Design is changing its skin. In addition to furniture design, we are talking more and more about system design, active in many areas: creative, cultural, productive, economic. This is also thanks to a more equipped and performing training model. We talk about it with Francesco Zurlo, full professor of Industrial Design in the Design Department of the Politecnico di Milano and, from May 2020, president of the Board of Poli.design.
“Poli.design” explain Zurlo “was born as a consortium of the Politecnico di Milano founded in 1999, which was then transformed into a participated consortium company: it is a non-profit organization that includes trade associations such as ADI, AIAP and AIPI, founding members of Poli.design together with the Politecnico of Milan, and which this year also includes FLA - FederlegnoArredo. Last May I was elected chairman of the board and was asked to work on the vision and content of this company”.
What are the strengths of Poli.design?
We have several businesses. We take care of post-curricular training through a series of training products such as the three-year and master's postgraduate university masters. These are Masters promoted by the University that provide university training credits. Then there are shorter training courses that meet the needs of the job market. If there is work to be done on a topic, such as the need to train intermediate technicians to manage, for example, software useful for the technical department of a small and medium-sized company, we will organize it.
What is your main contribution as president?
What is your main contribution as president? My intention is to push training for SMEs (small and medium enterprises). Small and medium-sized enterprises pay very little attention to the training of their employees: in Italy one worker in 5 (20%) accesses refresher courses. A very low figure compared to the European average.
How are your business training courses organized?
We start with short courses, lasting a few hours, up to 200, organized to meet the needs of workers, on weekends. But there are also ad hoc courses. It is as if Poli.design made an operation of understanding what are the training gaps of companies by developing tailor-made courses, tailor-made on individual realities according to the specific needs launched by the staff that deals with training in companies.
Do you also go in situ?
What companies have you collaborated with over the years?
Diverse and multiple. Among other things, this type of offer is also aimed at those multinationals that are not part of the routine of internal training courses. We work with the Japanese Fujitsu, Ntt Data, Panasonic, Mitsubishi Electric. And with Chinese companies such as Kuka Home, leader in the field of upholstery in the country. We have also just completed a training course for 60 designers with Oppein Home, a leading industry in the kitchen sector, also in China.
Returning to Italy, how are you doing?
We have, for example, a master in furniture design in which the most important companies in the furniture sector are involved: from the Boffi Group to Lago, from Minotti to Tecno-Zanotta, Molteni Group and many others. In this case, the approach is different: companies do not send their employees but they send us briefs that are developed together to make a contribution.
What do companies especially ask of you?
There is a common problem that businesses have at the moment. And it is trying to understand what the younger generations want. The so-called Millennium and Z Generation are difficult to decipher in terms of consumption habits. So companies turn to us to carry out experiments.
Companies are often also a little deaf to training. How do you intercept them and in what way do you propose?
We are launching an initiative called Bridge Lab which aims to demonstrate what can be done for companies as a design system of the Politecnico di Milano (with Poli.design often as a driver). We do this through research that identifies significant trends. We do not limit ourselves to being trend monitors: our idea is to indicate a series of possible scenarios and identify which industries may be affected by these trends. It is an attraction initiative that builds ad hoc training courses. Our strength lies in being within the design system of the Politecnico di Milano: in addition to the contributions of the Department of Design, of which we are a direct emanation, and the School of Design, with its 4,000 students, we also count on the synergies we put in progress with the other 11 departments, in case, for example, we need to investigate issues such as those related to chemical materials, the aerospace industry or other.
What are the focal points on which Poli.design is focusing?
Environmental awareness is now an essential issue for those involved in design. And companies are realizing it. For example, we concluded a project for Cassina that asked us to research eco-sustainable materials within a logic of circular economy for its historic products. Now the company is exploring some of these solutions to understand how they can also become commercial products. In any case, sustainability, resilience and circular economy are certainly the issues towards which companies must orient themselves in order to renew themselves while maintaining their identity firm.