Milan In Perspective 2011 A report by Mariel Brown and Karen Rosenkranz from the Research, Trends and Strategy team at Seymourpowell, 20 April 2011NB: If you wish to use any/all of this report for press purposes please credit‘Seymourpowell’.All roads lead to Milan. A lighthouse which illuminates the future of design, Milan isboth geographically and aesthetically the centre of the emerging design universe. Thecultural zeitgeist forms here first. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the showand we were keen to explore the broader relationships between cutting-edge designand the cultural trends that surround them.SurvivalistsThe global recession, concerns over fuel shortages, highly documented naturaldisasters, and political unrest are contributing to a feeling of unease , the desire to beself-sufficient and to live ‘off the grid’. In Milan the design response to this trend wasseen through the creation of products that encouraged independence.One of our favourite design expressions of this trend is Jorge Mañes’ project ‘Ultreia’,which explores an alternative and more flexible process of manufacturing. He created aportable self-sustainable factory on wheels comprised of a rotational mouldingmachine, a tent and a solar panel. To show off Ultria’s capabilities Mañes cycled hisfactory around the 700km El Camino ancient pilgrim route in Spain. On his two-weektrip he created a series of products that were informed by the locations, materials andpeople he met along the way. ‘Ultreia’ celebrates the sociable nature of this trend andreflects the necessity of working together with like-minded people in order to make asuccess of ‘off the grid’ living.The ‘Survivalist’ trend is intrinsically eco in nature and as such we witnessed manyexamples of designers exploring new uses for waste products. From Mieke Meijer andVij5’s ‘KrantHout’, which is a wood created from old newspapers to Gionata Gatto andMike Thompson’s ‘Trap Light’, which converts waste energy back into visible light, theemphasis is on creating less of a drain on the world’s resources and re-thinking theway we make life’s necessities.Studio Formafantasma take the thought of sustainable materials to the extreme withtheir exciting new project ‘Botanica’. They imagine a post-fossil age where fossilenergy sources have been completely exhausted. ‘Botanica’ is based on the principlesand science of botany and takes inspiration from the 18th and 19th centuries, a timewhen scientists first began experimenting with plant secretions in order to create newmaterial sources with plasticity. The studio explores plant derived materials includingRosin, Dammar, Copal, Natural Rubber, Shellac and even Bois Durci, a 19th centurymaterial composed of wood dust and animal blood! To underline the origins of thesenew resins, Formafantasma created plant like forms, whilst colour palettes of naturalamber and honey like tones were chosen to evoke early bakelite objects. With
/cont‘Botanic’, Studio Formafantasma have created a strikingly ingenious project that is botharchaic and contemporary. Whilst this new aesthetic may not appeal to every taste, webelieve it will have a strong impact in the long term.To many, the Survivalist trends implies a rustic design language, however, renownedAnglo-Indian design duo Doshi Levien showed that this trend needn’t lookunsophisticated when they presented their new project ‘Impossible Wood’. ‘ImpossibleWood’ uses a new material (a synthetic fibre) that is an eco-compatible compound,which can replace the usual plastics while maintaining its characteristics of pliabilityand strength. The elegant chair is testament to the fact that Survivalist living idealsneedn’t be niche.New MythologyIn an age of austerity, folklore and mythology offer an opportunity to magically escapethe bounds of human existence and reconnect with the planet.Designers are going back to the early origins of man and are reviving forgottencustoms, skills and narratives. Old traditions are re-appropriated for our modern timesin a bid to imbue products with character and soul that respond to our need forstorytelling and narrative.Front, an all-female design collective from Stockholm, have always been interested instories communicated through design objects. For their most recent project, ‘StoryVases’, Front worked in collaboration with the Siyazama project in South Africa, whichpromotes women who work with traditional bead craft. The vases tell the personalstories of five women living in remote villages in post-apartheid South Africa. Thisproject is a fantastic example of how designers can take on a more cultural role byraising social awareness and empowering local communities. Designers are givingthem the tools to help themselves.On a lighter and more playful note, we noticed many designers mixing narratives andtechniques from different periods to create new and imaginative objects. Takinginspiration from Finnish folklore, history and nature, design duo Klaus Haapaniemi andMia Wallenius’ ‘Mammoth’ tapestry for Established & Sons gives a modern twist tomythology. Made using a 15th century craft technique, the characters of folklore areelegantly aligned with the motif of an erupting volcano - a reference to last year’s ashcloud chaos in Milan.Harking back to more primitive roots, we found the primal aesthetic (a prominentfeature at last years fair) was explored further, especially by younger designers. Aspart of the ‘Thinking Hands’ exhibition in Ventura Lambrate, Israeli designer Hadar Snirexhibited a captivating set of knives for modern carnivores. The knives, made from cast
