Milan in Perspective 2012
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Milan in Perspective 2012

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For designers and trend researchers alike, all roads lead to Milan. A lighthouse which illuminates the future of design, Milan is both geographically and aesthetically the centre of the emerging ...

For designers and trend researchers alike, all roads lead to Milan. A lighthouse which illuminates the future of design, Milan is both geographically and aesthetically the centre of the emerging design universe - the cultural zeitgeist forms here first. Here, Mariel Brown and Karen Rosenkranz from Seymourpowell's Research, Trend and Strategy Team, take a wide-angle look at the highlights of Milan 2012 and explore the broader relationships between cutting-edge design and the cultural trends which surround them.

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    Milan in Perspective 2012 Milan in Perspective 2012 Document Transcript

    • © Karimoku New Standardperspective...Milan in
    • A report by Mariel Brown and KarenRosenkranz from the Research, Trendsand Strategy team at Seymourpowell... New thinking such as open-source design, hacking and crowd funding is empowering young designers and, in doing so, is lighting the touch paper that could ignite a new era of collaborative design. Tantalisingly, this will question the very nature of future Milan furniture fairs. There was a reflectiveEvery year Milan offers its visitors a seductive slice through‘now’. The relatively quick turnaround of products on show, and almost contemplativealong with a product designer’s innate desire to engage withculture means that Milan captures the spirit of the time like no mood in the air whichother design show on Earth. seemed to suggest thatDespite this, Milan 2012 felt a little different this year. Whilst themain show at the Fiera still hustled and bustled as ever, the designers are taking their time to carefully considerevents around the rest of the city felt a little quieter than usual.There was a reflective and almost contemplative mood in the air,which seemed to suggest that designers are taking their timeto carefully consider their next move amidst a global state ofinstability. This was echoed by many of the big manufacturers, their next move amidst asuch as Vitra, Established & Sons and Magis, choosing not torelease many new products. Instead they made small additionsand tweaks to their ranges, giving existing products a new lease global state of instability.of life with the addition of new colours, materials and finishes.By far the most exciting developments this year were those Mariel Brownbeing made in the less established areas of the fair, withtraditional shows being much more low-key.Confidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2012. All rights reserved.
    • Humble Beauty They were able to convey a feeling of harmony and balance that people seem so eager to achieve these days. However,In this rather subdued atmosphere, what felt particularly positive although they were humble and quiet, the furniture on showwas the move away from the perpetual cycle of loud design was by no means minimalist; a clever use of colour and detailpieces shouting for attention only to be replaced the following brought a light-hearted sense of bliss and almost childlikeyear by an even louder piece. Instead there was a tendency naivety to the collection. Even the snacks and drinks servedfor more humble and considered design, something that was at the opening event, created by Italian creative collectivegathering pace at last year’s show; the special quality of a Arabeschi di Latte echoed a new love and respect for everydayproduct doesn’t always shout from a distance, rather it only life.reveals its beauty at close quarters. Seymourpowell © Snacks by Arabeschi di Latte Photo byTraditional Japanese design values of simplicity and understatedbeauty feel particularly appropriate in this time of austerity. Soit is perhaps not entirely coincidental that Japanese designersand manufacturers had such a big presence at this year’sdesign week in Milan. Their approach of eschewing fast-movingtrends and creating long-lasting products of real use in people’severyday lives resonates far beyond their own disaster-strickennation. People are once again keen to buy products thatresonate with them on an emotional level, meaning they aretaking the time to consider their purchases. Alongside this thereis an overwhelming sense that we produce and own too muchstuff: Dieter Rams’ ethos of ‘less, but better’ again feels veryrelevant in these times. This renewed appreciation for the simple things in life was also reflected in various porcelain collections, most notably in theOne show that stood out amongst the crowd was ‘Karimoku collaboration between ‘1616 Arita’ and ‘Scholten & Baijings’.New Standard’, a collaboration of emerging international Their comprehensive set of crockery and table accessoriesdesigners and one of Japan’s leading manufacturers of wooden fuses the Dutch duo’s signature use of colour together withfurniture. The pieces, beautifully arranged in a 100-year-old exceptional Japanese craftsmanship. The resulting objects areapartment building in Via Palermo, really captured the silent so beautiful that they elevate even mundane experiences suchbeauty of everyday life. as making a cup of tea.© A Frame Table by Tomas Alonso © Colour Porcelain by Scholten & Baijings, 1616 Arita Photo by SeymourpowellConfidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2012. All rights reserved.
