Milan 2019 – the bitch is back

Milan Design Week, Fuorisalone, or whatever you call yourself. I fell in love with you in around 2005, rejected you ten years later, and now 2019-2020 we are on speaking terms again. Perhaps this year is a sign of us finally falling in love again.

Milan Design Week is bigger, better and more important than in a long time. Here is my overview of the design week, and tomorrow I will go into more details. So overview first!!

The design week in Milan is undeniably the biggest design event of the year. In 2018 officially 434 509 people went to the fair with 1 841 exhibitors. At the official guide of the design week, last year (2018) had 1373 offical events. It is enormous. Just a quick calculation. Let’s say you have 3000 exhibitions to look at (1373 events plus 1841 exhibitors at the fair) and you spend ten minutes at each place – that is 30 000 minutes or 500 hours or 62,5 workdays.

There is no way anyone will get an honest and proper overview of the design week in Milan. Personally I visited perhaps 500 exhibitors and events in total. I have 750 pictures in my camera… I would say I have a pretty good overview of the week. And I am happy. Super, super happy.

2017 was the year when I was so upset with the whole design industry that I actually skipped Milan. 2018 I noticed that everything got so shallow I named the design week “the year of the stylist”. (use google translate if you want to translate my Swedish…)

But this year. Finally. Design is important again. Perhaps not in a sustainable aspect but absolutely addressing our future lifestyle. So lets look at this introduction. Not giving you 750 pictures but perhaps 40…

A sign of the time. A lot of communications about design being relevant and important.

One of the most talked about launches was the new chair by Kartell. Together with Philippe Starck and Autodesk they made a chair. They call it AI and it was launched with a big press conference. This is the world’s first chair designed without a designer. Using the world AI is a bit strong. Kartell uses that description but Autodesk call it “algorythms”. So let’s say you upload all images of existing chairs, add behavioural patterns, production possibilities etc and all of a sudden you have a new commercial chair. No designers needed.

I am not sure this is the future, but it is absolutely very, very interesting. How should we evaluate a chair like this?

And this is what all of the design week was about – questions.

Someone I talked to said that Milan Design Week 2019 was all about “robotics”, but I am not totally convinced this is the right description. There were plenty of technology at the week. Three different tv sets were launched. Panasonic, LG and Bang&Olufsen. Above the new set designed by Daniel Rybakken where you only get a frame when it is off so you basically can have the tv in the middle of the room. The others where about making the tv screen completely disappear when they were off.

But the design week 2019 had large installations by Sony and Google. The later experimented with a wristband to monitor what room you liked most.

Technological exhibitions have been at Milan Design Week before, but I can’t remember when they got such recognition as this year.

So regardless if you like the AI chair or not – expect more technology in our lives.

However – very little talk about wifi furniture.

Sustainability is on everyone’s mind. Everyone is talking about how we need a more sustainable choice. But I must say – not so much at Milan Design Week. I mean, IKEA wants to be the most sustainable supplier of home goods, but they chose to show a cooperation with speakers and sound rather than sustainability. And I must say, sustainability was not really communicated well at the fair. Of course there are some smaller exhibitions on town to address this. I heard of a young company making tiles out of recycled plastics… but not so much more.

Again – I love how we talked about the way we want to live in the future but I think we need to talk about sustainability more.

One project that got attention was Rossana Orlandi’s exhibition recycled plastics. She made a competition and asked perhaps 20 of her famous designer friends to do something with recycled plastics. It is of course easy to point out that just because your famous, you don’t have the best sustainable design skills. But I like that these 20 designers did. And their fame helps bringing awareness.

Above a sofa chair by Patricia Urquiola made out of sneakers.

Lamp by Studio Job

Rug by Jaime Hayon

Recycled plastics, grinded to a paste and 3D printed by Piero Lissoni.

More by Studio Job.

My favourite. Chris Jordan interpret art with small plastic pieces.

The difficulties of our contemporary life is not easy to discuss. It is extremely complex. What should we sacrifice in the name of sustainability, when is work and when is time off, where is home and safety, etc, etc, etc….

But not everyone managed to handle this quite clearly. Again, I must stress that I appreciate that brands and exhibitions are trying to talk about our difficult times, but it is tricky.

