Utility and beauty

Design is not an abstract thing or an elitist phenomenon. It is inventing objects that improve people’s lives. Even if only from an aesthetic point of view, because we all - each in his or her own way - need some beauty

When I was little, my sister and I did our homework sitting on two red plastic chairs. They were light, glossy and looked like they were made from Lego. They were akin to a toy, something “grown-up” that also knew how to speak to us children. That chair – the 4867 by Joe Colombo for Kartell, from 1965 – is now in the design collection at MoMA in New York. For me it was one of my first contacts with the world of design. And it influenced the way I look at objects, trying to enter into contact with them. To understand them.

Ruben Modigliani - Photo © Valentina Sommariva
Ruben Modigliani – Photo © Valentina Sommariva

Nowadays there is an awareness around this theme that I believe is unprecedented in history, at least in western history. It can be seen in the extraordinary amount of people that an event like Milan Design Week manages to attract; pre-pandemic the numbers exceeded half a million visitors, and in a city of one million and 350 thousand inhabitants the impact is tangible. It is a moment of recall in which the global design community takes stock of the situation, expresses new ideas. It addresses desires (the evolution of taste) and needs (environment and security, to name two of the most current). It is the point of contact between the frontiers of the freest experimentation and an important industry – especially for Italy, where the value of production is around 57 billion euro (2022 data, source FLA).

There is more. For the city it is also a way to look at itself through new eyes and think about the future; every edition presents spaces to the pubic that have never been seen before, that open up new perspectives. Even for the many visitors who are not professionals it certainly constitutes a moment in which one’s visual field expands, acquires depth. And becomes experience.

Contemporary design has roots that go back in time. The words of William Morris come to mind, who in 1880 declared: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. Utility and beauty, two elements that it is the task of design to bring together. Then, now and tomorrow.

PS – Welcome Mia! Our cover also talks about you. Because it is ideas that build the future.