Considered the world’s largest and most important furniture and design fair, Milan Design week is the place to be for people that want to discover the future of design. Showcasing furniture, design and technology, this exhibition is a source of inspiration for our daily work. Here’s a selection of relevant themes for 2017 as well as highlights on colour and finish applications.
Experience design this year was less of an add-on, and more of an integrated element, confirming that designers are increasingly considering experience at every stage of their design process. Interactive installations dominated this year’s exhibition creating immersive experiences for the masses that descended on Milan. Cos teamed with Studio Swine to create “New Spring”, a multisensory installation centred around a tree that dispenses mysterious white orbs. The installation aimed to evoke “a lifespan of emotions in an instant”, and was one of the most thoughtful, talked-about experiences in the web and social media. LG commissioned to Tokujin Yoshioka an installation that showcases the latest technology in the form of ethereal experience. A large number of chairs filled the space inviting the visitors to sit on “made up” screens, which moved between stripes of colours, darkness and solid blocks of pure light.
Other big Brands took an ‘experience’ design approach aimed at retail and event-led experiences. The Ikea festival hosted live bands, food stalls, relaxing areas and playground for kids; Airbnb brought people around the city to visit hidden spots of the city; Quayola teamed with IQOS Pathfinder project to create a series of videos that slowly melted high-definition photographs of flowers into impressionist visuals with a hypnotic effect and Tom Dixon exhibited in a famous Milan theatre displaying a movie and recreating a chill-out zone for visitors with his latest sofa designs. (These are normally the most appreciated locations for exhausted visitors!).
As people are travelling more and more, there is a need for flexibility and adaptability. Carry handles, Charge&Go technology, wheels and DIY components are key features, as are designs that fold up into bags or portable kits. Louis Vuitton’s latest collection takes the direction to a luxurious high, interpreting nomadic-inspired design details such as straps and belts in high-end materials and finishes. SO-IL and Mini presented the “Mini-living” installation which showed the conventional challenges of small urban spaces by proposing a completely new and sustainable solution. The architecture made of metal frame is covered in a flexible, light-permeable outer skin which organically reacts to the environment and creates the perfect living atmosphere connecting the inhabitant with their home and the nature.
Following up on compact and flexible designs, a related trend shows minimalistic shapes and invisible outlines that emphasise the feeling of weightlessness. Nendo’s exhibition “Invisible outlines” explore the theme of blurred boundaries, outlines and borders of objects and things. Different objects including the ‘border table’, ‘traces’ and ‘vases’ capture the existence of items in spaces by manipulating their outlines in various ways while they are still visually recognized by viewers.
Lighting brands exhibit delicate linear structures that emit a subtle, soft glow and recreate a diffuse and soft light. To avoid a direct glare, lights are also positioned backwards or downwards reflecting the beam into a surface creating a graphic effect with plays of balance.
‘Invisible Tech’ another interesting direction captured at this year Milan Design Week, where technology is seen as an integrated part of our space, adding softer shapes, tactile materials and warmth colour tones. A great example is Bang&Olufsen “Beosound” wireless speaker made up of hexagonal shapes with varying colors, and looks more like wall-mounted artwork than a traditional sound system.
This year colours are warm and tactile with hues of burgundy red, roasted pecan and spicy orange. These are very versatile colours that work well as eye-catching standalone colours or on small product accents. The rich tones evoke clay, pigments and craftsmanship, they look really sophisticated with leather and metal.
Reflecting the ‘Greenery’ Pantone of the year 2017, many furniture and designs were created in lime green shades, just like nature, fresh, calming and comforting.
Marble and veined stones are featured in a variety of designs across lighting, décor, kitchen and bathroom, like last year. What differentiates this years trends are colours and processes. A lot of marble pieces are directly carved out from a single block and the shades tend to go towards green and dark tones. At the same time, the metallic finishes remain a strong influence but the colours tend to be deeper, with darker metals compared to last year.
Looking beyond the final product, process is central to the design industry. This translates into surfaces and products that show traces of how they were made, sometimes with an unfinished look. Etching, printing, perforating are the most common treatments, texture is an important addition to the final result.