    • For products to have longevity they need to be made extremely well, but they also need to engage us on a deeper emotional level beyond their surface finish. Producing less, and of a higher quality, to extend the life of a product certainly feels like a very sensible approach for the future. This notion brought a fewFor products to have longevity they things into perspective in these unsteady times.need to be made extremely well,but Renowned design commentator Ann Maes made the point that:they also need to engage us on a “Recycling and upcycling have become buzz words. But what some people tend to forget is that recycling costs money too.deeper emotional level beyond their You can better focus on producing less and of higher quality to extend the lifetime of a product.”surface finish. Producing less, and of ahigher quality, to extend the life of a The Joy of Orderproduct certainly feels like a very Along with a growing desire to own less, we also want tosensible approach for the future. better organise what we already have, as if to purge anything superfluous that distracts us from what really matters.Karen Rosenkranz We seem to find new joy in the order of things we can control in a world of factors we can’t – economic and environmental to name a few.Continuing the theme of beautiful simplicity, London-basedSwedish design duo ‘Studio Vit’ exhibited their latest work Literally reflecting this need for structure and order, we noticed‘Marble Lights’ at the Salone Satellite – a striking combination an abundance of shelves and storage solutions throughout theof cylindrical marble lamp holders and various sized glass fair. We thought designs that take our use of technology intospheres. The simplicity and beautiful juxtaposition of material, account were particularly clever. For example ‘Toi’, an innovativevolume and weight transformed them into standout pieces side table by Salvatore Indriolo for Zanotta uses a tabletop thatthat feel both contemporary and timeless. In fact, marble as a can be rotated 360º to reveal a storage compartment; perfectmaterial appeared to be popular at Milan this year. Maybe this is for all those small pieces of tech that litter our homes.because its sense of weight and eternity offers stability in timeswhere the future seems to be anything but certain... © Marble Lights by Studio Vit © Toi by Salvatore Indriolo for Zanotta Offering an intelligent solution for a workspace at home is ‘Deskbox’, by Yael Mer & Shay Alkalay for Arco. Their compactConfidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2012. All rights reserved.
    • wall-mounted cabinet doubles up as a small desk, completewith storage space and a cable management system. Oncecollapsed, the unit forms a closed volume, capable of neatlyhiding a laptop and its trailing cables inside. With more peopleworking from home, the ‘Deskbox’ represents a new tabletypology that responds to a more flexible lifestyle, allowing oneto easily switch between work and leisure. We felt these practical and inventive © Deskbox by Yael Mer & Shay Alkalay for Arco solutions perfectly reflect the flexible fluid nature of our lives today. They demonstrate the need for products that can fulfil more than one role in our homes, in order to help us organise our lives and reclaim more space for ourselves. Karen Rosenkranz ‘Station’, by Norwegian trio Awaa, is another modular systemBack at Salone Satellite, the showcase for new talent, the designed for different heights as both a table and a lamp. Onetheme of versatility and flexibility was out in force. In an could imagine the product being used in many different ways.especially high quality year, many young designers came upwith open ended, non-descriptive objects that allow for amultitude of uses and fit a wide range of lifestyles. Designedfor contemporary urban homes, which implies living in smallspaces, the all female collective Fresh from the mint’ presenteda range of imaginative new products, all of which were acrossover between two archetypes. “It is up to the user whatthey make of it – a wardrobe, side table, shoe shelf or simply adisplay of their favourite outfits.” © The Royal Family by Ellen Heilmann, Fresh from the Mint © Station by Awaa We felt these practical and inventive solutions perfectly reflect the flexible and nature of our lives today. They demonstrate the need for products that can fulfil more than one role in our homes, in order to help us organise our lives and reclaim more space for ourselves.Confidential. © Seymour Powell Limited,2012. All rights reserved.