/contaluminium, evoke images of pre-historic artefacts and respond to a more emotionaland instinctive level of consciousness.We noticed a new trend for designers displaying tribes of objects, assembled artefactsone would expect to see in a museum cabinet. Amba Molly’s ‘Mitose’ project and YaelBarnea Givoni’s ‘Parting Line’ both explored variations of one recurrent theme,responding to a growing desire for the unique and imperfect. Whilst the individualobjects have their own identity, it is only when they are shown as a collection that theyform a family or tribe, telling a much more complex and textured story. What willresonate with consumers in the future is the idea of owning something unique that isnevertheless part of a bigger story or community.ReassembleThe ‘New Utility’ trend, which first emerged back in 2008 as a response to therecession, had moved on this year. Where the robust and indestructible was oncecelebrated, this year’s show indicated that a lighter weight trend was developing.‘Reassemble’ takes many of the concepts of ‘New Utility’ and expands them toexploring products that are easy to take apart, mend and recycle.A wonderful example of this is the Bourellec brothers ‘Baguette Chair’ for Magis. The‘Baguette Chair’ is distilled down to the essential using the least possible materials andparts. What makes this chair feel particularly progressive is its lightweight appearance,which has been enhanced by the form of the back of the chair that is reminiscent of aknife blade.Tord Boontje’s new ‘Stitched Collection’ for Moroso was also made of minimal parts.He had created lamps chairs and tables out of plywood that has been stitchedtogether. We enjoyed the visual openness of the pieces and the joyful simplicity ofstitching as a production technique. Boontje commented, “I started to think in a morefunctional way about sewing, the idea of creating holes in materials and connectingpieces with yarns... I like the idea that the stitching is a very simple, low-tech way ofmaking.” Boontje’s piece reflects one of the most exciting aspects of the ‘Reassemble’trend; the emergence of furniture that is easy to assemble and disassemble.As a society we have grown accustomed to assembling flat pack furniture, however,easy disassembly is a dream that has, until now, evaded us. Jore van Ast’s ‘ClampTable’ for De Vorm is a wonderfully uncomplicated example of knock down design. Thetable is comprised of four individual legs with clamps that can be fitted to the table topand then just as easily unscrewed. What’s particularly useful about van Ast’s work isthe fact that the legs can be adjusted to fit on top any table top or surface.
/contJack Smith’s folding stool has an equally intuitive mechanism, by picking up one side ofthe seat the stool folds away. Gravity and the angles used enables the stool to fall shutwhen put back down. Boontje, Van Ast and Smiths works imply that designers arerecognising that our lives are more transient and that traditional structures in the homeare disintegrating. They are embracing and helping to forge an exciting new futurewhere the rigid and immobile becomes flexible and easily transportable.Sense and tactilityAs a reaction to the increasingly digital landscape of our lives, people are looking forreassurance and comfort in the real world, which has led to a craving for tactility.Qualities such as volume and materiality are more important than ever, giving acalming and grounded feel to our living environments.We were particularly inspired by two exhibitions crafted by visionary Li Edelkoort thataimed to promote the role of textiles in our homes; one showcasing establisheddesigners using innovative technologies, the other championing young talent in thefield of textiles. It became apparent that textiles can capture our senses in many ways.While textiles can capture our senses in a visual and tactile way they also have theability to transform the sound of a space.The ‘Cloud Stool’ by Joon&Jung takes inspiration from the flexibility and softness of thecloudscape and gives the illusion of being alive by using irregularity in texture and tone.Prestigious design house Moroso also echoed this trend for tactility with a fantasticnew collection. We enjoyed the relaxed and welcoming vibe of their show, which had avery feminine feel to it. For example, the pieces by Patricia Urquiola invited visitors totouch and stroke, and we noticed many people were doing exactly that. Her ‘BiKnit’chair features a blown-up knitted weave that becomes both surface and structure. Thechunky wooden base gives the piece a grounded yet upbeat presence.The urge for wellbeing and sensorial nurturing are also part of this trend and designersare exploring new ways to make our homes more connected to nature, imitating naturalcycles of daylight and season.‘Screened Daylight’ by up and coming Norwegian designer Daniel Rybakken simulatesthe ambient light that enters a room through drawn blinds and curtains. The piecefunctions primarily as a light, but it also expands the room through the suggestion ofthat which is obscured. “People really feel that the room feels larger, because you get ahint of something outside”, the designer tells Seymourpowell. His ‘Daylight’ pieceshave a positive impact on people’s mood, very much like natural light.
