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On the ground at Milan Design Week

Rapt Studio CEO and Chief Creative Officer David Galullo reports daily from the year's greatest design event, running April 9-14, 2019.

Days 3 & 4: April 12 & 13, 2019

Day Three and Four in Milan were a blur. So much so that I didn’t get a chance to sit down and write a post. The thing about Design Week is that there is so much stimulation, between installations, exhibits, events and dinners, that it is hard to fit more than a few hours of sleep in each night.

Our installation is going strong, having more than 12,000 visitors participate, so far. The space has totally transformed since Monday, and looking back at the photos taken that day it seems that it was a half completed project, with the thousands of questions written in a wide array of languages completing the vision.

Our various team members have taken some time off from manning the Rapt space to see what Design Week has to offer, and there were definitely a few highlights. Our visit to the Armani Silos was a showstopper. The incredible space features designs from the Armani Collection, and during Design Week it’s hosting “The Challenge,” an exhibition of the works of Tadao Ando. The incomparable fashion on display somehow makes perfect sense as a lead-in to the timeless work of Ando, both exploring simplicity of materials and form. Stunning from start to finish.

This year, there is a larger than normal array of technology, automotive, and electronics companies hosting exhibits. Google’s “A Place for Being” presents “scientific proof that design is important” in a exhibit that equips the visitor with a wrist band that measures your physiological reaction to different room settings — utilizing color, sound, smell and various design principles to offer different “neuroaesthetic” options. Having experienced each space, you are given a customized read-out identifying the space in which you felt most at ease and comfortable in.

Lexus offered a slightly less serious take on design, presenting “Lead with Light,” a sort of dancing robot light show — compelling and engaging.

A longer than expected trip to Rosanna Orlandi Galleries had us weaving through the gallery’s incredible mix of objects, furniture, lighting and textiles. The upstairs space houses an incredible array of art and design objects, with more items than can be imagined stored neatly in the shelving that surrounds the space. Within the compound was an Eileen Fisher installation of fabric panels (modern-day tapestries) made from returned, used clothing that were simply gorgeous — subtle, textured and unique, it was a beautiful display of making art from items deemed beyond their useful life.

There were lots of other sites and sounds to report on, but I ended Friday with a short interview on Monocle 24 Radio, talking about the experience of putting up an installation during Design Week and moving from an observer to a participant. After all, that is where life gets interesting, no?

Heading home tomorrow, but will revisit some lessons and reflections from our week here in Milan early next week. Ciao.



Day 2: April 11, 2019

Day Two of Milan Design Week brought large crowds to our installation welcoming nearly 3,000 visitors today. It has been interesting to see the space morph as more and more questions are hung. The exhibit in some ways is becoming less and less Rapt’s and more and more the product of the participants’ making. More on that in the days that come.

Meanwhile, I took the opportunity to visit other exhibits around the city, finding inspiration among others’ creative output. I spent the morning at McKinsey’s “The Business Value of Design” panel discussion, which was built around the McKinsey Report finding significant correlation between successful businesses and the degree to which they embrace design.

The discussion was thought-provoking, but for me it just offered credible metrics to prove something we already know. See the report here.

A short visit to the Hem showroom and Moooi filled my midday, before I settled in at the Vitra Design Museum’s Politics of Design Conference. The discussion centered on design — Post-Industry, Post-Government, Post-Nature — and centered on the designer’s role in solving larger societal problems. It has always been my belief that design is the creation of elegant solutions to complex problems — so, again, I was at home with the conversation.

I’ve experienced Milan Design Week differently this year. Perhaps it’s because I’m on the other side of an installation. Perhaps it’s because I just see things differently, having lived through the last six months of planning (although the heavy lifting was clearly handled by others — more on that later in the week as well). But I think that I’m more fully focused on the responsibility of design, the incredible joy of celebrating it, and the power of design to bring people together.

The other element of Design Week is the food and drink — and to that end, I’m late for cocktails. More tomorrow.



