A focus group at the XXII Summer Seminar of the Symbola Foundation talked about the new Italian design: which seeks new models of research and production and designs in the worlds of education, food, agriculture, sustainable fashion and AI

It is a realistic portrait of young Italian design that emerged during the focus group 35 designers under 35 at the XXII Summer Seminar of Symbola Foundation.

It describes a generation of young designers who do a job that has many identities and who, above all, work broadly and in depth on projects that truly manage to cross the frontiers of social transition and ecological.

The 35 designers under 35 focus group was an opportunity to give a face, a voice and, above all, a story of the professional experiences of a group of professionals selected in collaboration with the ADI.

Design is not just furniture

Domenico Sturabotti explains: “Design is no longer limited only to furniture, but extends to multiple areas, including business organization, management, the creation of new businesses and social impact , legal, digital and scientific.

However, there is still a lack of awareness and communication about its potential, including economic: only 4% of Italian companies use it and many do not fully understand its economic implications".

Design centered companies are worth 10% more

The data that emerge from Symbola's annual research on the topic of Design Economy, however, speak clearly. Design centered companies invoice 10% more, on average. For this reason Symbola, in collaboration with ADI, has promoted communication work.

A survey of designers under 35 spread across Italy, in very different sectors.

“The objective is to make their faces, skills and experiences known, to support the integration of a high-level but little-exploited professional and disciplinary heritage, especially in terms of breadth. A first step was the creation of a column on the Foundation's digital platform, followed by the meeting during the XXII Summer Seminar".

The new designers: wise and curious

Domenico Sturabotti wanted to bring together part of the group of 35 young designers selected to "let us tell them what the present is like and what the future of the relationship between entrepreneurship and design will be".

A two and a half hour focus in which we talked about social and climate transition, business and training.

What emerged was a choral tale of experiences that unequivocally point to new models of research and production, with a parterre of competent young professionals, at the same time wise and curious, prudent and passionate.

The new design professions

Some are authorial designers, traditionally linked to the world of furniture. Paolo Stefano Gentile and Francesco Forcellini, Cono Studio for example.

Others are new entrepreneurs or product and development consultants in the new business sectors: education, branding, strategic communication, team managing, food, agriculture, sustainable fashion and AI. Still others work for companies involved in spin-off and start-up development.

They deal with regenerative agriculture and art (Tidal Garden), privacy in the times of AI (Capable Design), to manage the Dainese spin-off for wearable safety technologies (Alberto Piovesan). Or even tools and methodologies for design education (Michele Giacopuzzi), systemic design for agriculture (Caterina Lenzi), research on the female microbiome (Giulia Tomasello).

Everyone was asked to answer three questions

  • What is design?

Trying to give a collective answer, it can be summarized as follows: for the Under 35s, design is a tool whose function is the search for meaning. It is a pragmatic and discreet statement, the attempt to define amodus operandi within a complex context with a high rate of constant evolution.

The reality is that design is less and less a discipline and more and more a way of asking the most correct questions when faced with a problem. It doesn't mean that there is a right answer. It is not certain that the objective is to seek a solution, but rather a path equally divided between research and new models of production, work and education. And, at times it seems, also of life.

  • What is the responsibility of design in addressing social and environmental crises?

The answer to an impossible question is serenely pragmatic, and it is one of the "beauties" of this new generation of professionals. There are those who say they do a job that makes them happy, because it improves everyone's well-being, safety, economies and environment. There are those who, with an even more ecumenical and wisely open mind, aspire to greater intergenerational collaboration, to the exchange of skills and experiences.

And finally those who frankly point out that they suffer from Impostor Syndrome, that tenacious irrational obsession of having landed a project in an unexpected field, with new and experimental tools, only to realize that they unexpectedly work against every possible doubt.

  • Are you satisfied with the training courses, the university and the schools you attended?

There is a common desire that permeates the experiences of young people: we would like to learn to learn. It is not a controversy, but a rational request: a world that is changing requires ever new skills and information, which are also evolving.

The design methodology must therefore be able to be applied to the inevitable demand for flexibility and research capacity. Fortunately, underline the Under 35s, the courses of schools and polytechnics are also useful for discovering, again and again, what all the masters of design recommend in one voice: curiosity.

Thirst to know, to seek, to try. The attitude that functioned as a driving force for that post-war generation that imagined a new present, in a way not unlike what the contemporary world requires.