of the Great Design Disaster,
world traveler, and bike rider. Based between Milan, Dubai, and Lebanon.
How do you manage your time?
Lately my life is like the Airplanes of Alighiero Boetti. Those thousands of airplanes
would never leave me in the same journey, yet all of them under the same sky, the
same passion to design, art, nature, and beauty. Each trip provokes a hundred of new
possibilities and growth in my life. This rhythm is very hectic sometimes, so I make
sure that my stops in Milan, where I live, is to recharge my energy, then take off again.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Lebanon before moving to Italy beginning of my 20’s. Now,
no place can be home and everywhere can be home. I stopped looking for belongings
and my roots became myself forged by the exciting experiences I had along the
journey, so this where I constructively started to grow and looking to the world with
What drove you to the design world?
I never understood the initiating event of my interest in design and art, until I
watched the movie of The Diving Bell and The Butterfly by Julian Schnabel. It is the
satisfaction I had with the imagination process, there is no limit, even if you may not
have it, your spirit and mind are like the butterfly that can reach anywhere, even if
your body is not functioning.
Tell us more about the Great Design Disaster, how did the idea come to life?
TGDD creates functional and decorative pieces, made by an army of incredible
artisans, to match with a collector’s desire. Those creations are like guests in spaces.
They come to interact with other pieces by great masters and designers.
The idea was already there but it was important to do something about it. More and
more people tend to collect human beauty and effort to personalize their
environment. Imagine when you participate in this process, it would give you a bigger
emotional relation with the created piece, not only a temporary satisfaction. We
thought: Why don’t we take an effort to challenge and stimulate the collectors?
The name… The Great Design Disaster… Is so strong. As you highlight, you are
working against “the disaster of singularity” in design.
How do you manage to get this remarkable message across?
It is a made-to-measure, on-demand approach, an alternative to impersonal or mass
design production. To create a Great Design Disaster, we need three ingredients: the
collector who is ready to step into the role of the creative conceiver, the artisan who
shapes the idea in one of a kind object, the agents of creation (Joy and her team)
help the collector to articulate his thoughts and identity his match of artisan and
How do you source skilled artisans?
Investigation skills to find the next-level : attention to detail, observation, curiosity!
The design process of TGDD seems so unique. Is it important for each piece’s design
to enhance your clients’ personalities too?
It goes back to old traditions where ready-made were not made yet. Before the
industrial era, where the suit, the gown, and the hat were tailored according to the
fit. This is exactly what we do, things to fit to the spirit / the aesthetic, the beauty of
Do you still get to find time to design some pieces of your own?
I have a drawer of personal and unachieved ideas. Sometimes I go back to the old
sketches, do some modifications, or add new details. They are nice on paper, I
don’t know how they would look in real.
Any advice to young design passionates?
Take everything with a pinch of salt on the social media. I would find a toothbrush on the
street, used one million times, give it to an “influencer” or “blogger” to post it, telling an
imaginary story about the magic of this toothbrush and while using it, you will be transported
to another world, full of butterflies and birds. The next day, I would have a long waiting list
to have this same used toothbrush picked up on the street. This is also what is happening
with design. We are no longer selling the value of product, but the image. One should be
very suspicious. There is the real life on the other side.
If we could have a glimpse through your apartment window in Italy, what key design
piece would we see?
It is a cozy space featuring a selection of collectible design pieces but all of them
incorporated in a relaxed and homey context. My favorite is an anonymous sculpture
of Cakes Stand that we found at an antique shop in Milano. Gregory thinks it is a
great approach for self-discipline and temptations management.