Notes from Milan Design Week

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Ivy Chuang, Knoend.
Ivy Chuang, Knoend.
Hello Creativity Readers. Let's start with an introduction. I was asked to join OnDesign as the sustainable voice and I'm delighted to have my views add fuel to the discussion on this blog. I started my company three years ago, during the year that almost every magazine had their inaugural green issue. Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth was a hit; the organic industry was on the rise, eco-certifications were popping up all around.

And yet, I could not find a design job that had a dedicated green commitment. In San Francisco, of all places, I was sure I could find a company that had some hippie ideologies and high aesthetic sensibility to their work. There were some smaller firms that fit the bill but were in no position to hire, but overall, the opportunities were few and far between, even when I expanded my geographic filter to include the whole country. I looked for about four months, and then I decided, if I couldn't find the job I wanted, then I would make it.So I started my company with ideals: sustainability + innovation = meaningful design. Three years later, I'm still going, and couldn't be more pleased with the creative journey. I've learned many a lesson as a struggling ecodesigner, but many more lessons as an ecopreneur. From me, you can expect to hear tales from behind the sustainability scenes, observations from airports, socio-eco topics, cultural musings, ruminations of the future fusion of technology, art, design, and craft, and the occasional rant on some example of design I abhor or adore.

For this inaugural post, I thought I'd report on my trip to Salone di Mobile, otherwise known as Milan Design Week. Salone di Mobile puts every other design week to shame because it engages every part of Milan, and design can be seen in every aspect and discipline all at once, all in one week. I returned this year to exhibit at the Salone Satellite Exhibition, which is a section of the fair dedicated solely to young emerging designers. Another San Francisco firm Pocobor co-developed the project Knoend presented. Instead of bringing a traditional piece of furniture such as a table or chair, I made a decision to showcase a design concept for world peace. (You can learn about the project and read my thoughts on exhibiting on the Knoend blog.)

By far, the Salone Satellite Exhibition was the most exciting pavilion in the convention center which begs the question: Why is it that the most imaginative concepts seem to stem from youth? The Salone Satellite has an age limit on their applicants – 35 or younger. I'm not sure that would be legal to enforce here in the United States, some angry older designer may sue for age discrimination. Many other design furniture fairs have followed suite with their own young design sections that always draw far more intrigue than the conventional counterparts. I don't have an answer to the question, but it does make me wonder, if in five years my ideas will start to lose their luster.

Musings aside, I think what we're going to see is more humor, more whimsy, and more material explorations in the upcoming year. The most fun I had was in the Architettura Rock booth (below), which drew inspiration for design from Rock n' Roll songs. How cool is that?! I think I'll try that exercise out myself, and see what happens, maybe riff off of Elvis...

Here's a gallery of work that illustrates trends I saw at the fair:

Customization & Interaction:

LIVE, a modular floor lamp by Aurnab Biswas of Architettura Rock.

Eclipse interlocking fruit bowls by Sakura Adachi.


Wall hook wardrobe by All About Paula.

Mobile shoes byCompany.

Silent farter chair by Alice Wang from her dysfunctional chairs collection.

Super thin, Super light:

Web chair by Jun Hashimoto.

Pablo polypropylene chair by Reinhard Dienes.


Quadrifolio Recycled Rug by Uroboro.

FORT recycled PET partition system by Arihiro Miyake.
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