M I L A N I NP E R S P E C T I V E2 0 1 3A report byMariel Brown &Chloe Amos-Edkins@Seymourpowell#SPMilanDESIGNDUALITY
3A report by Mariel Brown and Chloe Amos-Edkins, SeymourpowellBoth inspirational and overwhelming, the annual design fair inMilan is the largest show of its kind in the world, and as suchhas been recognised for decades as the centre of the emergingdesign universe.In this, its 52nd edition, the overarching theme that struckus, as we reflected on the show’s highlights, was that ofduality. We are currently moving through an age of greatcontradiction; where the nightmare of political, environmentaland financial instability coincides with the fantastical dreamof rapidly advancing technology. As students, designers andmanufacturers attempt to navigate their way through thischaos, a dichotomy of design responses were bubbling up atthe fair. These reflect the complexity of our current situation,and the contradictory nature of the human condition.Seymourpowell has highlighted this duality by arranging eightkey trends from the fair into four contradictory pairs.M I L A N I N P E R S P E C T I V E 2 0 1 3D E S I G N D U A L I T YA report by Mariel Brown and Chloe Amos-EdkinsCover images: ‘Lana Mangas’ rug detail by Patricia Urquiola for Gan (top), whale bone detail fromthe ‘Iceland Whale Bone Project’ by the University of Art and Design Lausanne (bottom).
5A report by Mariel Brown and Chloe Amos-Edkins, Seymourpowell4 Milan in Perspective 2013 - Design DualityAt the show this year, many designersfelt it was timely to focus in on only theessential elements of a product, findingcomfort in this age of chaos through theprocess of rationalisation.Excitingly, this approach is creating a newpoetic simplicity, an example of whichcould be seen in lighting manufacturerFlos’ new String Lights designed byCypriot designer Michael Anastassiades.The lights are comprised of an LEDbulb within a shade, which is connectedto metres and metres of thin blackelectrical cabling. This cabling cord isused to draw geometric shapes in the airand was inspired by the electrical cablesfound in city landscapes. We particularlyenjoyed the functional element of thelong cables that allow users to arrangethe design around their needs rather thanarranging their lifestyle around the design.Anastassiades said, “ I love how humaningenuity works around problems createdby everyday things in the house (likeswitches and power points) that othershave chosen to position where we don’twant them.”Allowing a sense of flexibility throughmodularity could also be seen fromStudio Vit, who presented their new‘Globe Lights’ at the Salone Satellite.The ‘Globe Lights’ are a deconstructedassemblage consisting of small, mattwhite, globe shaped pendants and large,gloss white, steel reflectors. The ceramicspheres can be used on their own,grouped together, or used to cast light onthe reflectors.The notion of ‘Essential Elements’ wastaken to the extreme by acclaimed Frencharchitect Jean Nouvel, who made aninteresting diversion into footwear designon behalf of Italian shoe brand Ruco Line.His design, called ‘Pure’, was created withthe philosophy of reducing the conceptof a shoe to its purest form. The resultis a shoe made of rubber and leatherwith an uncompromisingly monolithicappearance. The only embellishment is aserial number along the top of the boot,making each one unique to their owner.The Poetry of the EssentialMain image: ‘Globe Lights’ by Studio VitTop: ‘String Lights’ by Michael Anastassiades for FlosBottom: ‘Pure’ by Jean Nouvel for Ruco Line“many designers felt it was timely to focus inon only the essential elements of a product,finding comfort in this age of chaosthrough the process of rationalisation.Excitingly, this approach is creating a newpoetic simplicity” Mariel Brown
6 7Milan in Perspective 2013 - Design Duality A report by Mariel Brown and Chloe Amos-Edkins, SeymourpowellMain image and left: ‘Job Office’ series by Studio Job for LensveltRight: ‘Anomaly’ seat by Front for MorosoBottom: ‘Bucket’ lamp by Studio Job for MoooiWhile some designers sought torationalise and focus in on the essentialduring this time of great flux, others weremore inclined to be swept along in thechaos of the moment and we witnesseda burgeoning return to a more playfulaesthetic that has taken a back seat sincethe global recession first hit in 2008, whenembellishments quickly became seen asfrivolous and unnecessary.Belgian artists Studio Job are wellknown for their witty aesthetic andat this year’s fair they presented somebold new pieces that built upon theirheritage of unapologetic individualism.At the MOST exhibition