Designer Serena Zanello Continues Fulfilling Life-Long Passion


School of Interior Architecture & Design instructor Serena Zanello. Courtesy of Serena Zanello.

Academy of Art University instructor Serena Zanello said she knew since she was a kid that she wanted to be in design. “I grew up in a family of artists and I also lived in a house that was a big art atelier for my parents that was full of materials and colors,” said Zanello, who has worked in design and architecture for 10 years.

Zanello has come a long way from her early aspirations and has an extensive resume. Her last project in San Diego, completed by Dopamine Design, which she co-founded in 2013 with Daniel Mota Veiga, is called Solunto. She said the space, which is a restaurant, bakery and wine bar, was probably one of her most memorable projects.

“This project is the real essence of my style—a mix of Italian heritage with giant graphics on the walls and local sustainable materials used in a unique way,” Zanello said. “I wanted to tell a story about this peculiar place and I did it by playing with colored recycled tiles, terracotta lighting from the famous designer Thomas Housden from London, Billiani and Pedrali chairs from Italy, Carrara marble, laser cut paneling by BOK and decorative ceramic tiles by Fireclay Tile.”

Zanello studied architecture at Politecnico di Torino, an engineering university based in Turin, Italy. She was previously a design manager for Starbucks and a design consultant for Triyar Companies and The Keating Group. In addition to being an Academy instructor, she’s also the owner of Tettallatte, which specializes in graphic design.

Director of the School of Interior Architecture & Design Archana Myer said that she admires many things about Zanello. “Perhaps the most admirable [quality] is her eternal optimism,” Myer said. “As an instructor, Serena responds to her students’ needs. She is reflective—continually challenging her students as well as herself. Serena knows how to push students in a positive way so that they are motivated to reach their potential. She expects a lot and at the same time offers a lot of herself to her students in terms of support. … Our department benefits greatly by having intelligent, creative and dedicated instructors like Serena.” 

For Zanello, seeing her students achieve their goals is her favorite part about teaching.



The pizza oven at Solunto. Courtesy of Serena Zanello.

“Teaching students what I have learned and seeing them succeed on their own, winning competitions, starting their own business or working for big firms is rewarding,” Zanello said. “My goal is to give them the opportunity to be ready for a world full of challenges and teach them things that no one ever taught me.”

As for the future, Zanello is most excited about her new startup, STUF. “It’s what is keeping me up nights and days since August,” she said. “I’m very excited about my team and the fantastic product we are working on.”