Day 1: April 10, 2019

Today we opened our doors at 10 a.m. to a long line of trade professionals, eager to start their week and see as much design as humanly possible. For those of you who have been to Milan for Salone Del Mobile, you know to what I’m referring. For those of you who haven’t, I can only say that this week is a marathon, not a sprint. With the entire city giving over to design, there is much to see across the city; the inspiration is exhilarating (and exhausting).

So at 10 a.m. on Day One we were met with excitement that manifested itself at a more frenetic pace than we’d anticipated. I will say that we half-expected people to arrive ready to move through quickly, take the required Instagram post, and run off to the next thing. I’ll also say that I secretly hoped that people would arrive with this mentality and — when greeted with a more human, potentially thought-provoking experience — would take a breath, sit down, and talk.

Both scenarios happened.

I realized that far more of us than I thought are programmed to move through life behind phones, camera at the ready, recording and observing the events unfurling before them, perhaps missing the experience while looking for the perfect shot to share with their followers in search of likes.

I also realized that there’s an equal number of people who did, in fact, slow down and dig deep for a meaningful question; who stayed a bit longer, lingered to sit, talk, and search through questions; who actually committed to making this an experience. Perhaps this is my mind filling in the blanks with my hope for humanity, but I seemed to notice a sense of belonging for those particular visitors — a slight slowing to the “Design Week March.” Perhaps it was just an illusion, but by afternoon, while the line never diminished in numbers, the pace slowed and instead of walking through and merely viewing the lounge on display, a larger proportion of visitors sat and lingered.

Tomorrow is another day, and as the volume of questions dangling from the vaulted ceiling multiplies so do my hopes for people relearning to interact naturally, to connect with those around them, and to broaden their experience — and for design to be fully understood as a tool for societal change.

Those are my thoughts for the day. Tomorrow I venture out and will report back on some favorites of the day. Ciao!



Press Preview: April 9, 2019

Yesterday we hosted the press preview for our Milan Design Week installation. As you may have gathered from our social feeds, we have been working for quite some time on our installation for Milan Design Week called Tell Me More. The installation examines the power of space to support and foster human interaction and meaningful emotional connections.

It is our first time out in Milan for what has become one of the most important design festivals in the world. During this week, all of Milan opens its doors and hearts to design, hosting talents from around the world and highlighting the power of design through new product introductions and experiential installations across the city.

Our installation, located within Ventura Centrale, takes an abandoned train shed and examines the connection between spatial construct and emotional connection, as well as psychological safety and human interaction.

Working for the last nine months to bring this installation to life has been a labor of love, and as with all things of this nature, it took our team’s hard work and determination. Opening to trade professionals on Tuesday and to the public on Thursday, the installation runs through Sunday. But yesterday was about introducing the concept to the press and seeing the first reactions.

Upon entry to the space, the cool glow emanating from drapery-clad volumes gives a glimmer of what is within — enough to require a peek inside. When guests entered and were met with a question posed by the person before them, they took the card and left another with a similar query. The internal illumination of the space allowed for activity outside to drop away, and a sense of privacy encouraged a deeper dive for a question of real meaning. “When were you the happiest?” or “What has been your most poignant dream?”

When done, guests made the short meander into the lounge, which brings a change of mood. A warmer, comfortable tone, elevated seating areas, and a sea above of glimmering lights and the burning questions of the day… Here you are met with groups of people deep in conversation, posing questions and offering answers. And in a world that has disappeared behind its phones, this is a place that people stop being observers and put themselves center stage to engage.

The day was a great success, and the response was extremely positive. We hosted press from around the world, with questions posed in multiple languages. Today we open in earnest and will continue to collect questions and connect people — showing the real power of design to make you feel part of something greater.

We’d like to thank our partners in this endeavor, including Erik Bruce, Rich Brilliant Willing, Moooi Carpets by Mae Engelgeer, Concrete Collaborative, DZINE, Sancal, Bart Halpern, Blå Station, The Bradley Collection, Carnegie, and Création Baumann.