they presentedtheir new ‘Job Office’ series for Dutchbrand Lensvelt, which was comprisedof stark achromatic objects brought tolife by bold gold dipped features suchas crassly oversized switches, comic‘nose’ shaped handles, and giant toy-likekeys. Across town at the Dutch brandMoooi’s exquisitely lavish exhibition ‘TheUnexpected Welcome’, we saw furtherexamples of Studio Jobs leanings towards‘The Joyful Absurd’ as they presentedtheir ‘Bucket Tub’ lamps which were,as the name suggests, lamps shaped likeupturned buckets and bathtubs.In fact, many of the pieces on show at‘The Unexpected Welcome’ seemed tosignify that an art for arts’ sake approach todesign was on the rise once more. StudioJob explains, “…we have rediscovereda lost path. Consciously and carefully,we are positioning decorative arts inthe twenty-first century. Is that design?Whatever. Is that art? Whatever, really.”An interesting aspect of ‘The JoyfulAbsurd’ trend is that designers areexploring the boundaries between thebizarre and the beautiful. This could beclearly witnessed in Swedish design groupFront’s new seat called Anomaly, whichhas the look of a strange headless animal.The seats polarised opinion, but forFront that was exactly the intention. Theydescribed the work as “Objects to awakenyour curiosity, your affection or perhapseven repulsion.”The Joyful Absurd“we witnessed a burgeoning return to amore playful aesthetic that has taken aback seat since the global recession firsthit in 2008, when embellishments quicklybecame seen as frivolous” Mariel Brown
8 9Milan in Perspective 2013 - Design Duality A report by Mariel Brown and Chloe Amos-Edkins, SeymourpowellAcross Milan we felt that designers wereseeking to justify the value and relevanceof their work by focusing on precious yetfunctional objects. In particular, therewas a noticeable interest in products withwhich we form emotional attachmentsthrough cultural or ritual use. Theseare not intended to be passing stylestatements, but instead something youincreasingly appreciate over time, cherishfor life and want to pass on to futuregenerations.Business-savvy British designer TomDixon spearheaded this trend with thelaunch of his ‘eclectic’ range in 2012,offering designs at prices the averageperson might reasonably afford,alongside his bigger ticket items. Thisyear he expanded the range that he hopeswill be “treasured by you or a loved one.”The accoutrements of tea drinking werespotted at numerous exhibits. SebastianHerkner’s Chado tea set for Verreum was‘created for ritual’ whilst Tea With Georgeby Sholten and Baijings for GeorgeJensen, effortlessly fused Japanese teaceremony with Dutch coffee culture. Thetrend for Heirloom Rituals continued atTurkish brand Gaia Gino’s show, wherehookah pipes were given a contemporarymakeover by Jamie Hayon, Karim Rashidand Noé Duchaufour Lawrance.A key facet of this trend is enduringmaterials and handcrafted quality ofwhich could be seen in abundance atthe Japan Handmade exhibition, whereeach of the Kyoto-based craftsmen wason hand to demonstrate their skills andknowledge. It felt particularly pertinentthat several of them were reinvigoratingskills that had been passed on by theirmaster-craftsmen fathers. We lovedthe woven metal and wood-handledmagnifying glass by Kanaami-Tsuji, thattook a time honoured skill usually used tomake simple kitchen wares, and applied itto a new category, creating a practical yetprecious result.Heirloom RitualsMain image: ‘HookHayon’ pipes by Jamie Hayon for Gaia GinoLeft: Tea With George’ by Scholten Baijings for George JensenMiddle: Magnifying glass by Kanaami-TsujiRight: ‘Chado tea set’ by Sebastian Herkner for Verreum“there was a noticeable interest in productswith which we form emotional attachmentsthrough cultural or ritual use. These arenot intended to be passing style statements,but instead something you increasinglyappreciate over time...” Chloe Amos-Edkins
10 11Milan in Perspective 2013 - Design Duality A report by Mariel Brown and Chloe Amos-Edkins, SeymourpowellWhilst some more established designerssought to justify their premium pricetags with luxury materials and exclusivecraftsmanship, young designers andstudents were challenging the acceptednotions of value and luxury, at timeseven questioning the meaning ofconsumerism itself.A key aspect of the Redefining Valuetrend is that it flips the commonlyaccepted concept of material value onits head. Precious metals and rare stonessuddenly seem gaudy and insubstantial,and instead, beauty and meaning is craftedfrom the unexpected – often uncoveringvalue in the waste materials from humanor natural activity.We loved the