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Milan 2023: In Perspective


From transparent cities to kitchen discos, ginormous moons to body heat harvesting: let's take a look at Milan 2023.

Hannah Burrage and Katie May Boyd

The design world turned out in force for the triumphant return of Salone del Mobile Milano in its 61st year. After two 'reduced' years, the most celebrated event in the design calendar was again in full swing, alive with events, shows and presentations. Let’s examine our five key macro themes from the week, extracting the insights that can be applied in a wider context.

Five trends from Milan 2023:

1. Transparency
2. Adaptation
3. Ginormous
4. Energy
5. Provenance

1/ Transparency

Acrylic Skyline by Jacopo Foggini

Transparency featured heavily across the fair, on both a physical and value-driven level. In a sustainability context, many brands took a transparent approach to communicate their manufacturing and supply chain processes – a response to a heightened consumer awareness around a product’s origin. Transparent materials were harnessed to inclusively divide a space, creating zones which reflect the needs of different users and communities, while maintaining a sense of fluidity. This unrestricted and open aspect of transparency was celebrated in examples of unbound joyful expression from designers, such as Markus Benesch and Audrey Large.

Acrylic Skyline by Jacopo Foggini
Transparent City

The Acrylic Skyline by Jacopo Foggini and Dott.Gallina repurposes polycarbonate honeycomb (a common building material used in facades) to create a colourful, transparent, vertical city. The 'polycarbonate panels, juxtaposed and intertwined' with one another in a bright palette result in fluidly-joined spaces with personality.

Alpine Rising by Markus Benesch
Freedom Without Restriction

Alpine Rising by Markus Benesch promotes a balance between digital and analogue living, inviting visitors to reconnect with nature (and themselves!) combatting the negative effects on mental health from digitisation. Fusing the alpine log cabins and traditional wooden furniture with bold colours and decorative details creates joyful pieces with an individual and daring character, defining a space for creative freedom to be expressive and joyful without restriction.

'Everyday Sustainability' by Samsung
Exposing the Product Lifecycle

Samsung's 'Bespoke Home, Bespoke Life' exhibition focuses on their vision for a sustainable future with smart connected homes. From manufacturing and distribution to usage and disposal, Samsung's 'Everyday Sustainability' details the use of raw materials and mould construction: a transparent approach to communication which is refreshing to see from such a big brand.

PEEL Chair by PROWL Studio and M4 Factory
Compostable Injection Mould

PROWL Studio and M4 Factory reimagined the impact of the fast furniture industry on design, creating PEEL Chair: one of the first injection-moulded chairs to be fully compostable. The chair uses hemp-based PLA (a byproduct of industrial hemp processing) combined with bioplastic and hemp bio leather for the seat material. The exhibition provides transparency through both a visual translation and the detailed technical outline on the composting times of materials, with the whole chair composting in just six months.

Get Ahead

Celebrate and communicate transparency throughout your supply chain and manufacturing process. Technical literacy is increasing amongst consumers and information on material and industrial processes holds value.

Explore ways in which you can utilise different levels of transparency in order to open up or section spaces to make them more inclusive and accessible, better reflecting the needs of communities and individuals.

Experiment with new techniques and mediums from other creative industries. Source inspiration from across categories to remove barriers within the creative process: what elements could interiors sample from beauty, for instance? 

2/ Adaptation

RALIK Collection by Arper

Both the global pandemic and increased consumer awareness around inclusivity and access have changed the way in which we consider and use space. As a result, a new evolution of modular has evolved. Across industries and disciplines, brands are blurring the boundary between modular and adaptable, moving away from singular modular products towards adaptable systems. The repurposing and transformation of space to create indoor/ outdoor interactions, which better meet the needs of those in the space was notable. From adaptable seat cushions to portable lighting and kitchen turntables, the emphasis was on creating spaces which are adapted for comfort, whilst still being fully-operational, flexible and able to change at pace.

PASSEPARTOUT by Adrenalina
Fractionated Spaces

Adrenalina's PASSEPARTOUT is an 'architectural series', composed of modular seating and acoustic partitions, designed to 'fractionate' spaces and generate different 'microcosms for working, waiting, and relaxing'. Adrenalina's adaptable system is designed to meet the needs of contemporary living within both commercial and domestic areas.

