Interestingly, there has been chat about Milan’s oversized design fest moving from its current annual status to bi or even tri-annual.
Why? Well it cuts to the market purpose of the fair, that is to introduce and sell newly designed products. Until now, established marketing wisdom says find a new angle for your product (literally in the case of design, metaphorically in the case of, say, cereal), tell the consumer the one they’ve already got is no good (uncool, clunky, about to fail, bad for you etc) and needs to be upgraded, and – voila – you reduce product lifecycles, increase sales and habituate consumers to a merry-go-round of upgrades.
Yes, the highest form of the art is in technology products, but design uses very much the same approach. And that’s what’s worried the good folk behind the fair – does the tsunami of new products launched at each Fair represent positive, design-driven progress or has it become a very guilty party to cynical consumer stimulation, the creation of ‘Stuff’ for it’s own sake (see my earlier post on The Story of Stuff).
One would have to assume that restricting the Fair to a lower frequency would adversely affect the revenues to both the organisers and the good Burgers of Milan, but what price a clean conscience? This is an exciting moment of enlightenment. It’ll be fascinating to see what happens.
In the interests of balance, I must point out that there is a very significant movement within the design industry toward environmental responsibility – in all sorts of expressions, from use of materials, manufacturing techniques, use of the products itself, disposal of the product, and contribution the product makes to sustainable lifestyles.
A nice litmus site for this emerging trend is inhabitat.com whose mission statement includes: “we are frustrated at seeing an emerging category called “Green Design” – as if sustainability is somehow separate from good design in general. We believe that all design should be inherently “Green”. Good design is not about color, style or trends – but instead about thoughtfully considering the user, the experience, the social context and the impact of an object on the surrounding environment. No design can be considered good design unless it at least attempts to address some of these concerns.”
Inhabitat has picked out its favourite Milan products here
And here’s a perfect example of writing on Green Design, recently released by Mark Batty Publisher, a full-color journey through a carefully chosen selection of green toys, objects, fabrics, paper, and alternative energy sources.