Central St Martins TextileFutures MA student exhibition. MoeNagata’s bold ‘From Creatures’ jewellerywas created using waste materials fromthe food industry in London and harkedback to tribal animism that respects (andmakes use of) every part of an animal- challenging today’s global problem ofwaste and over-consumption. WhileEmilie F. Grenier’s ‘Disquiet Luxurians’project stood out, it took a thought-provoking look at luxury. Interestinglyher collection focuses on the materialfeldspar – the world’s most abundantmineral. As she explains, she explores howto transform this otherwise meaninglessmineral into a series of “post-luxurianartefacts and in doing so challengeconcepts of rarity and value.”There was also a sense of rejecting overlyperfect industrial materials and finishingtechniques and raising nature’s ownmaterials and finishes to a newly elevatedposition. One lovely example was MattiSyrjälä’s Säilö Container set – withunfinished birch bark providing a uniqueand jewel-like lid to each container.Another academic group that impressedwas the University of Art and DesignLausanne (ECAL). We were enchanted bytheir ‘Iceland Whale Bone Project’ whichwas focused around materials originatingfrom the Icelandic sea - all flotsam andjetsam found on the beach. CharlotteBaverel’s ‘Gríma’ mask for example wascomposed from raw and primitive seal,shark and whale skins and bone. Thematerial choice perfectly grounded thedesign within the Icelandic landscapefrom which it came, to create a piece thatfelt primitive, yet simultaneously ancientand significant.Redefining ValueMain image: ‘Disquiet Luxurians’ by Emilie F. GrenierTop: ‘Säilö’ container by Matti SyrjäläMiddle: ‘Gríma’ mask by Charlotte BaverelBottom: ‘From Creatures’ jewellery by Moe Nagata“Precious metals and rare stones suddenlyseem gaudy and insubstantial, and instead,beauty and meaning is crafted from theunexpected – often uncovering valuein the waste materials from human ornatural activity.” Chloe Amos-Edkins
13A report by Mariel Brown and Chloe Amos-Edkins, Seymourpowell12 Milan in Perspective 2013 - Design DualityOur ‘always on’ digital culture is creating adesire to escape from our hyper-connected lives, and causing us to seekrefuge in safe comfort of familiarity. As aresult we are seeking moments ofsanctuary in our physical spaces, allowingus to re-charge and re-gain ourequilibrium. The Soft Sanctuary trendseems to offer a welcome and reassuringlyfamiliar break from the frenzy of themodern age, with soft forms, calmingcolours and inviting tactile surfaces seenacross Milan this year.It’s unsurprising that design superstarPatricia Urquiola seems to be at theforefront of this trend, with her trademarkwarmth and tactility apparent in almosteverything she does. Muted andsometimes nostalgic pastel shades wereeverywhere, with dusky pinks and greysbeing a popular choice. Often thesepalettes were kept fresh and modern withmore vivid accents in yellow or coral asdemonstrated in Patricia Urquiola’s LanaMangas collection for Gan, whose chunkyknitted textures remind us of cosy jumpers.But this trend was also manifested inphysical form, with soft rounded furniturea strong theme. Chairs and sofas withergonomic curves and seductive paddingseemed to want to embrace the sitter in agenerous hug. Jamie Hayon’s ‘CatchChair’ for Copenhagen-based Traditionis a single piece, anthropomorphicallyshaped chair that appears to be reachingits arms out to you.Furniture that ‘relaxes with you’ wasfound at the Miyazaki Chair Factory’sexhibit. Their pursuit of qualitycraftsmanship and ergonomic pleasurehas resulted in a collection that is soft atevery imaginable touch point – thecurved armrests of the IS Lounge chairwere particularly pleasing.The From Yuhang exhibition offered acalming sanctuary from the bustle ofZona Tortona. Their designs fusetraditional Chinese crafts withcontemporary design. Their Lù Porcelaintables were showcased in glossy pastelcolours, the forms of which were minimalyet rounded, inviting you to run yourhands over their surface. Their soft edgedGù Colour Chairs, made from formedbamboo pulp and updated in calmingpastel shades for this year’s show, wereequally gentle and inviting.Soft SanctuaryMain image: Lù porcelain tablesTop: ‘Catch Chair’ by Jamie Hayon for TraditionMiddle: ‘Lana Mangas’ collection by Patricia Urquiola for GanBottom: ‘IS Lounge’ chair by Miyazaki Chair Factory“we are seeking moments of sanctuary in ourphysical spaces, allowing us to re-chargeand re-gain our equilibrium.” Chloe Amos-Edkins
