As the focus of design shifts from the production of finite goods to a practice of experimentation, ideas take precedence over products.
Earlier this spring, manufacturers and designers from all over the world were shipping their wares to Milan to prepare for the Salone del Mobile. Anybody involved in design knows this is the most important rendezvous of the year—or at least it used to be, when design meant mostly furniture and objects. Designers anticipate meeting new talent and inspiration; they seek out curators, writers, teachers, students, and, of course, each other—this is a chance to meet with their peers and trade war stories. It’s hard to tell in advance whether Milan will be blooming with wisteria or gray, rainy, and dreary at this time of year, but the event is inevitably alive with the sound of design. The Salone is to design what Cannes is to film: the most useful and most productive yearly trade meeting. But is the future of design here? Milan still represents a big red dot in the geography of design, but design is changing rapidly, and so are its maps. There are myriad forms of design, many of which don’t require movement of materials and artifacts; only curiosity, an internet connection, and the ability to seek, learn, and synthesize from other fields and cultures.