NFT: what they are and how – maybe – they will change the world of design

After art and fashion, the design industry is taking its first steps in the world of blockchains and “non-fungible tokens,” which represent a real - not just virtual - revolution. Here’s how, and why

Collezione NFT by Nemo Lighting
NFT by Nemo Lighting

The record, for the moment, has been set by the American artist Beeple, who auctioned his work The Last 5000 Days for over 69 million dollars. Where’s the catch? It is a work that “does not exist,” made in purely digital format, and shown for the first time in a virtual museum of the metaverse, by the collector from Singapore who made the purchase.
Welcome to the (un)real world of NFTs, so-called Non-Fungible Tokens, where people “own” intangible things.

In this novel context, when a work or an asset is sold, as in the case above, they are assigned a certificate of property, which remains unique and irreplicable. At the same time, since the works are digital, they can be reproduced infinite times.
It is the concept of “collective art” taken to extremes, in a system that has become leading factor in a virtual world that seems to be increasingly “disconnected” from reality.

Words like “blockchain” and “cryptocurrency” are familiar by now to many people, and we will all soon be more or less swept away by the Meta project of Zuckerberg: a new, immersive, all-encompassing reality accessed only via computers, visors and special glasses. A place that will replicate nearly all human activities and interactions.

And if the world of art, like that of fashion, is already ahead of the pack in this process of real/virtual integration, the design sector is starting to take its first steps on the NFT frontier: at the latest edition of Design Miami, for example, works by five artists were auctioned online by OpenSea, and in Italy the auction house Cambi, last June, organized an NFT sell-off with works by 18 artists. The most remarkable case remains the Hortensia Chair, created in NFT format by the Argentine designer Andrés Reisinger and then made in “material” form by Moooi.

Another pioneer in the “non-tangible” universe is the Italian company Nemo Lighting, which has just launched a collection of digital works made by digital art designer Luca Baldocchi of SodlabStudio, specializing in 3D projects.
“We realized that NFTs are a very powerful new tool of communication, with dynamics opposed to those of the present world,” says Federico Palazzari, CEO of Nemo Lighting. “Through an NFT, which we see as a wrapper, you can swap data with users, clients, followers; and these data can also be gifts, promotions, organized through a safe, secure channel.”
This is because the Blockchains that are the underpinning of NFTs contain encoded and protected transactions, in an enormous and practically inviolable database, which for the company based in Lentate sul Seveso (MB) is comparable to a certificate of ownership, incorporating the rights to a drawing or sketch connected with a product in the collection, in a verifiable and controlled way.

In the meantime, the Metaverse is already seeing an explosion of the real estate market (so to speak!): according to a report by the agency Metametric Solutions, the sector has reached a value of 500 million dollars in 2021, and is ready to double that figure by the end of 2022.

What does this mean for décor and design? It means that more and more people will be buying houses in the virtual world, and will then be interested in “filling up” their spaces, perhaps even taking part in fairs and exhibitions. Obviously without leaving home.