Industrial design: its digital and environmental future
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Industrial design: Its history and its digital and environmental future

Studio Marco Piva | Studio di Architettura Anna Polisano | ANTRAX IT SRL | Alfonso Femia / AF*Design

Industrial design: its digital and environmental future
By Editorial Staff -

Italians often use the English word design to talk about objects, projects, or even ideas with a certain artistic component. They’ll say things like “It’s design!”, when what they really mean is that the thing they’re talking about is stylish or fashionable.

The meaning of the word in Italian, however, actually relates to the English term industrial design, that is, the design of objects that can be made using mass production techniques, regardless of whether they’re everyday objects, furniture, tools, or whatever.

A peculiarity of industrial design is the quest to find the perfect balance between form and function. The functional and technological aspects need to reflect a formal aesthetic so that the objects are attractive and pleasant.

In the late 19th century, the artists of the English arts and crafts movement initially rejected mass production. But then they were among the first to recognize the need to include aesthetics among the parameters used for designing these goods .

Tischlampe di Carl Jakob Jucker (left, 1923-24) e di Wilhelm Wagenfeld (right, 1924)

Later, the Bauhaus school contributed significantly to the development of industrial design. Just a few examples are Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s Table Lamp, Marcel Breuer’s Cesca Chair, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Brno Chair.

A 1972 Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300GT designed by Giugiaro

Countless trends and styles emerged in the years that followed. And, in the second half of the 20th century, numerous Italian designers appeared who soon became household names all over the world. Giorgetto Giugiaro, Sergio Pininfarina, and Giò Ponti are just a few.

Today we’re witnessing a new phase of industrial design, triggered by the introduction of whole new concepts. For example, home automation, the application of information technology to domestic appliances, is revolutionizing our homes, with it gradually becoming essential that every object has a “smart” component.

On top of this, ethical production has become an added value, which designers of the future will need to incorporate into their designs. Low environmental impact, including the use of recycled and recyclable materials, has become an opportunity to rethink the objects that surround us through a sustainable and green language.


The Industrial design category of The Plan Award 2021

Over the years, the Industrial Design category of The Plan Award – an annual international award for excellence in architecture, interior design, and urban planning – has attracted numerous important designs. Along with the award’s nineteen other categories, the Industrial Design category will again be a feature in 2021, dedicated to industrial design and interior architecture. The registration deadline is May 31.

Read more about participating in The Plan Award 2021.

The best way to explain the kind of projects eligible for the Industrial Design category is to showcase a few products from past editions of The Plan Award.


ON AIR: an elevator that dialogues with architecture

ON AIR is a new elevator designed by Marco Piva for the IGV Group that establishes a dialogue with architecture. The project combines a careful choice of materials, technologies, and interfaces for the sanitization of the cabin – an especially topical feature nowadays with the coronavirus. ON AIR is actually a strategic plan for a new generation of elevators that interact with their environment as interior design elements, while simultaneously responding to the need for health and safety – including during the current Covid crisis – with cutting-edge technology and high-performance materials that perfectly sanitize the cabin.

Read more about the project (italian language)


Cubo Magico 240: an articulated, flexible architectural space

These revolutionary furniture modules are designed specifically for today’s increasingly dynamic, informal, and multipurpose work environments. Empathetic and functional, the modules encourage a spontaneous approach to defining the landscape of the office space. Workplaces are predisposed towards being dynamic and changing, towards being reinvented as flexible spaces hinged on one or more foundational elements providing anchoring to the place.

Read more about the project (italian language)


Waffle: a new vision of materiality

Featuring surprising contemporary looks, Waffle is a radiator designed by Piero Lissoni for Antrax IT. With Waffle, Antrax IT is expressing a new vision of materiality, along with new functionality and a new range of applications. The material gives shape and substance to the heat, translating it into a feeling of wellbeing and comfort. The product adapts perfectly to any space, from the living room to the kitchen or bedroom, harmonizing with and complementing other furniture. Waffle isn’t simply a radiator but a furnishing accessory that goes beyond its function of heating to contribute to the mood of the home.

Read more about the project (italian language)


Mibra: how to transform your house into a smart home

MIBRA was a response to the modern workaday world, our increasingly small and temporary living spaces, and the dynamism and flexibility of modern life in general. It’s a point of reference for the home, whether it’s small or large, that brings everything together. It combines the necessities of our everyday lives into a single element, all with the aim of saving time. And this element can also support our social lives and the sharing of spaces and daily tasks, all while recognizing us and finding opportunities to recover and enjoy some of the time that our hectic working lives take away.

Read more about the project (italian language)


If you’ve designed an industrial design or interior architecture project – made after January 1, 2018 or yet to be produced – you have until May 31 to register for the Industrial Design category of The Plan Award 2021. Enter your project via the registration page.

First image: Sailko Tischlampe di Carl Jakob Jucker (left, 1923-24) e di Wilhelm Wagenfeld (right, 1924) - CC BY-SA 3.0 - from Wikipedia

Second image: Liftarn - Opera propria - CC BY-SA 3.0 - from Wikipedia

All other credits relating to photos and render refer to individual articles.


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