Milano Design Week 2015 was a dream - it was long, intense, hectic, warm, sunny days and starry nights. It was hard work and hard play. It was the yearly international celebration of thousands of designers, design curators, design journalists coming together and being niche-happy for themselves and each other, feeling like one in a million by being one of a million.
I have to admit I hardly saw any design at all, as I was mostly lifting polaroids and engaging with the visitors at our booth in Ventura Lambrate for our project JellyJewel in collaboration with Vienna´s SUPER SENSE. But if the evening conversations are anything to go by I´m not sure I missed anything since whatever was worth seeing was being published online in realtime and, according to many, looked better digitalised.
If analog design viewing has been overtaken by the digital pixels and stories, why go to a design fair at all? Mostly everyone I have gotten in contact with after the fair was over, wrote back with quotes along the lines of "most fun ever". That´s the real Why of design festivals - because their bloody fun. They´re an indulgence of festival madness surrounded by beautiful objects made by your old-and-new design heroes but probably by their ghostwriters, framed by design discourse but mostly by Negroni´s and Aperol Spritz, festival day in festival day out. It´s like jumping into a visual sensual swimming pool except you´re not surrounded by water, you´re indulging in design objects, with design people, for a whole 8 days. It´s a booth-dinner-after-party cycle for 8 days straight in some of the most obscure and beautiful palazzo´s/rooftops/museums of the city, unless you come early and leave late which means it´s 10 days, and you´re reunited with friends you only see once a year and who bring new friends. And because this is a design festival, you´re working all the time - everyone is a potential collaborator/contractor/curator/publisher of your work, so you learn to switch from fun mode to work mode back to fun mode within seconds without ruining the flow.
Design festivals exist partly for getting direct feedback from the audience about a product, pre-launch. But they are more about getting real person-to-person contact with the people in our niche industry: designers/curators/producers/critics, the lot. You can see all the unaffordable design online, but the digital will never replace the value of conversation, of interaction, of creating analog memories between people. Plus, a little party never hurt anyone.