/contMoooi’s ‘Mistral’ lamp is combining the functionality of a fan with a lampshade,featuring different settings for summer and winter, depending on the temperature in theroom. As the product description says: “Get rid of the heat and flies, welcome fresh airand light”, it’s a simple idea to stimulate our senses.As these sensorial experiences are entering the range of our aspirations, we seetextiles playing an increasingly important role in the future, creating environments thatare mood enhancing and nurturing.Restrained LuxuryIn the wake of the economic downturn, people’s values have shifted. We arewitnessing a long wave trend in which our perceptions of luxury are changing. Manypeople have rejected ‘bling culture’ and its overt displays of wealth and are insteadembracing experiences and demanding products that have a more timeless aesthetic.A natural home to luxury, the Milan furniture fair has over recent years offered us afantastic insight into this trend. So we were once again keen to find out how the newluxury aesthetic is developing.An obvious first stop was Hermés’ show ‘La Maison’ which was the French brands firstever appearance at the fair. In a house made of cardboard by Shigeru Ban we foundtheir two new furniture collections Matiéres by Enzo Mari and Métiérs by AntonioCitterio both of which display beautifully refined expressions of ‘Restrained Luxury’.They achieved this by focussing on Hermés heritage of artisan craftsmanship. Citterostates that: “What interested me about working with Hermés was the chance to work attimeless products for a company renowned for craftsmanship quality that is becomingrare to find nowadays in the industrialised world.” Echoing this Mari comments “I felt itwas an opportunity to show that luxury objects do not have to be vulgar”. What we feltreally added to the sense of luxury was the quality of the materials used. Clémence bullcalf leather plays a key role in the collection and gives a wonderful impression oflongevity.Another design house that had the crowd sighing with pleasure due to the quality ofmaterials and manufacture was Sé. We discovered the latest additions to their Autumn2010 ‘collection II’ by Jamie Hayon at Spazio Rossana Orlandi. Sé describethemselves as being ‘at the forefront of a new spirit of luxury’ and we found it hard todisagree as we observed and delighted in the fantastic finish of the pieces. Their new‘Bala’ solid ceramic side tables particularly caught our eye with their beautiful craftedcarrera marble tops. Sé’s exhibit illustrated that although luxury is changing, people willcontinue to desire the precious and rare in the future.
/contAlso showing at Rossana Orlandi but with a different approach to luxury was NicaZupanac whose new pieces explore the ideal of comfort. Her ‘Homework Chair’,‘Homework Table’, ‘Homework Cabinet’ aim to question self-discipline or the lack of it.She explained to us “ I think we all feel, especially in the West, a little bit toocomfortable. I think it’s really time for a more self-restrained approach to living. I usedthis literally in the measurements of the pieces, for example the chair which is quitesmall so that it’s not really so comfortable. If we are comfortable all the time then Ibelieve we stop thinking critically”. We were drawn to Zupanac’s work, as we believe itreflects an intriguing new idea of ‘Restrained Luxury’ where objects no longer shoutabout their quality but rather relieve them on close inspection and over the course oftime.InvisibleA continuation of last year’s ethereal theme was the trend for transparent, fluid objects,not only in a literal sense, but also in terms of providing a calming and tranquilatmosphere, helping to de-clutter our homes.It was the Japanese designers that traditionally employed this purist aesthetic that alsostood out at this year’s Salone. It is important to note that the spaces in which these‘invisible’ pieces were presented had also been carefully considered, giving the visitora pleasant break from the hustle and bustle of Milan.A master of poetic design, Tokujin Yoshioka’s ‘Twilight’ installation for Moroso was aprime example of this trend. Variations of his ‘Moon’ chair were presented in a white,atmospheric environment, only revealing the subtle differences in texture throughreflection of the light.‘Transparent Table’, a beautiful piece by Japanese designer Nendo, explores thedifferent levels of transparency in all its gradations in space between transparent andopaque. Cast in a wooden form with a strong grain, the clear acrylic table appearstransparent at first, but with a closer look the wooden texture becomes visible.British designer Paul Cocksedge worked in collaboration with BMW and Flos on acaptivating luminary installation named ‘Sestosenso’. Inspired by the new BMW 6series, the first BMW with full LED headlights, Cocksedge designed a conical lightsculpture that hides the source of illumination. The LED light is guided through theedges of the lampshade, creating a very soft and gentle light. “What I like about them isthat they are voluminous shapes, they’re cones and usually a light bulb would be in themiddle. But here it’s hidden away and comes from somewhere else. It’s the idea ofbeing invisible, being deleted, not showing.” Cocksedge explains.
