The worldwide famous Salone del Mobile is a trade fair for furniture that takes place every year in Milan. It is the most important trade fair in the world for this sector. The event features the latest furniture and design innovations from countries all over the world.
It is one of the main points of reference with regard to the display of new products by designers of furniture, lighting and other home furnishings.
According to Federlegno - Arredo, the furniture and wood industry is worth 41 billion euros (this estimate is worth 2016, 38% is considered export). There are 320,000 employees, 184,000 of whom are managed by public limited companies. An extraordinarily diversified world where the classic names of Italian design such as Molteni, B&B Italia and Cassina and Kartell meet with companies such as Ikea, real symbols of globalization. The question is what furniture is today in contemporary design and industry and what Italian industry means in this sense. The Italian furniture industry in Italy is characterized by this heterogeneity.
The whole story of the Salone del Mobile shows its effectiveness. The projects of the designers, who have a worldwide look at Milan and the force and quality of the Italian factories in an absolutely innovative combination, a cultural and productive exemplar that continues to be highly competitive and that also leads the other Italian sector of excellence, the mechanics and mechatronics of the plants for the production of furnishing systems.
Today, the innovative significance of furniture is to be found in eco-design and in the most general context of the home system with artificial intelligence. Which, however, are germs of a development that, in the furniture, are present in a manner much less strong, deep-rooted and promising than they are in other areas. You only have to think of a sector that is not as appealing as machine tools. Above all, just think of interaction design, which for at least twenty years has been transforming the meaning of things and their use. The man-machine interface is the real articulation. In this, the furniture does not seem to be glowing more than the light that it has shown for forty years. It appears culturally set aside. It is always central in the economic dimension and in daily habits. But it is less important than before in the design of the future.
It's high time to start thinking about Italian design, its industry and its ability to capture the flows of mental energy from the New World. Not a new geographical world. But a new world made of new objects, new uses and new features. A New World that has been visible two weeks ago at the Fiera di Milano or rather in a perimeter - the furniture - which in its kind has a lower expansive power and a reduced pollination capacity of the past.
This is why an effort is required to try and produce breakthrough innovations again: in function, aesthetics, technology and interaction with man. Bringing Italian industry and its design back to the centre of the mind of the New World, after so long they have been in the centre of the heart of the Old World.