Food for Thought, Feast for the Eyes

Cocoon took a deep breath of inspiration at Milan Design Week 2018

One can read dozens of articles and see thousands of pictures, but it would never be the same as experiencing Fuorisalone in person. That’s why we closed the office and moved Cocoon to Milan for a few days to visit Fuorisalone - Milan Design Week, to at least partially satisfy our hunger for inspiration. One of the biggest creators’ hot spots of this spring closed a while ago, but Cocoon’s memories are still fresh and very intense.


Fuorisalone showcases advanced world design and design thinking. It takes one's breath away to face such creative visions come to life, and the future shape of human culture and society is almost palpable. Creativity flourishes in every corner of the Brera and Tortona districts, which convinces us that whatever can be imagined can also be made (one day), if only we unleash our thoughts and think big!

[streets of Brera and Tortona full of the design, literally]


Our observations
We visited many exhibitions, and it still seemed just a fraction of the countless possibilities. These "few" gave us the chance to observe how big and small brands present themselves, express their deeper purpose, and interpret and transform their values into visitors’ experience, and how different installations blend aesthetics and thinking in different ratios. It’s interesting to see how traditional, i.e. rooted in the past century, and perhaps boring, the Whirlpool (home appliances) area appears next to the visionary Sony or Panasonic (electronics) or the impressive Bulthaup (kitchen systems). But Milan Design Week is not only about exploring creative installations and smart presentations, however inspirational they might be; it is about the opportunity to touch and feel the deep currents – trends and mega-trends – pushing design unstoppably toward the future. And this future seems to be happening now…

[Bayton startup - a new car concept]


The future, which we used to link with advanced physical (tangible and visible) objects, is now being presented by technology naturally and unobtrusively incorporated in our lives merging the physical, digital and emotional, presuming our reactions and emotions and changing our intimate environment. Something that perfectly demonstrated this was Sony's Hidden Senses or Google Softwear. Should we be scared of this, or looking forward to it?
On the other side, these breathtaking outlooks of technology are accompanied by so much stress on the truly human aspects of living. It starts from individual sensory perception: Simple experience is not enough. So many attempts to fully engage all of the senses (Lexus’ installation, for example) led us to see omni-sensory as another keyword of the event. Then, of course, there's convenience, today's design imperative fighting to keep aesthetic and functional values without compromising the desired sustainability to satisfy our need for a guilt-free future. It doesn’t matter whether it is a 3-D printed playground by Caracol Studio, a collage of scraps repurposing old clothing or the shelving system made from Kvadrat and Really's Solid Textile Board (a material created from upcycled end-of-life textiles from the fashion and textile industries); everything is unified by strong design thinking - a method that is clearly gaining the utmost importance in tackling both present and future issues and needs.

[new reality / sustainable chair made of the sea plastic / a willow grown into the chair]

Concepts over products – a message we distilled from one of the most inspirational encounters, Lexus Design Awards, creates a thin red line connecting everything we as thinkers, designers and makers do and will do. It is no accident that this year's Lexus’ Grand Prix Winner is Testing Hypotheticals by Extrapolation Factory, a collaboratively imagined test site that explores speculative relationships between society, technology and the environment. They have developed a method to test not only what doesn’t exist but what people cannot even imagine! They’ve taught us how to fish instead of giving us a fish, amazing!

[Testing hypotheticals]

Creativity & Aesthetics
Besides seeking provoking and inspiring ideas, we also wanted to enjoy the more tangible aspects of Fuorisalone: the aesthetics, visuality and the designers’ craft, of course. There was an abundance of stimuli in Milan, from the spectacular Lasvit’s Monster Cabaret to a minimalist, smart passage of door handles. So variable and colourful for any taste, from clean Japanese simplicity to abundantly explosive colorfulness and ornateness. We found that the gimmick of dark, cave-like exhibitions was mostly overplayed, and only few succeeded in the meaning like Lexus. Also, not all of the top-star expectations were met, like the Vitra exposition, which was surprisingly boring despite the awesome site. We didn’t forget to visit the Czech Centre in Milan, which was one of a very few disappointments: Do we really only have things relating to the past of Czech design, however admirable that may be, to be officially presented? Thank god for Lasvit, whose Monster Cabaret impressed the jury and was awarded the Grand Prix!

[Vitra // Phillip K. Smith III and his Open Sky for COS]


[Lasvit Monster Cabaret; image taken from]


Our top picks - Examples worth talking about
From among the interesting shows and exhibitions we’ve picked some worth highlighting: The automotive industry can be seen as both progressive and inspiring. The way they rolled up their brands’ values and missions is textbook marketing. Lexus fully delivering on its "Experience Amazing" with a stunning, immense prologue to the Design Awards exhibition, covering all of the senses, taste included, with sparkling black lollipops. Mini Cooper’s allowing people to express themselves on its "Mini living" platform. Then Sony with its "Hidden Senses" demonstrated the future of tech seamlessly infiltrating our homes, and the pure creativity, curiosity and exploration presented at the Mindcraft (Danish Arts Foundation) area. Lasvit, not only because it's a Czech brand, or because it was awarded, but because it was simply awesome. And the marking tapes’ exhibition was a treat for designers…

[Lexus design even “CO-“ the possibilities are limitless / liquorice lollipops sparkling in mouth / lasers floating on thousands of super-thin threads]


[Mini living - Built by all]


[Hidden senses by Sony Design]


[MINDCRAFT exhibition by the Danish Arts Foundation]


[D&G window / Knitting art by Alessandra Roveda / The Millennial Pink room installation - an “Instagram made” project by the DesignByGemini]


[from marking tapes installation]


Last but not least, a complex highlight was the overall experience of Design Week and the city of Milan being represented by fragmented moments and anecdotes such as many people with turquoise hair, the same color in tram interiors and on a Benetton billboard, the Mobike cycling experience and the ultimate lesson that if the receptionist says "I’m sorry, your room is not yet available, we have to make it … it’ll be ready by midnight," it doesn’t necessarily refer to beds being made and fresh towels delivered but can mean your room is still under construction :))

[Cocooners enjoying Milan Design Week 2018]


I couldn’t resist closing this post by mentioning an intense moment Cocoon experienced with Lexus. It was very pleasant when we noticed the "CO-" theme of its Design Awards. We saw the most important element of our identity reasonably co-existing with another brand! Cocoon’s “CO-" is a Latin prefix meaning "with" or "together in harmony" and represents the same as what Lexus believes: "CO-" is an approach that allows us to explore our potential and that of our environment by creating new possibilities through collaboration, coordination, connection, and the like. We have lived with our "new" identity for more than two years, and we believe this coincidence didn’t happen just by chance; it reflects the true importance of "CO-" not only in design but in everything we do as humans. So, LET’S CO!!!

tags: cocoon teambuilding milan design week
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