The X Factor

Appointments in the global design calendar, recent or planned, emphasise the importance of context. And they make us realise that it is the uniqueness of the experience that makes the difference

BAUX by Morag Myerscough, Clerkenwell Design Week 2023 – Photo © Sam Frost

In the world of design, as in any form of culture, the circulation of ideas is a fundamental element. And it follows its own calendar, ritualised by custom (having fixed points is useful) but actually evolving.

The last few weeks have seen NYCxDesign, a diffuse festival with the dual ICFF + WantedDesign Manhattan trade fair at its centre, and London’s Clerkenwell Design Week. In both cases, the urban fabric was an integral part of the event’s appeal. In New York it was a time to take stock of the retail geography (which is increasingly moving from SoHo to Madison Avenue). In London, it was confirmation of the potential of an entire district with a formidable concentration of showrooms, practically an open-air fair: here, the number of registered visitors increased by 50% compared to the 2022 edition, and even if the organisers did not divulge any reference numbers, the presence of an interested public was massive and clearly perceptible.

This, again, brings to the fore the theme of how these moments of encounter and exchange are evolving. The first week of June will see, almost overlapping, two very different appointments: in Cologne, imm (4 – 7, 727 exhibitors), in an unusual location, a trade fair with a traditional setting. And in Copenhagen 3daysofdesign (7 – 9, 280 exhibitors), celebrating its tenth edition and featuring the entire city, divided into 13 districts.

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

The latter has attracted a lot of attention in recent years, also – an important detail – from companies. “We chose to participate with the aim of gaining more visibility on the Scandinavian market,” explains Nicola Coropulis, CEO of Poltrona Frau, one of the newcomers to this edition. “Moreover, the fact that it is not a traditional trade fair but in fact a large kermesse in which the typical methods of a trade fair event are combined with that of a cultural event is a formula that seemed interesting to us, to say the least”.

“Today what counts, first and foremost, is the experience that is offered to the visitor,” Coropulis continues. “This is no longer just seeing products lined up in a series of pavilions, but experiencing the cultural, artistic and design input of the place where the event takes place. We Italians have been somewhat the forerunners of this approach. The success of the Fuorisalone – which, let us not forget, exists because there is the Salone – has pointed the way to an increasingly pervasive osmosis between the living energies of a city and the possible interlocutors of the design world. But not only that”.

It is the ‘X factor’, where X stands for Experience. A factor that could indicate new avenues to explore, in search of the ‘Coachella effect’ mentioned in an article on the imm website: multidiscipliarity, contamination between different disciplines, openness. One could be to explore the emotional dimension of space design at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance design and Space (8-18 June): those scenic venues that really create the experience by channelling emotions.