Snap Armchair by Ntaiana Charalampous
Cushion Jacket

Ntaiana Charalampous's Snap Armchair challenges conventional thinking, bringing influences from fashion into furniture design. The seat cushioning is reimagined as highly-adaptable: akin to wearing a coat or jacket. The cushioning is created from dead stock from Loro Piana, designed to be transformed into multiple configurations, depending on the comfort requirements of the user.

Madco by Ambientec
Transforming Atmosphere

Transforming Atmosphere

45’ by Volumeuno
Disco Kitchens

Volumeuno's new kitchen, 45’ , explores how to transform kitchens into entertainment spaces through the integration of sound systems and tech. Volumenuno's design creates an adaptable concept, where a turntable shares an island with a sink and appliances which can be seamlessly hidden, transforming the traditional kitchen into a full-blown entertainment space.

Get Ahead

Design interiors to reflect the evolving needs of multifunctional spaces, both at home and work. Go beyond modularity to adaptability, enabling users to continually co-create spaces at speed, utilising quick fastenings, lightweight materials and multifunctional textiles.

Fixed lighting fixtures limit opportunities to change and create new atmospheres within spaces. Explore opportunities to design portable lighting solutions fit for multi-occasion and personalised use.

Kitchens have always been social spaces, reimagine how to integrate entertainment solutions into traditional kitchen surfaces, seamlessly transforming the space.

3/ Ginormous

Dialogue Planters by Lex Pott x WL Ceramics & Array

Ginormous is a trend characterised by extroverted, voluminous and supersized design. Brands have been experimenting with scale, creating fun and 'friendly giant' forms which contrast with the restrained designs born out of the financial crisis. This theme builds on our 2023 trend unmasking joy: 'seeking to inject more moments of joy and optimism into our lives'. We're seeing a focus on play beginning to develop, evoking boldness and personality, whilst encouraging users to challenge themselves through personal exploration. Both Davide Groppi's The Moon and Amaze by Anna Maria Nilsson, Clara Storsten and Lisa Wagner, create unique interactions which enable consumers to play and explore, creating deeper analogue, emotive connections.

Dialogue Planters by Lex Pott x WL Ceramics & Array
Ceramic Toy Town

Dialogue Planters is a collaboration between Lex Pott, WL Ceramics and Array, comprising of a family of supersized planters, created using the ancient craft of wheel throwing. Pott combines heritage with contemporary shapes, based on Chinese archetypes on a huge scale, making them both monumental and elegant.

Neo-Vanity by Kiki Goti
Neo-Vanity Maximalism

Kiki Goti's Neo-Vanity collection envisions the future of vanity spaces as personal transformation arenas, debunking the narrative that taking pride in ones appearance is reserved exclusively for the privileged. Goti uses maximalism and extroverted forms to reclaim vanity as an inclusive space, a place of excitement and personal exploration with friendly monster-like, bulging mirrors and dressers.

The Moon by Davide Groppi
Massive Moon

Davide Groppi's The Moon was born out of a dream to bring the moon into his own home. Japanese paper makes each moon's texture unique. Although still immense, the scaled-down version of the moon allows consumers to get up close and experience it in a new way.

Amaze by Anna Maria Nilsson, Clara Storsten and Lisa Wagner
Giant Puzzles

Amaze by Anna Maria Nilsson, Clara Storsten and Lisa Wagner challenges its audience to balance in order to complete the maze game. This supersized and scaled up version of the puzzle brings a friendly and inclusive side to a traditionally single-player game.

Get Ahead

Play with maximalism in both wellness spaces and beauty products to transform existing rituals, allowing for personality and encouraging confidence through personal transformation.

Draw inspiration from the theme ginormous: create a sense of friendliness within your brand through volume and scale.

Create memorable retail and exhibition experiences which allow consumers to challenge themselves through play: supersizing to encourage physical interaction and engagement within the phygital world.

4/ Energy


The cost-of-living crisis, fuel shortages and climate change all demand that we urgently find new sustainable energy solutions. We explored this in our 2023: In Perspective report, where the theme empowering resilience came to the fore. This theme was evidenced at Milan – particularly in student-led projects. Harvesting energy from both under-utilised forms and unconventional sources provides an innovative response to the shortage. The impact of the cost-of-living crisis means that now, more than ever, consumers are invested in the conversation around energy. From Boffi's kitchen stoves to ECAL's turbines, there's an increased emphasis on redesigning existing energy solutions with a greater focus on interaction, appearance and local symbolism.

