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BACK RESEARCH

Touching the Value

The enthusiasm for the race to the metaverse inflaming the design system in this period shouldn’t make us forget the importance of design aspects that cannot – and shouldn’t – be transposed into the virtual world. Indeed, product design is rooted in the physical dimension of things, meaning it always has to do with the material value of the human body – which remains the essential baseline of our existence.

With this assumption, Product Design students in 2021/2022 were involved on both sides of the contemporary design culture – that which explores the virtualisation of the human experience and that which deals with the analogue dimension of users’ sensory perceptions.

Eclipse lamp by Serena Prodan inspired by Davide Groppi

Two academic projects paid particular attention to the latter. The first was the company project assigned to third-year Product Design students in collaboration with lighting brand Davide Groppi. Starting with a brief about the themes of magic and surprise, through their projects, the students proposed new sensory relations with an element –light – which is by definition immaterial. 

Koh lamp by Sho Sasaki inspired by Davide Groppi

Koh lamp by Sho Sasaki inspired by Davide Groppi

For example, Sho Sasaki designed a minimalist lamp but included a poetic interaction between shadow and light. Serena Prodan analysed the human gestures made when switching lights on and off and created a lamp whose lampshade doubles as a large switch, requiring the whole arm to move around it to turn the light on and off as well as to dim its intensity.

The second academic project worth mentioning involved Product & Furniture Design Master’s students from both the October 2021 and the February 2022 intakes, who worked together on a project in collaboration with Magis, a leading player in the Italian design scenario. 

Steppy armchair by Patrick Henkel inspired by Magis

Steppy armchair by Patrick Henkel inspired by Magis

In developing their projects, the students were mentored by Studio Nendo. The design studio provided advice and support about their product proposals and helped them design a personal rendition of the brief. The assignment was to think of products that fit into the company’s Me Too catalogue for children. 

Besides, products had to be designed with particular attention to sustainability, favouring recycled or recyclable plastics or natural and durable materials.

This experience led to highly innovative and expressive concepts, including a UFO-inspired lamp by Charles Diethelm and an armchair by Patrick Henkel, encouraging children’s natural tendency to climb.

Take Me Away by Charles Diethelm inspired by Magis

Take Me Away by Charles Diethelm inspired by Magis 

True, great attention is now paid to the digital world, yet design culture should always include some attention to the physical side of the user experience. Enhancing it will also lead to solutions that positively integrate the push towards dematerialisation with the resistance of materials, which designers will soon need to incorporate harmoniously to make users’ everyday experiences more fulfilling.

 

 

Stefano Caggiano
Product Design Programme Leader, Milan 
School
MILANO DESIGN
Course
Programme
undergraduate-BA (Hons) Degrees · 3-Year courses
postgraduate-Master's Degrees • Master's Courses