    • The Designer as ManufacturerThe process behind products was the hero across the fair thisyear, as many brands proudly displayed sketches and prototypemodels alongside their finished pieces. This trend was mostnoticeable at Kartell, where their ‘Work in Project’ stand stood insharp contrast to their glitzy neon-filled offering of last year.Milan often felt more akin to a factory than to a polisheddesign fair. At numerous shows across the city, new productsranging from chairs through to candelabras were being createdon-site and on-demand in front of fascinated crowds. Thisfactory atmosphere, however, was about much more thanentertainment. It reflected what the Economist magazine is ©Tom Dixon Photo by Seymourpowellcalling the ‘third industrial revolution’ by promising a radicalre-evaluation of the traditional role of the designer. Historically,the process of manufacturing a product was arduous and couldonly be done one way; find a manufacturer and then havethem make your product. But, excitingly, there is now a greateropportunity emerging for the creative; they can be both thedesigner AND the manufacturer.Not all designers (particularly youngdesigners) neccessarily want the big ©Tom Dixon Photo by Seymourpowellmanufacturers to take on their products. backdrop of a reconstructed 19th Century railway station.Instead, they strive to bring their products Dixon commented “It’s the idea that we can take the factoryto people in their own unique way whilst plant to the consumer and then we can make these things in front of people, so people really understand how possible it ismaintaining the purity of their creative now to design and develop and distribute things in a modernvision. way… What we’re trying to prove here is that the power is back in the hand of the designer. You don’t have to have a big nameMariel Brown manufacturer to get goods to market.”Technology is inciting this step change as the cost of digital Dixon’s quote reveals that it’s not just technologicalmanufacturing continues to fall and digital connectivity continues advancements that are driving this trend; the anarchic moodto spread. Acclaimed designer Tom Dixon positioned himself of our times is playing a vital role. The climate of economicfirmly at the forefront of this new revolution by teaming up with instability is forcing people to question the norm, which isinternational machine giant ‘Trumpf’ to produce his new Stamp causing the designer’s ambition to evolve. Not all designerschair. They created a powerful display of intent for the show; two (particularly young designers) necessarily want the bigsheet-metal machines cut out the Stamp chairs against the manufacturers to take on their products. Instead they strive toConfidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2012. All rights reserved.
    • bring their products to people in their own unique way, whilst the duration of the fair, hackers were lauded and welcomedmaintaining the purity of their creative vision. into one of the city’s most prestigious department stores. Stranger still, they were welcomed in broad daylight withWith an equally dramatic backdrop as the Stamp installation, a crowd of stylish design types following in their shadows.albeit rather more refined, was ‘The Future of Making’ exhibition There can only be one conclusion; hacking has officiallycurated by Domus and Audi in the Palazzo Clerici. Juxtaposed entered the mainstream.against a sumptuous Baroque backdrop, laptops hookedup to machines produced everything from chairs made of The event that tipped this balance was ‘Hacked’. Itrecycled fridge parts to edible canapés. What stood out for us comprised of a series of interactive performances held inin particular amongst this pleasingly geek-made aesthetic was the basement of lifestyle store La Rinascente. Dubbed asthe Kickstarter exhibit. What appeared on the surface to be a “100 Hours of Rebellious Imagination”, it celebrated hackingstraightforward collection of pleasant everyday design objects, as a contemporary concept of appropriation, alteration andhas undoubtedly given traditional manufacturers many sleepless transformation, whilst exploring the implications hacking maynights; all the items owed their existence to crowd-funded cause for art, design and technology. The events rangedfinance proving that if an idea is strong enough to capture a from downloadable buildings, to educational workshops oncrowd’s imagination then independent production can be found building your own particle accelerator.with relative