Radical Turbines

MA Product Design students at ECAL exhibited wind turbine concepts, designed to operate on Foro Island in Canada. The work addresses concerns around the environmental and social impact of turbines – factors which can present a significant obstacle to their deployment. This design by Maxine Granzin is a locally powered EV charger.

Gas as Luxury

Boffi explored our relationship with energy usage in the kitchen, reframing gas as a luxury. Energy efficient induction hobs for everyday use are subtly integrated into surfaces. Whereas, for occasional and premium use, energy-indulgent gas burners stand proudly as statement pieces.

Harvest by Britta Huck and John Feldmann from Muthesius University of Art and Design, Kiel
Energy Harvesting

Davide Groppi's The Moon was born out of a dream to bring the moon into his own home. Japanese paper makes each moon's texture unique. Although still immense, the scaled-down version of the moon allows consumers to get up close and experience it in a new way.

Nattinatt by Paulina Andersson, Margot Landry and Trang Thuy Nguyen from Lund University
Thermoelectric Lights

Nattinatt, a project by students at Lund University, centres around the future capabilities of self-powered devices through thermoelectricity. The children's nightlight is powered by body heat, showcasing the potential of the new technology for energy efficiency.

Get Ahead

Reimagine fossil-free energy solutions to aid sustainable lifestyles by introducing new interactions and industrial design principles which harness energy on a local level. Energy facilitates connection with users, their communities and their environment.

Harness underutilised forms of energy (e.g. static, sonic and kinetic) within products to help address sustainability issues.

Investigate potential opportunities to harvest energy from unconventional sources (e.g. body heat from transportation systems).

5/ Provenance

Motion No.2 by The Good

The pandemic exposed the fragility of the global supply chain. During its peak, material production slowed and demand continued to build, bringing these once hidden logistics and processes into the public consciousness. In response, we are seeing a rise in design which pays homage to machine processes and finishes, and a sense of reverence for virgin materials. From creating a new vocabulary of forms for scrap metal to designing machines which recycle local sustainable materials, designers are taking accountability by challenging the traditional form-first design process, placing materiality and sustainability at the heart of the thinking.

Coat Hanger by Annick Persechini and Léonie Sammons
Junkyard Diving

ECAL's Junkyard Diving project questions our consumption habits, material shortages and the role of designers in future sustainable innovation. Reframing the usage of under-exploited scrap metal, students reversed the traditional approach of form follows function, outwardly embracing the capabilities of the material and manufacturing techniques. The project underlines opportunities around the recycling of overproduced materials, proposing new functions and a new vocabulary of forms.

Motion No.2 by The Good
Industrialised Furniture

The Good's exhibition explored the use of sheet metal to create industrialised furniture for domestic use, mirroring the hardwearing nature of industrial commercial kitchens and equipment. Exposed joins, welding and hinges are presented as features, celebrating both the fabrication techniques and the maker's skill.

Transportable Crunchy Crusher by FRANTOIO SOCIALE
Transportable Crunchy Crusher

Davide Groppi's The Moon was born out of a dream to bring the moon into his own home. Japanese paper makes each moon's texture unique. Although still immense, the scaled-down version of the moon allows consumers to get up close and experience it in a new way.

OTO Chair by Alessandro Stabile and Martinelli Venezia
Single Moulding Waste Reduction

Designers Alessandro Stabile and Martinelli Venezia created OTO Chair's form to be as streamlined as possible, utilising a single mould which uses 1/3 less steel than a conventional chair made with the same PU foam technique. Additionally, the chair is made out of recycled marine waste plastic, with flat-packed packaging and intuitive screw-free assembly, allowing for a sustainable industrial supply chain.

Get Ahead

Celebrate your manufacturing processes with exposed joins and finishing techniques. Design for disassembly to encourage end-to-end accountability within your products.

Evaluate how you could optimise your production and packaging, exploring single-moulding techniques and ecological materials to transform your supply chain.

Embed materiality and function into the heart of your design process, working with existing materials and feedstock. When using a virgin material, treat it with respect.

Want to understand more about what these trends mean for your business?

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This piece was brought to you by the Foresight Team at Seymourpowell.