/contHe also thought of a clever way of letting people experience the car. Visitors could stepwithin one of five red ‘Sestosenso’ lamps hanging from the ceiling and magically avideo of the car appears on the white wall that wraps around the room.This points towards a bright future, where technology will be embedded into ourenvironments in a fluid and harmonious way. Technology will be ubiquitous, but withoutcompeting with the look and feel of our homes, leaving space for a calmness andserenity when we need it.Choreographed CreationJust as people desire to know the provenance of their food, so too are they becominginterested in the provenance, authenticity, and narratives behind their other products.Designers are revealing projects where the process and moment of creation isdocumented, observed, or even taken part in.At Wallpaper’s Handmade show, we came across an exciting new piece of work byStudio Glitherio that reflected the new trend of ‘Choreographed Creation’. Their exhibit‘Paper Planes’ was the result of a commission by Wallpaper who had teamed themwith Baddeley Brothers (a 4th generation London based printing company) and askedthem to create something for their show. The result was a collection of 5 paper planesand a film that documented and condensed the story of the process. Whilst the paperplanes were beautiful in themselves they were almost outshadowed by the wonderfulfilm that had been created. Tim Simpson of Studio Glitherio explains, “Films areimportant to our work because we are much more interested in process… the momentof transformation, when the material becomes a product. Our intention is not to openup and reveal ourselves, it’s actually to capture a very particular moment and toembellish and dramatise it. Sometimes the products are almost an afterthought, so theproducts have become the support actors to the theatrical process we make.”Another wonderful example that allows the audience to bare witness to the moment ofcreation is Eske Rex’s ‘Drawing Machine’. The machine is constructed of two towerseach suspending a pendulum. The pendulums are connected by “drawing arms” andmoveable joints, where the pendulums meet a ballpoint pen rests on a large sheet ofwhite paper so that when the pendulums are set in motion by hand their movementsare represented on paper. What was particularly poetic about the project was theswishing noise of the pen as it marked the paper. So mesmerising was it that manypeople found themselves unable to leave the room before the drawing were completed.Allowing people to not only witness the creation process, but to have an active role in itwas explored in Bejamin Newland’s dynamic new project ‘Nomadic Sound System’. Itis a wireless, battery powered, speaker marching band system that explores new ways
/contfor sound to interact with people and space. Newland’s aim is to socialise theconsumption of music, outside iPods and club culture he explained “ I’m a bitfrustrated with music culture, particularly underground music culture, as it’s all in thehead phones, in that it’s personal, and I wanted to make it much more of a group socialactivity… it’s about giving it a bit of pageantry”. What impressed us was the relevancyof his work to the music industry that is struggling to give music a value when it is soeasily downloaded and shared. Newland has recognised that true value lies incommunal activities and the creation of memorable shared moments. As such severalof his designs are suitable as open source designs where people can download them,adapt and make them for themselves.Chorographed Creation feels particularly potent to us as it reflects the value ofexperiences.Everyday delightA couple of years ago, a lot of design was driven by technology and somehow becameout of touch with the end user. However, the global financial crisis has forced manydesigners and manufacturers to reconsider the value of design and we can now seethe positive impact this rethink has had.Designers are taking on their traditional role of inventors again and are questioning thenorm, giving us delightful products that offer simple yet joyful improvements to dailylife.We were excited to see so many designers responding to the need for adding a bit ofmagic to everyday, mundane tasks. A lot of work on show wouldn’t draw muchattention at first glance, but revealed surprising functionality once discovered. Thebroad appeal of this trend can be linked to the revival of analogue. We are once againenchanted by products that offer original and tangible ways of interaction.Martha Schwindlinger, a young German designer, exhibited her ‘Dressing Table’ aspart of the fantastic Wallpaper Handmade exhibition. By rolling the round mirror to oneside, a small storage compartment on top of the table is magically revealed, whilst themirror, balanced in a wooden frame, stays at the same angle. “I wanted to dosomething with a twist to it, nothing too conventional or too serious, playing a game alittle bit”, she tells Seymourpowell.Another simple, yet delightful, product was Barber Osgerby’s ‘Tip Ton’ chair for Vitra.Developed for educational environments, the all-plastic chair defines a new kind ofdynamic seating, discreetly incorporating a forward-tilt action without any mechanicalcomponents.
