> posted by   on March 20th 2019

Tempt with a unique experience

I may definitely say that Milan Design Week is the world’s championship in what
contemporary marketing can do. To me, the event is a platform for observing
changes taking place in business, communication, promotion and the broadlydefined
industry. It has long since stopped being a venue of exhibiting chairs,
lamps and tables.

For several years, the BMW Group, the VW Group, Samsung, Sony and
PepsiCo have organized their exhibitions in Milan. What was there to see?
The Rho Fiera market halls
Every year, the market halls host simultaneously several events under one
roof. This time it was Salone del Mobile (furniture fairs), Cucina (the kitchen),
FTK (technology and kitchen equipment), Bagno (bathrooms) and Salone
Satelite (an exhibition of young talents). The narrow, hot halls were brimming
with visitors. Again, hundreds of new models of chairs and couches were on
display as if the consumers did nothing else but kept changing their interiors.
Two thoughts struck me: for several years, the venerable interior decoration
brand Molteni & C (together with Dada and Poltrona Frau) has treated
its stand as a high-end airport. The entrance is reminiscent of a passage from
passport control to the Schengen zone. The tapes indicating where to queue
and an army of security guards who invite you to visit a stand (provided you
are admitted after an hour of waiting!), are truly impressive.
Kartell presented another revolution on a global scale. Veteran Philippe
Starck designed a “Woody Chair”. Mind you, it is made of wood. Who would
have thought? After all, Kartell has made its name for products made of
plastic! Does that indicate that plastic is no longer desired in furniture production?
Is Kartell privy to something no one else knows?

Tortona Design Week: an urban exhibition
Except for the historical centre, Tortona is the oldest exhibition area in
Milan. A former rolling stock factory now houses the city’s best exhibition
and event venue. Following several years of failed and unimpressive displays,
I finally felt a whiff of fresh thinking. Without a shadow of a doubt,
the best exhibition was the “Hidden Senses” by Sony Design in cooperation
with Setsu & Shinobu ITO. Sony Design is an innovation centre within Sony
company. The invitation read: “See, hear and feel Hidden Senses that inform
your everyday life. Challenging the constraints and preconceptions between
technology and human behaviour, whilst interacting with familiar objects
in a contextual space”.Sony Design showed the most unbelievable exhibition about the future I have ever seen. Five different areas, each offering various experiences
related to human senses. To me it was like return to the past when in the
1990s at Philips we would come up with such effects but nobody was able
to prototype them. And voila: here each prototype worked and was thoughtprovoking.
If this is what the future will be like, count me in! Family pictures
coming to life on the wall, lighting reminiscent of daylight raying between
tree trunks, products reflecting sensations and a TV set which does not
really exist. Pure magic.

Another splendid exhibition, “Forms of Movement” by Nendo, also attracted
my attention. Nendo is a Japanese design group with a characteristic
amazing mode of thinking and creating which is frequently the minimalist
essence and a very creative solution to a problem. Nendo showed 10 latest
projects, among them a memorable zipper combining three surfaces. It
sounds simple and yet it is most complicated! The audience had an opportunity
to see the entire creation process accompanying a project with the
prototyping stages. Hats off!

The city centre: 5vie District
The most beautiful Francesco Turati palace was the venue of “Masterly:
the Dutch in Milano”, the third edition of a collective exhibition of Dutch companies and designers. Among the most interesting was a stand of Royal
Delft brand, a china manufacturer since 1653. In cooperation with Flex/Design
studio, an interactive project was launched for creating one’s own, unique
porcelain patterns. The company whose origin goes back to the 17th century
is not afraid of new technological challenges and successfully introduces
them to the market. That is a good example of business transformation.

Ventura Future
This is the first edition of this format after Ventura Lambrate was
closed down. The new locations were indicated by the authorities of Milan.
Ventura Future was the most intriguing and the most thought-provoking
exhibition located in a former seat of the chemistry faculty of the local
university. The designers presented their skills and proved that they could
think outside the box and create radical solutions for the world to resort
to them more and more frequently. The discrepancies between traditional
disciplines are blurred which is evidence that interactions between designers,
technologists, engineers and analysts are bringing about increasingly
better results. From big data to complex networks, from assets management
to healthcare issues, biology and nature – we had an opportunity to
admire wonderful works of young designers representing international
universities. The sky is the limit!
Brera Design Week
Brera is the most picturesque district of Milan with its narrow streets
and secret passages. The visitors had at their disposal exhibitions held by
small companies and large global brands alike. The “Rooms’ exhibition put
on by Geberit company turned out to be very interesting. The interior filled
with geometric lines housed products of Geberit and Pozzi-Ginori brands.
The latter is a part of the Geberit Group but, like its sister brand Keramag,
will – sadly – exist only by the end of this year. Therefore, the exhibition was
to me a farewell. It is an example of de-branding or reducing the number of
brands in a group’s portfolio. Changes in business are a permanent process.
NoLo: North of Loreto
The district to the east of the Central Train Station is a bit dirty, sad and
multi-cultural, plagued by a high unemployment rate. The streets host empty
spaces where shops or other service outlets could be. That was the reason
why Joseph Grima, artistic director of Design Academy Eindhoven, arranged
a new and unique exhibition entitled “Not for Sale”. The former shops, cafes,
nightclubs and market halls along Pietro Crespi street were venues of a diploma
project as a thought presented in a social and urban context.
I was most intrigued by a newspaper interestingly titled “Misinformation
Times” which I spotted in a kiosk at Morbegno square. The project’s author,
Irene Stracuzzi, intended to show that despite an alluring appearance, newspapers
contain a large dose of false information. Therefore, the readers should
focus on the meaning and truthfulness of what they read rather than take
the newspaper’s looks for granted.
The Design Academy exhibition provided food for thought; I started to
analyse the importance of the mode of communication. I guess we need to
forget gallery-like design and focus more on its role in economics and, first
and foremost, think hard how design can transform an entire society and
the environment. Are we mentally ready for that?

Above text was published at the LABEL



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