Don’t gripe, furniture grabs public attention

Last week we courted the wrath of the anti-chair brigade by previewing the Milan Fair, the furniture industry’s international showcase. Now we await the gripes of those blinkered souls, largely in graphics, who can’t see that furniture is as much about design as are kettles, cars or calendars. I often wonder what they’re sitting on when they pick up the phone to bemoan our coverage of chairs, or what they put in their studios to convey their consultancy image.

Some product designers shun furniture design because it tends to pull in smaller fees than other product areas. But they accept the creative challenge is no less and respect their friends in furniture. Architects meanwhile are thrilled by it and long to design a chair.

Furniture certainly notches up more publicity for design than any other discipline – and we all benefit. Witness the Sunday supplements here, and anyone in Milan last week must have seen British designer Ross Lovegrove strutting his stuff on camera for his adoring fans in the Italian media. When did a graphic designer last manage that?

The UK furniture industry has yet to espouse good design as a key to creating quality products. But it can also learn from how Continental products are marketed. Italian companies such as Kartell and Cassina have a far better grasp of how to attract visitors to an exhibition stand or furniture showroom than the Brits. And graphics is playing a bigger part in this as an integral part of the concept now that economic strife is forcing Italian companies to tighten their belts and create fewer show-stoppers.

The likes of Lovegrove despair at the low quality material their UK clients use to sell furniture, with marketing divorced from product design and production. Even the groups that appreciate design fail to integrate creativity into all aspects of the business, yet we claim to have great branding skills in the UK and world-beating graphics talent.

So, graphics folk, next time you see a chair in Design Week, seize the opportunity to get involved in its promotion before you turn the page.

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