Every year Milan offers its visitors a seductive slice through ‘now’. The relatively quick turnaround of products on show, along with a product designer’s innate desire to engage with culture means that Milan captures the spirit of the time like no other design show on Earth.
Despite this, Milan 2012 felt a little different this year. Whilst the main show at the Fiera still hustled and bustled as ever, the events around the rest of the city felt a little quieter than usual. There was a reflective and almost contemplative mood in the air, which seemed to suggest that designers are taking their time to carefully consider their next move amidst a global state of instability. This was echoed by many of the big manufacturers, such as Vitra, Established & Sons and Magis, choosing not to release many new products. Instead they made small additions and tweaks to their ranges, giving existing products a new lease of life with the addition of new colours, materials and finishes.
By far the most exciting developments this year were those being made in the less established areas of the fair, with traditional shows being much more low-key. New thinking such as open-source design, hacking and crowd funding is empowering young designers and, in doing so, is lighting the touch paper that could ignite a new era of collaborative design. Tantalisingly, this will question the very nature of future Milan furniture fairs.
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