Self-referential is an insulting adjective, when it comes out of the mouth of a social media strategist. And it is the most used word when it comes to design companies. This is not good news, but it can be remedied

Alessandro Mininno founded Gummy Industries in 2012. His agency's job is to build the digital identity of brands. At the moment 45 people work with him he is the oldest at forty and his clients include the city of Milan and the Catholic University. And it is also the agency that has worked with Zanotta, Flos and Cersaie. All information that serves to dampen, thanks to the authority, Alessandro's polemic visage. More than anything else because what he says about design and social media is important.

Let's start with a naive question: do design influencers exist? “First of all, you need to understand what an influencer is and how it works, otherwise the cause is confused with the effect”, explains Mininno. “An influencer is a person capable of building content and creating a community. Chiara Ferragni became an influencer following the wave of a pioneering blog, The Sartorialist, which commented on the outfits of people photographed on the street. She founds The Blonde Salad and invents a completely new way of talking about fashion. A language that Millennials like, that uses the tools available well and, above all, is in the chords of a generation that doesn't know what to do with glossy paper and cool stylish photos”. 

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So far, so good. So why doesn't design have an equivalent of Ferragni for fashion? “Because in reality Ferragni is an influencer capable of selling design as well. As is any pop character, from Sfera Ebbasta to Fedez to Pharrell. The real question is if there are any lifestyle influencers and the answer is: definitely yes. The design just doesn't like them”.

Indeed, it is so: it is difficult to imagine a Toio in the Ferragnez house. But there is and, probably, it is a great fortune for Flos. Because in this way it enters into a much broader and more inclusive imaginary than that proposed by sector magazines or magazines and, above all, it dialogues with an otherwise neglected audience. Because Millennials have another way of seeing the world, of informing themselves, of accessing what interests them. And it's a way that design brands obviously want to ignore.

“To use social media you have to accept two unthinkable events. The first is to start a conversation with what the self-referential world of design considers 'tamarro'. The second is to give up control”. Social networks require tolerance for the way products are represented. “Because a thousand Fedez fans will take a picture, ugly and imperfect, of your lamp”.

What about the product narrative? “Information today is thrown in people's faces: no one needs to go and check the website of a major newspaper to find out the latest news. We get notifications every minute. I know what's going on in the world from my phone, company chat, or messages from people I know”. It is difficult to imagine, within this paradigm, the need to explain the product, to understand how it was designed and why a brand's research center is the best in the world.

“I buy a lamp because it makes a beautiful light, because I saw it photographed in the house of an influencer I follow, because it somehow improves the image of myself”, explains Mininno. It is objected that the design, however, is hi-end, it costs money, the purchase reasons are never impulsive. “In fact, the typical customer for a design company is very different from what we like to imagine. He is not interested in understanding the design culture, but he can afford it”.

But perhaps there is a middle ground, a gradient of immersion and exchange with pop culture that is not really basic, to begin with. “The world of cooking and food has followed a similar path. Thanks to programs such as Masterchef, it has spread a specialized and sophisticated culture to bloggers and influencers ”. The road, therefore, passes through paths unexplored by design, less dedicated to a literacy of the sector and less, alas, self-referential. “The right attitude is to allow oneself to be contaminated, to understand what one's audience is and to open up to a dialogue. And consider alternative distribution channels”. Let's talk about Amazon, yes. But we're not sure if the design is ready. “We will make a reason”, concludes Alessandro Mininno.