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Imagining the Future of Design

Imagining the Future of Design
By Cristina Morozzi -

Imagining the future and trying to portray it was the aim of a recent virtual meeting organized by Repubblica.it. Some ideas to emerge from that on-line gathering are a suitable starting point for the risky business of predicting where design is heading. That matador of all such rendez-vous, Bruce Sterling, science fiction writer, father-founder of cyberpunk but also a design enthusiast, puts his finger on the issue of security: “we are bang in the middle of a global war on terror which makes us worried and paranoid and is getting us used to a growing amount of danger”. How do designers respond to the fear assailing us? That might be the first point in the proposed future scenario. Certain signals suggest that designers are trying to be reassuring, providing antidotes to the fear and concern. They offer, instead, tender affection. The scenes they envisage are populated by creature/objects of the fantasy world enlisted as our companions. They no longer conjure technological landscapes but cosy household reality, as witness the exhibition “The New Italian Design” (Milan, Triennale, until April 25, 2007). Sterling claims in his latest essay, “The Form of the Future” (Apogeo, Milan, 2006) that they no longer purvey products but “knick-knacks, highly unstable objects, baroquely multi-functional, adaptable and easily programmed”. The knick-knacks possess a high cognitive charge that entertains us and distances the vice-grip of fear. Not surprisingly, the latest mini-project from Fernando and Humberto Campana, the two Brazilian brothers whose emotion-based design is permeating the international scene, is itself a “knick-knack”. It is called Mandacaru Formiga (The Little Creature) - a fluffy brown animal with two button eyes and a wire core, like Bruno Munari’s famous monkey: something to perch on the table but also to carry around on your shoulder or round your neck, or clip like a koala to an anglepoise. A companionable monster-ette to make us smile and slacken the...

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