by Salvatore PelusoJul 22, 2022
Design thinking in the domain of future imaginations, along with all the "what ifs" and "how else’s" in between, is what currently occupies much of the discourse across diverse creative realms. One is met with a variety of content that ranges from critical to cosmetic, and at times concerning. Outside of academic journals, it is delivered to the public via talks, seminars, and conferences, involving leading names from relevant industries. With so much content out there, I often wonder who's listening, especially when it comes to critiquing our current ways of being. Those who seek such content are already initiated, but how does it reach those who need to be challenged?
This for me was the highlight of the third edition of the conference—Next Design Perspectives, held at Triennale Milano on October 27, 2022. It was an initiative by Altagamma—a foundation with a mission to boost the growth of Italy's cultural and creative companies. It is an organisation that gathers top Italian brands across the fields of fashion, design, jewellery, food, hospitality, automotive design, and yacht-building, in a network that promotes Italian excellence and its distinctive identity worldwide. For this edition, Altagamma appointed cultural strategist, curator and critic, Beatrice Leanza to curate the half-day conference that she themed Design in Flux—an event devoted to future trends in creativity and design. The initiative was organised in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and ITA, the Italian Trade Agency.
A commerce-led organisation making a cultural critic lead the conversation is an interesting start. Resultantly, critical creative practitioners like Erez Nevi Pana, Matteo Vignoli, Claudia Pasquero, and Gaëlle Le Gélard presented their works which explored the semantics of circularity, regeneration, cooperation/collaboration, veganism, and eco-friendliness, on the future discourse. On the other hand, practitioners like Lonneke Gordijn (Studio Drift), Brendan McGetrick (Museum of the Future), Davide Quayola (artist), Alfredo Munoz (ABIBOO and FutureverseTM) spoke about the relationship between technology and future thinking, revolving around the human experience. These critical thinkers held the stage in front of top industry leaders, manufacturers, and producers of luxury goods, to insist on more comprehensive introspection regarding the socio-environmental impact of each decision that’s taken at every step of design production.
The conference was opened by Matteo Lunelli—chairman of Altagamma, who stated: "With Next Design Perspectives Altagamma continues to look to the future: despite the complexities of the current period, our companies still need to read, interpret and respond to the changes taking place in society from a fresh perspective."
Speaking of their association, Carlo Ferro, chairman of ITA, the Italian Trade Agency said, "Style, design, diversity, tradition, innovation, and passion are the values of the standard of excellence promoted by the 'Made In Italy' label that ITA is promoting with its Be IT campaign and, more generally, with a program of 20 new actions. Supporting Next Design Perspectives is an integral part of this strategy.”
Leanza presented the conference's theme, focusing on three macro issues that defined the agenda this year, saying: "The conference explores the role of design in the context of a new idea of planetary co-existence, showing how innovation and cross-sectorial research can lead to the development of new systems of care, social, and environmental balance, thus enhancing human potential to mitigate the devastating effects of our impact on the planet and the extremism this is generating." Leanza further explained the theme stating, “Design in Flux, the concept chosen for this edition, pays tribute to future-driven forms of design intelligence founded on intellectual cross pollination, exploring a world of cognition, sensation, and interconnectedness, from the molecular to the ultra-planetary scale."
Part 1. Design and the Scientific Imagination: Natural, Human and Machine Intelligence
In the first segment, two speakers, Lonneke Gordijn—artist and co-founder of Studio Drift—and artist Davide Quayola, shared how their practices explore human, natural, and machine intelligence that can inform design strategies to facilitate interconnection between humans and the world at large. Gordijn drew a metaphor from the ‘swarming of birds’ as an attitude for a collective movement into the future, a phenomenon that had also inspired the studio’s acclaimed installation Franchise Freedom. On the other hand, Quayola’s practice demonstrates how technology is not just a tool, but a collaborator in producing works of art.
Part 2. Collective Intelligence: New horizons in Design Collaborations
Four diverse practitioners—a curator, a regenerative architect, a vegan designer, and an architect of the phygital world, came together in the second session to showcase the core tenets of collaboration in the world of innovations—from material engineering to building automated living scapes or regenerative solutions on a systemic scale, at a terrestrial or ultra-planetary level. These practitioners illustrated their own ways of materialising radical collaborations across industries and forms of knowledge, leading a vision towards a future of wonder, hope, and potential. Brendan McGetrick (Creative Director, Museum of the Future, Dubai), Erez Nevi Pana (founder of Erez Nevi Pana Studio), Alfredo Munoz (founder of ABIBOO and FutuverseTM), Claudia Pasquero (co-founder of ecoLogicStudio) engaged in a panel discussion moderated by Aric Chen, General and Artistic Director of Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam.
The session perhaps steers an inquiry into the nature of "human – non-human – beyond human" collaborations. Could these run a risk of eventually emerging as yet another means to anthropocentric ends or could it manifest into more respectful ecologies?
Part 3. Design Thinking in Action
The third section was presented in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an international organisation set up with the aim of accelerating the transition towards a circular economy.
Spencer Bailey, co-founder of The Slowdown, engaged in conversation with Gaëlle Le Gélard (Design Manager at The Ellen MacArthur Foundation) and Matteo Vignoli (founder of the Future Food Institute), to discuss case studies on change in the fields of food systems and food design, where sustainability and circularity have become central to action, research, and development strategies. The session encompassed issues of production, education, and cultural activism. While Gaëlle Le Gélard broke down the terms 'circulate', 'eliminate' and 'regenerate' in order to contextualise them for honest action, Vignoli visited the semantics of 'cooperation' and 'collaboration', two keywords often used interchangeably, even though this usage actually alters the dynamics of the intended relationship.
"Future" is one of the key terms this edition of Next Design Perspectives was pegged on. The conference presented divergent perspectives, ideologies, interpretations, and speculations on the same. But what is the future, indeed? Is it spatial or temporal, an attitude, or a state of mind? We asked the speakers - find out what they had to say in the video below.
What’s future to you? Let us know what you think.