/contThe benefit of this motion that straightens the back region is an increased flow ofoxygen, which has a positive effect on health and concentration. Manufactured from asingle cast, Tip Ton is also practically indestructible and 100% recyclable.Also capturing our imagination was Leon Ransmeier’s ‘Revolver’ barstool forEstablished & Sons. The simple four-legged barstool integrates a ball bearing into thelower ring, enabling a 360º rotation. A conversation piece in the truest sense!The British design powerhouse also showed some new additions to their ESTDcollection, the more affordable accessory line of the brand. The pieces with names like‘Loaf’, ‘Pour’ and ‘Serve’ are designed to create a delightful moment in your day.Interestingly, the names behind the creations are never revealed, so one could bebuying a piece by Japser Morrison or BarberOsgerby for very little money.This inventive spirit that so many designers are returning to has also resulted in newproduct typologies. Daniel Rybakken’s ‘Counterbalance’ lamp is a wall-mounted lightwith a two-meter reach, offering an infinite amount of adjustments, elegantly blurringthe boundaries between task and ambient light.In a time were technological advances enable everyone to be a designer, it is expertiseand true talent that stands out again. Whilst the democratisation of design we talkedabout in the beginning of this presentation can be a very positive thing, it is alsobecoming apparent that not everyone can create meaningful products for the demandsof our modern world. Observation, a thorough understanding of process andcraftsmanship, and a connection to the end user are more relevant than ever.SummaryWe feel that this year’s show has been a real turning point, with designers taking on amore cultural role. We believe that the social aspects of design will becomeincreasingly important, engaging with and empowering local communities. No longerare designers just producing pieces, instead they are asking people to contribute andbecome involved with the proces. Storytelling will remain relevant, imbuing objects withcharacter and soul. We hope to see more technology companies recognising the needfor calm and decluttered environments, where digital functionality will be fluidlyembedded. We are also pleased to see that the previously very male dominatedmarket has started to become more feminine, with more and more talented femaledesigners leaving their mark. And whilst there will always be a place for high profiledesigners, we feel that what resonates with consumers today is a much more simpleand honest approach. ************
/contFor further information:Tim DuncanHead of PR, SeymourpowellEmail: firstname.lastname@example.orgTel: +44 (0) 20 7386 2369Mariel BrownMariel Brown is part of the Research, Trends and Strategy team at Seymourpowell.Mariel gained a first-class honours degree in Design Futures at Napier University and aMasters degree in Design Products from the Royal College of Art, London. Whilststudying she won a D&AD Award for Product Design and a D&AD Award forEnvironmental Design. Since Mariel joined Seymourpowell over four years ago she hasworked on a diverse range of projects including user research, product strategy andglobal trend studies. Currently co-head of the trends department, Mariel helps translatetrend, market and user insights into tangible future directions for numerous clients.Karen RosenkranzKaren Rosenkranz is part of the Research, Trends and Strategy team atSeymourpowell. She joined the company in 2007 after having worked in designconsultancies in Amsterdam and New York. Karen’s experience covers many facets ofthe design process - from uncovering user insights to translating them into brandrelevant propositions, from spotting emerging trends to defining a brands’ visuallanguage. She has worked on a broad range of projects for clients including Ford, Nike,Panasonic, Unilever and Nokia.About Seymourpowell – the shape of things to comeSeymourpowell is one of the world’s leading design and innovation companies.Founded in 1984 by Richard Seymour and Dick Powell, the London-based group ofaward-winning designers has produced some of the ‘milestone’ products of the last twodecades.Seymourpowell is currently the UK’s number 1 design company (YouGov, Nov 2010).The company is part of the Loewy Group.Seymourpowell is currently 85 people, combining a design studio, research centre,materials library and prototyping workshop.Seymourpowell has a unique holistic approach to design and innovation, whichcombines in depth experience and up to date intelligence about people, markets andbusinesses. The company has the ability to forecast and interpret the vital implicationsof behaviors and work out future scenarios to give its clients the confidence andreassurance they are making the right decision.
/contSeymourpowell is skilled in exploiting ideas that create real value and always look tomove clients forward creatively. Seymourpowell is not just a company of visionarythinkers, but future ‘doers’. Ultimately, Seymourpowell is about making things better:better for people, better for business and better for the world.Specialisms include design innovation, transportation design, ethnographic userresearch, strategy and new product development (NPD), trends and forecasting,product design and development, 3D structural design and 2D graphic design. ***ENDS***