14 15Milan in Perspective 2013 - Design Duality A report by Mariel Brown and Chloe Amos-Edkins, SeymourpowellAs digital inputs become an evermore omnipotent part of our lives, theboundaries of our physical and digitalworlds are blurring. In the same waythat screens are no longer a borderbetween us and our content, so ourcontent is beginning to bleed into ourphysical spaces.These digital forays into the physicalspace often take the form of interactiveexperiences that allow us to escape thehumdrum of daily life. In Milan weobserved this at Universal Everything’s‘The Art and Science of Fit’ installationfor Nike, where “intricate multi colouredwoven patterns dance across the screensintelligently conforming and fitting to thesilhouette of the visitor.” (Nike)Artist/designer duo Carnovsky’s‘Zigzagging’ for fashion house Missoni,was another fantastical exhibit. Animmersive light, colour and soundinstallation that felt a bit like walkinginto a giant kaleidoscope. Whilst we feltit would have been best suited to a partyvenue, the innate sense of dream-likefantasy was powerful.Along with influencing our spaces, thetrend for Digital Fantasy is also having aneffect on the colour, material and finish ofthe products. Across the fair we witnessedoptical effect fabrics, vivid and iridescentsurfaces and surreal graphic gradientsas seen in Droog’s ‘Family Vases’ andthe ‘Wood Bikini Chair’ by WernerAisslinger for Moroso. Powerful flashes ofimpossibly vivid colour were everywhere,as seen in Stefan Diez’s ‘This That Other’seating series available in an eye-poppingneon pink.Vivid colour was used to tell the timeat Spazio Rossana Orlandi, where wespotted MA Student Jay Hyun Kim’s ‘AMoment’. His experience of designingdigital user interfaces for smartphoneapps had inspired him to create moreintuitive 3D objects. His 55-minute timerreveals a beautiful array of vivid colours astime slowly passes.Digital FantasyMain image: ‘Zigzagging’ installation by Carnovsky for MissoniTop right: ‘Wood Bikini Chair’ by Werner Aisslinger for MorosoMiddle right: ‘Family Vases’ by Studio DroogBottom right: ‘This That Other’ seating series by Stefan DiezTop left: ‘A Moment’ by Jay Hyun KimBottom left: ‘The Art and Science of Fit’ installation by Universal Everything for Nike“the boundaries of our physical and digitalworlds are blurring. In the same way thatscreens are no longer a border betweenus and our content, so our content isbeginning to bleed into our physical spaces.” Chloe Amos-Edkins
17A report by Mariel Brown and Chloe Amos-Edkins, Seymourpowell16 Milan in Perspective 2013 - Design DualityGreat global unrest and upheaval, alongwith maturing wireless and cloudtechnologies, are driving many people tolead a more nomadic lifestyle. At thisyear’s show we saw many examples ofdesigners creating pieces that respondedto this growing human desire forspontaneity, transformation and movement.A compelling example of this trend wasthe collaboration between influentialdesigner Tom Dixon and Adidas, whichhad generated much pre-showanticipation. They presented ‘TheCapsule’ - a collection that they describedas “everything you can pack neatly in a bagfor a week away”. Fittingly, the exhibitionwas housed in a former railway stationthat had been brought to life with soundsof steam trains and intermittent puffs ofsmoke. A perpetual state of motion wasachieved with conveyor belts, whichrotated the collection past expectantviewers. The range focused on the notionof transformation and multifunctionalityby including items such as parkas thattransformed into sleeping bags andbackpacks that unfolded to formmakeshift wardrobes.Whilst we enjoyed The Capsulecollection’s contemporary utilitarianaesthetic, we also appreciated the morefolk embellished expression of NomadicDesign on show from Beirut baseddesigners Bokja. They presented ‘TheMigration Collection’, which had beeninspired by “the hopes and fears of peoplewho make the decision to create a homesomewhere other than the place they wereborn”. Their collection included ‘TheMigration Sofa’ which appeared to carry aburden of rolled up rugs and bedding onits ‘back’. ‘Migration Wallpaper and Rugs’bore the motif of birds reflecting theirannual migration from one side of theworld to another, and plates and cupswere embellished with motifs of peoplewho have migrated because of war,political instability and even love. Wewere amused to see that the notoriousmigration of film star Gérard Depardieu,who has recently registered as a Russianresident amid a tax row with France, wasalso referred to.Nomadic DesignMain image:‘The Capsule’ by Tom Dixon and AdidasTop: ‘The Migration’ rug by BokjaMiddle: ‘The Migration’ sofa by BokjaBottom: ‘The Migration’ plates by Bokja“At this year’s show we saw many examplesof designers creating pieces that respondedto this growing human desire for spontaneity,transformation and movement.” Mariel Brown
