IMG - STIR: Jackie’s Notebook: Indie Design, New Tech and Color at Milan Design Week header
Originally published in STIR®

By Jackie Jordan


Here are this year’s highlights from the jam-packed extravaganza that is Milan Design Week.

To me, Milan is like no other city. A centuries-old metropolis where ancient Roman ruins, historic architecture, modern structures and luxury fashion houses all haphazardly coexist side-by-side; whose chaotic, pulsating vibe rivals that of New York City. Being in this city only heightened my already honed anticipation for what I’d discover during the week’s nonstop events and exhibitions.

The sheer size and scope of Milan Design Week is difficult to convey. First, it entirely encompasses the hugely expansive indoor and outdoor areas of the Fiera Milano convention facility, where Salone del mobile, EuroCucina, SaloneSatellite and many other exhibitions reside. Then there are venues at locales all around the city, including Ventura Lambrate, Triennale di Milano, the Brera and the 5vie design district, to name just a few.

To navigate to even a fraction of these venues, you must be very strategic in your planning and careful in your clothing choices, as it includes countless miles walked and hours spent exploring and discovering. And while I witnessed some of the most fascinating, visually stunning exhibits I’ve ever seen, I’ll only attempt to describe a small portion of what I saw.

Ventura Lambrate

This warehouse district has been co-opted by indie and student designers for exhibiting their products, concepts and experiential displays, which ran the gamut from phenomenal to practical to plain peculiar. Starting with practical, one of my favorites in the accessories category was from Three Dots Collective, a company from Venezuela that reinterprets indigenous weaving patterns to create interchangeable concrete and metal containers.

Another practical and resourceful favorite was NewspaperWood. This material, which is newspaper that’s been turned into “wood” logs, is used to make contemporary furniture. When a NewspaperWood log is cut, the thin layers of paper appear like wood grain. In addition to furniture, there were a few pieces of jewelry made out of NewspaperWood that I totally coveted!

I was also a huge fan of the experiential Interactive Objects exhibit, where young designers created playful yet functional environments by introducing interactive products. For example, BeatSpot is a bench that emits a beat when someone sits down on it. It plays five different beats, which together make a tune. Light Up the Wood is flooring that triggers LEDs when walked on. The more people that get together and walk on it, the brighter the light.

The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague NL — an art academy in the Netherlands — brought some very unusual ideas to the table, a couple of which rendered me speechless. All I can say is check out the site at, and pay particular attention to artist Anouk van Klaveren.

Triennale di Milano

This design museum and events venue housed several exhibitions, but the installation that completely blew me away was Light is Time by Citizen®. It’s hard to describe the breathtaking experience of walking through a darkened space among 80,000 watch parts suspended on thin filaments, while listening to ethereal background music and watching a shifting light show, all designed to viscerally express the connection between light and time.

Fiera Milano

In this seemingly endless exhibition space, filled with showroom after showroom of amazing furniture and design, EuroCucina/International Kitchen Furniture Exhibit showcased some remarkable kitchens. I truly believe we Americans need to take note of and embrace European kitchen design. I find their use of color, inclusion of multiple materials and planes, and belief that laminate is a viable surface material so refreshing. I also reveled in how the highly textured wood grain finishes were combined with colorful, sleek and shiny surfaces for unexpected contrast.

5vie Art and Design

This was both a place and an event and was, by far, my favorite experience. First because you’re in a magnificent historic area of Milan bursting with galleries, artist and architecture studios, home furnishing boutiques, and special exhibits, housed in ancient buildings that are, themselves, works of art. The area, literally, took my breath away. My favorite exhibit here was Studio Formafantasma. How to describe it? Picture the 2013 eruption of Mount Etna as the site for a studio that conducted “extreme experiments with lava in the production of glass and the use of volcanic fibers for textiles.” To actually see volcanic fibers woven into tapestry and objects, sculpture and furniture made out of lava was beyond compare.

I could go on and on, but I want to save and share some of my finds with you as part of colormix 2015.

What about you? What recent trends or influences have you excited? Continue the conversation with us (@SWDesignPros) on Twitter using #SWStir.