Tackling the climate and energy crisis, rethinking the entire supply chain in a sustainable key, focusing on research to improve everyone's life. Six visionaries anticipate the challenges that the design world will have to face in the near future

What will be the most urgent issues that the world of design will have to face in 2023?

We asked six visionaries, who with their commitment to research and experimentation are rewriting the rules of design and production, for a more sustainable tomorrow for all living beings.

Mario Cucinella, architect and founder of MCA - Mario Cucinella Architects: "The future is reuse"

"The energy crisis has had strong repercussions on the world of design, a production system closely linked to the cost of gas and the procurement of materials.

It is time to accelerate on new production processes that can be based on renewable energy sources and push on the research and production of materials no longer deriving from petroleum; to rediscover the craftsmanship linked to the territories and its materials, obtained from waste and natural supply chains.

An example is Rilegno, the Conai platform which recovers tons of waste wood in Italy, transforms them and it puts them back into circulation to make new products out of the same material, without having to cut down more trees. We live in a world that throws away unconsciously: if we build a building and say it is sustainable but at the same time we have produced tons of waste since its construction, then we have not understood what it means to be sustainable.

The design and construction sectors should make more use of the recovery chains.

In the studio we have a department called Design for recycling which deals with design projects with recycled materials or from natural supply chains; we designers must take the risk of being bearers of innovation and change. The other important step to take is to consume less, be careful about what and how we consume, which is primarily a cultural and then a productive aspect.

Another reflection for 2023: we who are the home of design have not managed to develop design for all as Ikea did. It is true that Italy is synonymous with high quality manufacturing, an excellence that we must keep close to, but the creative quality of our country should also offer democratic solutions, simple objects designed for everyday life: a corkscrew, a chopping board, a book rack.

Design is also a vehicle of culture, it educates in the values of beauty and well-made things, which is why it should enter everyone's home, be inclusive and not exclusive.

Today the supply chains have shortened, smaller, simpler and more accessible collections can be produced. Even on the residential construction front, we must aim for sobriety: before launching ourselves into imaginative and astonishing architecture, we architects, on the one hand, have to recover what already exists, and on the other, we have to respond to the needs of those who still today he does not have access to a house, designing simple contemporary homes for everyone”.

Daniele Lago, CEO & Lago's head of design: "Change everyone to really change"

"The teaching inherited from this period of pandemic and crisis is that work can no longer be thought of and planned for a year, but in cycles, in the long term. In this change of frequency, there is there is an even greater need for cohesion and social inclusion, respect for people and for nature.

An urgency for balance which translates into products but also, and above all, into the design of business and supply chain ecosystems.

Sustainability is above all a cultural theme that concerns everyone, there is a need to cooperate, to rethink the entire way of producing, to share knowledge and skills. We try by osmosis to influence the entire supply chain, with virtuous models. An example is the reusable stand that we presented at the Salone del mobile 2022, a stand that was dismantled at the end of the fair and will be reused for the next Salone, with a reduction in emissions of up to 87 percent.

Read also: A reusable stand at a fair: is it possible?

This should be the present. We are accelerating on the issue of social and environmental sustainability, we are organizing consultancy days with professionals and open factories to understand how to improve in various areas, from the twenty-year collaboration with social cooperatives to that with prisons of Padua, which has a high-level pastry shop.

In the meantime, we are creating in San Gimignano a place where we can rethink the future at 360 degrees, it is still an embryonic project, which we have entrusted to a great architect. Fortunately, many points of the UN 2030 agenda will become law, such as the taxonomy linked to environmental and social metrics that were previously unmeasurable, and the obligation to draw up sustainability reports. These are activities that we have been doing for some time, and we are trying to push even the smallest companies to do them.

This is the theme: we must all change together to make things really change. It is not enough to present the capsule collection in biodegradable fabric, which has a minimal impact on sales, we need to rethink the entire supply chain, aiming for less waste, less consumption, fewer emissions, more efficiency.

We must quickly unlearn the production method that we have acquired over the decades, and relearn a new approach, which combines profit with other parameters, such as social and environmental sustainability, concepts that were unthinkable ten years ago.

Back in 2008 we wrote a document called The great idea, in fact there was no great idea, but there was the desire to carry on a more humanistic approach to the business world, I remember that in those years we looked like aliens, but now I hear many similar approaches, and it's positive, it gives me hope for the improvement of the design sector".

Carlotta de Bevilacqua, CEO and president of Artemide: "Circular light energy for everyone"

"If I had to choose a keyword for 2023, I would talk about circular energy, in our case circular light energy that puts man and nature at the centre, which improves life of all living beings, which sanitizes environments, which nourishes from a psychological and physiological point of view.A light energy that is accessible to all, no one excluded.