18 19Milan in Perspective 2013 - Design Duality A report by Mariel Brown and Chloe Amos-Edkins, SeymourpowellAs the mass migration to the world’s citiescontinues and our hyper-connected livesbecome more fast-paced, we increasinglydesire moments of contemplative stillnessand seek to take time out to re-connectwith the beauty of nature. Indeed, for thelast three years or so in Milan, one couldwitness designers referencing naturein both their form factor and materialchoices. However, this year we felt thatsomething new was emerging and that thelove for all things natural had taken on analmost spiritual or meditative meaning.We were particularly drawn to thosedesigns that blended the technologicalwith the natural, as they seemed to hintat a future where technology wouldenhance our sense of wellbeing ratherthan decrease it. An example of this couldbe seen from Japanese technology giantsToshiba, who had partnered with designstudio IXI to create an installation titled‘Soffio’ which is the Italian for breath. Theinstallation was comprised of tiny LEDlights and crystals that hung in a darkenedroom slowly fading from dark to half light.As the lights’ brightness increased, thecrystals next to them created a halo effectaround the light, allowing ephemeral thinrainbows to appear.Similarly lifting our spirits through therecreation of natural phenomena wasthe Ripple Project by Studio Shiikai andPoetic Lab. The Ripple Project lampcasts out dappled shadow and lightthat are reminiscent of those found onsurfaces of water. The pleasing effectis created by projecting a beam of lightthrough a gently rotating mouth-blownglass dome and offered a meditativemoment to passing show goers who tookthe opportunity to sit down in front of itas a break from the hustle and bustle ofthe show.The trend for ‘Reflection on Nature’ tooka celestial turn at Spazio Rossana Orlandi,where Eindhoven based design duo OSand OOS were exhibiting a clock/lightthat was inspired by lunar eclipses. Thenew piece is a build on their Syzygy rangeof lights, which have been named afterthe astrological term that describes thealignment of three celestial bodies in thesame gravitational system. The clock/light responds automatically to light levelsin a room; after dark the light increasesand during daylight the light outputdecreases. What we particularly enjoyedabout the design was that it tapped intoour innate human desire to gaze up at thesky and wonder…Reflections on NatureMain image: Ripple Project by Studio Shiikai and Poetic LabTop: ‘Syzygy’ lamp/clock by OS and OOSBottom: ‘Soffio’ installation by Studio IX for Toshiba“this year we felt that something new wasemerging and that the love for all thingsnatural had taken on an almost spiritualor meditative meaning.” Mariel Brown
20 21Milan in Perspective 2013 - Design Duality A report by Mariel Brown and Chloe Amos-Edkins, SeymourpowellMariel BrownHead of Trends at SeymourpowellMariel has over nine years of experienceworking in design, technology, andsocial trend forecasting. Since joiningSeymourpowell seven years ago she hasworked on a diverse range of projectsincluding user research, product strategy,and global trend studies.Mariel won a DAD Award forProduct Design and a DAD Award forEnvironmental Design, before gaining anMA in Design Products from the RoyalCollege of Art.In her current role as Head of Trends,she translates her trend, market and userinsights into tangible future directionsfor numerous clients including Samsung,Panasonic, LG, Dell, Ford, Unileverand ASICS.Mariel has contributed trend commentaryto numerous international publications,most recently, Contagious and ViewpointMagazine.Chloe Amos-EdkinsDesign CMF Researcher at SeymourpowellWith a multidisciplinary backgroundcombining design and CMF research,Chloe has eight years experience withdesign innovation projects for clientsranging from transport and consumerelectronics brands, through to FMCG.Her skills combine design research andconsumer, lifestyle and design trendsanalysis. These are used to inform futurefocused design strategy, visual languageand CMF direction.Chloe gained a first-class honoursdegree in Design For Industry fromNorthumbria University. Whilststudying, Chloe won an RSA StudentDesign Award for a public toilet concept,which eventually lead to an interestingdiscussion about toilets with The Queen!Some of Chloe’s clients include Ford,Dr. Martens, Unilever and LG.A report by... and...
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