Above picture from fashion brand Tod’s that is trying to talk about… well I still don’t understand. Read an interview with them at Wallpaper here.

Another picture from the exhibition. And as a suggestion to the people behind exhibitions like this. Yes, I appreciate your intellectual approach – but at a design week like this I have maximum five, ten minutes to make a reaction.

And same thing with one of the most appreciated and talked about exhibitions – the “Broken Nature” at the design museum of Triennale. The exhibition has gathered about 2000 of the most important questions of our current times. Like above picture. Archeological and arcitechtural teams are discussing how to rebuild the mosques in Iraq (I think…) after IS left. Super relevant. Super important. But come on – the size of your fonts?? Really? How should I read this, feel educated and want to contribute?

A poster talking about how bicycle tourism can rejuvenate a region. Can anyone read this? Feel like they are participating? Emotionally?

And of course I am very much pro a project like this. But is it the right way to get to me, to make me change??

Again – super happy that people are talking about how design can be important – but we need to work a bit on our communications skills.

And speaking about getting better… There is one word that we need to be aware of at this stage – cultural appropriation. Read about the wikipedia definition here.

I understand that Moroso want to bring attention to craftsmen in Africa and I am sure they only wanted to be nice… But with this exhibition with cheap materials, stereotypical images of African people, just to sell super expensive furniture made by extremely white people…? Not ok 2019.

Again – I appreciate that Moroso want to talk about Africa, but do it better. Take on African designers instead.

Another thing noted at Milan Design Week 2019 was the lack of inspiring new talents. Going round at Salone Satellite at the fair gave very few new heart rushes. If the design week 2019 was all about new ideas dealing with  the complexity of our times, we did not see it among the young designers. Here a fairly interesting idea by Aberjung Object. The flat screen folds out to be a table. Smart for compact living. Very smart.

Here a bench by Philipp Heinke where the glue is actually candy.

Ok. So enough of ideas. I will give Milan Design Week 10 point out of 10 for being relevant. Could get better on communications and involvement, but still – top score for being relevant.

Another thing that was really obvious was how beige doesn’t get our attention any longer. Picture above at the Vitra stand. Of course extremely well curated. But you basially just pass it without remembering it.

So, if you want to disappear and be forgettable – be beige. Call it champagne, off white or whatever you want to – but this does not stick 2019.

Instead this year is all about creativity and maximalism. Quirky, fun, energetic and crazy. Above picture from the Fritz Hansen stand at the fair. Tomorrow I will have a full report on maximalism, but that will be tomorrow. This is an overview of the week.

And now this…

I don’t think it was intentional. Or perhaps it was. If it was, I need to bow down to their cleverness. Hermes managed to do the sign of our times – the maze for lab rats, but for humans.

This is the exhibition by Hermes at Pelota in Brera. Last year everyone got frantic about the tiles and this year, people loved the stone installations by the French brand. But was I the only one feeling like we were walking like lab rats in a maze? If you walk all the way down, there will be cheese for you…

Everyone walking in the same maze, taking pictures of the same things, posting on Instagram…

Milan Design Week 2019 was very much about walking in the same footsteps if someone else. We are all followers. If someone says on Instagram that you need to see the Pepe Studio exhibiton, we automatically steered our way there. Like rats in a maze…

And the lines and ques were insane. I am pretty sure we will remember 2019 as the year when we started talking about design as being relevant – but also how we stood in line. Here I am standing in line for Google. 90 minutes I waited. I asked a passing staff about how much longer it was and he said “another 60 minutes”. And that is at a design week with over 3000 exhibitions and installations… Did I wait? No. Who has time to wait two and half hours??

I really enjoyed Milan Design Week 2019. Ten out of ten. Exhibitions, fair, cocktails and all. Everythings was good. But the best if of course to hang out with some international friends like Leon Ransmeier who was the guest of honour at the Norwegian exclusive dinner by Andreas Engesvik and Daniel Rybakken.

Dear Milan Design Week – I look forward to see you again next year.

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[…] yesterday’s post we concluded that Milan Design Week 2019 was mainly about ideas and not so much about new form. […]