ease. What struck us as particularly pertinent and timely amidstHacking the Mainstream all the fervent activity was Hacked’s intent to “provide a platform for young designers whose work exists outside of‘Hacking’ has arguably become one of the key buzz verbs of our conventional exhibition object parameters”.turbulent times. Only this month did we see pictures of intrepidyouths ‘place hacking’ London’s (yet to be completed) new New Currencyarchitectural landmark, The Shard. The same young designers are beginning to question our existing value systems and our current relationship with money. This was the subject of numerous projects at this year’s Fuori Salone, the smaller events dotted all over the city. Whether it is through producing their own money or proposing new currencies such as time, many designers are investigating the possibilities of alternative economic models and mutual aid systems. Nic Wallenberg, designer at the Royal College of Art and part of a collaborative project called ‘Making money in Milan’, tells Seymourpowell, “Milan is the place that young, aspiring designers come to with the hope to be discovered by big brand manufacturers. Everybody wants to get famous and make money. We thought we would just take things into our own hands and bypass the whole system by producing our own money.”© Hacked Photo by SeymourpowellHacking has traditionally been the domain of the outsider, The trio positioned themselves at the entrance to the RCAdone undercover, at the dead of night. Aliases were created to Paradise show to produce pewter coins on-site. Dressedprotect identities and perhaps add a little glamour to the lonely as traditional blacksmiths, complete with leather aprons,nights in front of a glowing screen. It was strange then, that, for they made for a fun and engaging performance. AccordingConfidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2012. All rights reserved.
    • to Wallenberg, they had already traded their coins for foreign that go far beyond the current remit of the fair. Making use ofcurrency, cigarettes and a kiss on the cheek. such unacknowledged resources as time and skills feels very sustainable, especially if money is no longer a measure of value Seymourpowell ©Making money in Milan at RCA Paradise show Photos by for the next generation of designers. © Reasons to rethink by Michael Kluver, Design Academy © Time shop by Livia Lima, RCA ParadiseAlthough easily dismissed as a joke, their project poses somefundamental questions about our current value system. The‘hacktivist’ movement and the technological opportunity to beboth designer and manufacturer could bring about a big shiftfor creative industries. For many young designers it is no longeraspirational to have their designs produced by high profilebrands. Making money is certainly not their primary motivation.So is there an opportunity, or even a need, for a new currencyor a new metric?Michael Kluver’s project ‘Reasons to rethink’, on show at theDesign Academy in Porta Romana, takes a critical view. “Idevised the drawings for all seven Euro banknotes intended tocall attention to the weaknesses in the monetary system. The The Allure of Imperfectionidea is that my drawings fit seamlessly into the design of thebanknotes, enabling these ‘Reasons to Rethink’ to be absorbed Milan saw another big change this year. As the slick, shiny newinto the cash supply and disseminated by the very system they products that Milan is so famous for showcasing seemed tocriticise.” have less of an appeal for visitors, products with a sense of individual character caught our eye instead.Projects such as Livia Lima’s ‘Time Shop’ (also part of theRCA Paradise show) explored the possibility of a very different Dutch designer Lex Pott’s work (which featured in numerouseconomic model – trading time and skills for commodities. shows throughout the fair) is a beautiful example of howCoupled with our deep social networks, this suddenly seems products with unique patina can charm. His philosophy oflike a very feasible and aspirational option. using the origin of the material was reflected in his ‘Transience’ project, created in collaboration with David Derksen. This pieceAlthough only on the fringe of the event this year, we believe uses the beauty of the natural oxidising process to transformthere is a lot of potential in such areas of social innovation mirrored surfaces over time, which was celebrated, acceleratedConfidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2012. All rights reserved.
