After a whole morning of trains, planes and buses, I finally managed to get to Milan for the Design Week and Euroluce. The sun was shining and the streets were packed once again with design students dressed in black and men in suits. There was, again, this vibe in the air that can only be felt here and now.
I was impatient to get my camera out and start shooting everything that inspired me, but the lengthy journey barely left me a spare hour before I had to run for dinner, so I decided to make some phone calls to my friends, who have already been there from day 1, and hear from them what are the hot topics buzzing on the streets so far. All of that, of course, with an aperitivo. Those are some of the highlights I captured:
Lighting has a relevant role this year, with the emphasis on new lighting technologies. LED gains a stronger presence after having being quite minimal in previous editions - perhaps the end of the economic crises is giving manufacturers a lot more confidence to experiment with this technology? Many manufacturers are exhibiting wider ranges of luminaires using LED technology, but there is room also for bigger experimentation with LEDs beyond luminaires; among many other things, there´s a big buzz in the streets over Toshiba "Luce Templo Luogo" space at Tortona, an impressive pavilion in which LED lighting brings the emotional dimension to architecture...
...and Verbatim, which has chosen to present its new range of colour controllable OLED units by means of spatial light sculptures:
Digital manufacture is a topic that has been floating around for a long time, but this is the first time that I've seen it big and bold in Milan. This time it's Droog and their installation "Design for download" who are the ones stirring the conversation on digital manufacture and how it will change consumer behaviour. Not having had the time to check their space and their proposals, I can only tell that at least they´ve got everyone talking about the subject:
#milanuncut is a discussion started on Twitter about a week ago that aims to generate a bit of critical debate about the current state of the design discipline. It started off questioning the majoritarian model of design's contribution to the industry, when 60 years ago the royalty system became the standard in the design world. It might seem a bit design-centred but actually the discussions are now evolving beyond that: this could be a first step toward exploring new forms of open innovation and collaboration with external people for manufacturers.
In general, the start of the economic recovery is quite evident in this year´s edition (if not only for the amount of new products or the impressive PR actions around every single exhibition compared to 2010). However, this is just not bland optimism: a lot of skepticism and self-critique is also sensed in the atmosphere. The question of "and now, what´s next?" can be heard in almost every corner. Looks like Milan will be not only the "product introduction" event but also a hub from which a change in the design industry and manufacturers in the coming years might germinate.
I will keep you posted on more details and concrete examples on that and other hot topics spotted during the following days.