Design & crafts. Where is the (real) news?

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Last night at Design Circle (the circuit of open conferences/debates organized by Patrizia Coggiola and hosted this time by Skitsch) we have been talking about crafts and design. A topic on which, normally, everyone agrees: manual skills have to be respected and supported. Luckily, though, instead of the usual presentation of stunning objects conceived by designers and made by artisans – designed to “rediscover traditions”, the discussion was quickly moved onto more tangible topics on which the participating speakers had different opinions. Here are the questions raised…

When we say craftman who do we mean? The person who works materials by hand following ancient techniques or, rather, the ‘supplier’ who knows everything about new technologies and uses them to make objects with a soul of extreme quality?

Everyone talks about the ‘rediscovery of crafts’. But this is no news (the whole Italian design system is based on the relationship between designers, companies and craftsmen since its dawn). So why is everyone talking about this? Is it an intellectual exercise, a response against globalization and the loss of the sense of quality, in line with Slow Food for instance? Or, rather, a more sinister signal of a great crisis that brings designers to work with craftsmen and use them as mini-production facilities for capsule collections?

The ‘design collections’ made by companies active in the mass market are to be considered marketing operations (conceived for brand image purposes and to attract purchase on more traditional lines) or opportunities to bring the meaning of the word quality within the mass production industry?

Each year in Europe there are 140.000 new designers but very few new craftsmen. What could be done to attract young people towards these professions?

So what would be really new with regard to design and crafts? Wouldn’t it be – rather than a style exercise –  the definition of a new model of business, finizione di un nuovo modello di business, storage, distribution, sales and communications?

The real challenge for designers and craftsmen is still making beautiful things or, more practically, finding ways to actually sell them?

Since it’s not very likely that they will manage following hte traditional business model, how can they?

Participants: designers: Francesco FaccinGiulio IacchettiLorenzo Longo,Chiara MoreschiAndrea RadiceHarry ThalerStefano Maffei (Politecnico di Milano, Subalterno1); Mario Sampietro of Sampietro 1927;Kuno Prey (Head of the Facoltà di Design & Arti della Libera Università di Bolzano).

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About Laura Traldi

Laura Traldi is an Italian freelance journalist, specialized in design. Her portfolio and bio are available on www.lauratraldi.com
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