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I am launching a new series of posts: Product Briefs. Designers and makers might use these visual briefs to create new products or to promote existing ones. This one is the best example of a great gift-finding challenge: the boyfriend. It’s my boyfriend birthday tomorrow and it’s always difficult to find a present for him that is original and won’t break the bank. If you have a product that fits the brief, email-me and the best ones will make it my Pinterest. By the way, I have a present for tomorrow but Xmas is nearly round the corner!

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No – not going to Milan (again!) this year. 3 years ago I promised myself to return to the celebration of Design every 2 years… 2010 I attended the Bangalore furniture fair, 2011 I was busy changing nappies. So what’s the excuse for this year? That’s a boring story. Let’s move on.

Halo Lamps in shop window (Bangalore, India)

A product that addresses many issues: power cuts, energy cost and health.

As I am getting emails and invites from various contacts over new exhibitions, tweets over airport born excitment of flying to the sexiest venue for design, my heart is sinking in my black coffee as I replay the film of my Milanese memories… there are always people to meet there, cocktails to drink over grissini, contacts to make in the sleek and spacious show rooms of the famous furniture brands, unlikely encounters in Zona Tortona, or at the Salone Satellite stands. You can almost smell all the effort that went into all the products being launched.

In 2009  IKEA celebrated it’s 20th birthday in an alternative venue. I was a bit perplex, as I have a love/hate relationship with the brand.  Yet if IKEA is certainly the most legitimate exhibitor in Milan it struck me how discreet the brand during this celebration of furniture design. Every 3 years they roll out their limited edition collection PS. Do they need such a marketing coup maybe to earn more design credentials? No one makes a fuss about their yearly catalogue, the headline stories are about store openings, how big and where. I remember hearing rumours about the IKEA opening stores in India.

I wonder how much is different in Milan this year. What has happened to Diesel furniture range? How about recent economic casualty Habitat? For most Brit this flagship brand of British enterpreneurship and design has been reduced to become an online retailer in the UK, while its Eurpean operations seemed to have flourished. What will Habitat show this year in Milan? Will they give any clues of this new departure now that they are in the same family as Argos and Homebase?

I wonder if the Tawainese design students are still sharply business minded. Will they be the next to teach the world about the business of design?

I remember that Max Frazer wondered about the relevance of such design and product decadence in Design Week. One hopes that there will always be more exhibitors than visitors in Milan. Such product opulence surely demonstrate how design is an integral part of the furniture economy. As design hopefulls and stars make an expected appearance, only a small percentage of pieces shown there will become design hits let alone milestone or classic.

During the Salone pricey Milan puts a financial strain visitors and smaller exhibitors who syndicate to share costs before they can share some glory. I wonder how the small buyers afford their time in Milan. How much do they see ? How do they prepare their visit? How much are they influenced by the design press or cocktail invitations? Do they only go to the Fiera for business and Tortona for a bit of fun and distraction?

Despite all this I am not sure that the design industry makes itself more buyable in Milan. Maybe it’s good.

How about another model for Milan. Could it be run like the olympics? A more curated stage with more country represented? Since developing a new product takes a year minimum, how about getting companies to show every 2, 3 or 4 year?

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