    • and manipulated. This was shown in a gradation across three Tom Dixon’s new Lustre lighting collection shared this imperfectdifferent geometric patterns. By ageing some elements of allure. The ceramic pendant lights were finished with anthe mirror’s surface in this way ‘Transience’ doesn’t feel so iridescent glaze, which is fired twice to give each piece a uniqueconspicuously new, but rather it feels timeless. finish. Dixon describes the effect as, “reminiscent of hidden colours in nature, seen in peacock feathers or oil slicks on water.” It was an exciting new direction from a designer who has © Transcience by Lex Pott, Tuttobene previously made his name with highly polished metal lighting features. Both Dixon and Pott’s pieces had a weathered and somewhat timeless quality to them. They both demonstrated the desire for products with aesthetic longevity, as well as the growing importance and value of products with individuality and a sense of personal character. Wonder and Surprise One of the most magical projects on display in Milan this year was an experimental LED lamp by Swedish designers ‘Front’ for new Dutch company, Booo. The all-female design studio came up with a wonderfully simple, yet mind-blowing concept. Their ‘Surface Tension Lamp’ is a bubble blowing light fixture that uses the bubble to create the most ephemeral and delicate lampshade. Each bubble lampshade is unique, reflecting theThey both demonstrated the desire for light in the room with a wonderful rainbow shimmer, lasting for only a few seconds, which stands in stark contrast to the LEDproducts with aesthetic longevity, as light source that lasts for about 50,000 hours.well as the growing importance and © Surface Tension Light by Front for Booovalue of products with individuality anda sense of personal character.Mariel Brown © Lustre lighting by Tom Dixon Impractical maybe, but it certainly pulled the crowds - it goes to show that people long for a bit of magic in their lives. Transformative objects like this have the power to make us stop and wonder; they make us feel like a child again, stimulating our curiosity. It is this sensation of wonder and surprise that we alsoConfidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2012. All rights reserved.
    • increasingly expect from technology. For many people life hasbecome too controlled and predictable.Our ‘always on’ culture can make us feel like slaves to oursmartphones; always knowing and anticipating every littlestep ahead. Such designs demonstrate there is a real needfor spontaneity and unpredictability, allowing us to reclaim thesense of surprise that has seemingly disappeared from our lives.Daniel Rybakken, one of our favourite designers at last year’sshow was again showing more beautiful pieces that captureda similar spirit of wonder. His ‘Coherence’ light consists ofa compact light source that illuminates a massive domesuspended above. Although on first sight it is not immediatelyapparent where the light comes from, the designer creates anice little ritual around the idea that light is another object that Mariel Brown - Head of Trends, Seymourpowellyou set at the table, alongside cutlery and crockery. Mariel Brown is part of the Research, Trends and Strategy teamOn reflection, spaces that invite us to daydream and wonder at Seymourpowell. Mariel gained a first-class honours degreeprovide an almost spiritual dimension. Objects and rituals that in Design Futures at Napier University and a Masters degree inallow quiet contemplation help us to be in the moment, a much- Design Products from the Royal College of Art, London. Whilstneeded antidote for our hectic and hyperconnected lives. We studying she won a D&AD Award for Product Design and afeel there is a strong desire for people to escape and retreat in D&AD Award for Environmental Design. Since Mariel joinedan attempt to regain emotional stability and composure, hence Seymourpowell over six years ago she has worked on a diverseour excitement when we see designers responding to this range of projects including user research, product strategy andgrowing need with such inspiring creations. global trend studies. Currently Head of Trends, Mariel translates trend, market and user insights into tangible future directions for numerous clients including Samsung, Panasonic, LG, Dell, Ford, Unilever and ASICS. Karen Rosenkranz – Head of Social & LifestyleOn reflection, spaces that invite us to Foresight, Seymourpowelldaydream and wonder provide an Karen Rosenkranz is part of the Research, Trends and Strategyalmost spiritual dimension. Objects team at Seymourpowell. She joined the company in 2007 after having worked in design consultancies in Amsterdam and Newand rituals that allow quiet York. Karen’s experience covers many facets of the design process - from uncovering user insights to translating them intocontemplation help us to be in the brand relevant propositions, from spotting emerging trends tomoment, a much needed antidote for defining a brands’ visual language. Currently Head of Social & Lifestyle Foresight she is responsible for global user insight andour hectic and hyperconnected lives trend studies for clients such as Unilever, LG and Nokia.Karen Rosenkranz For more information, please contact Tim Duncan at tim.duncan@seymourpowell.comConfidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2012. All rights reserved.