The first to have had a circular approach was Ernesto Gismondi, who already starting in 1960, the year Artemide was founded, imagined the company with a holistic vision, in relationship with architects, the research, but also the territory and its employees.

Right from the start, Ernesto thought of products as durable and updatable solutions over time, which never become obsolete. An example is the Tizio lamp which has turned fifty, still beautiful and current, updated with the new LED sources, as well as the Tolomeo, products designed since the origin in circular key, which are responsible for a long life.

Another important theme is that of education about energy, a precious resource, to be used with care and intelligence. We have developed an app that can be downloaded on any device, which offers the freedom to choose the light according to one's needs, but at the same time it educates and empowers to dose the light, reducing its intensity and turning it off when not needed.

Our lamps are open platforms that evolve over time, systems that adapt to spaces and different needs, configurable and reconfigurable without having to build new systems, with collective but also individual management systems within the same space. For me this is a revolution, in terms of sustainability, durability, responsibility and freedom.

We have studied patented optics that do not waste but rather maximize the luminous flux, increasing the amount of light emitted by even more than 30 percent for the same consumption. We must start from research and collaborations with scientific institutes and great architects to plan the future, to support the community and the environment".

Michele De Lucchi, architect and founder of AMDL Circle: "The role of the designer is changing, we need to rethink the way of teaching this profession".

"The most important theme is sustainability, not only environmental, but which concerns the condition of men, the social and economic balance. Another crucial theme in my opinion is linked to how design and the role of designers, and how the way of teaching this discipline should change.

I recently attended a meeting in Munich entitled Designing design education - Impulse for a new curriculum: the conference started from the analysis of how to teach design, in function of how the need for design is evolving, to ensure that tomorrow's students and designers are ready to face new needs.

During the event, Christoph Böninger, former head of design at Siemens e Chair iF Design Foundation, said that large German companies, such as Siemens, Bosch, Mercedes-Benz, are hiring more designers, called to contribute in various fields, from marketing to finance.

We are experiencing a moment of transition in which design is changing, and a new professional figure is maturing, not necessarily the designer who proposes the shape of an object, but a designer also capable of rethinking corporate behavior, for a more sustainable and efficient production approach.

What are you looking for in new designers? emotional intelligence. Rational intelligence, of those who understand how to make the steps more efficient, is no longer sufficient if it does not also include a dose of emotion, which makes the process more attractive and pleasant to be applied and introduced. From the German perspective, emotional intelligence is at the heart of the new way of teaching design to students.

I trivially call emotional intelligence art, because in my opinion it is precisely that connotation that makes all things special. From an apparently arid and technical discipline, design could become the salt of the future, the subject that gives flavor and quality to our desire to look and seek the future, so that the future is better than the past".

Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, founding designers of the Formafantasma studio: "We design consultants to tackle the climate crisis"

"The most urgent issue is that of the climate crisis, it is the main challenge that we will have to face indefinitely.

To deal with this emergency, we believe that designers cannot stop at just designing the product, but must rethink the entire supply chain, together with companies. The designer must be seen more as a consultant, as someone who cando research, a sort of external R&D.

Brands, in turn, must be able to show the designer not only the strengths but also the weaknesses of the company, to identify together the aspects to improve, and let the designer work in a more holistic".

Nicola Coropulis, CEO of Poltrona Frau: "Being sustainable also means producing locally and passing on knowledge to young people"

"One of the challenges we have to face is to create increasingly sustainable and long-lasting products. Poltrona Frau has always been synonymous with durability, our armchairs and sofas are handed down from generation to generation .

The topic of sustainability is not a list of actions to do, but it is an overall strategy of a company's behavior along the entire supply chain, both at the design level with the design for disassembly, i.e. objects designed to be easily disassembled, repaired to increase their duration, and possibly recycled at the end of their life, both at the production level in the choice of materials, suppliers and energy sources.

For example, in the face of the energy crisis, we want to make a further investment to renew and expand our photovoltaic system installed in 2010. Being sustainable also means choosing to produce in Tolentino, in the Chienti valley, a land since the Middle Ages suited to the working of skin and leather.

Producing locally, and with a network of suppliers just a few kilometers away, means drastically reducing CO2 emissions from transport, but it also means supporting the local economy, reactivating knowledge and the ability to do that risk being lost.

We have joined the Adopt a school initiative of Altagamma to keep artisan know-how alive and hand it down to the new generations, enhancing manual skills with new technologies, such as the digital machine which automatically scans the leather and defines the cutting templates, to work with more precision, in safety and to minimize rejects and waste".