Milan Design Week 2018: The Stand-Out Brand Activations

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Audi at Milan Design Week 2018

Sunday marked the final day of Salone del Mobile 2018 — also known as Milan Design Week, which is now in its 57th year. It’s regarded as the leading design event focusing on the Fuorisalone and the Salone del Mobile, with more than 300,000 registered visitors from around 165 countries flocking to Milan from April 17 to 22, 2018. Once again, brands were out in force—here’s a look back at the week, with a curatorial assist from the Interbrand Milan that was on-site, starting with automotive brands:

Audi (above) was at Milan Design Week for its sixth consecutive year. This year’s collaboration with MAD Architects symbolizes striving for perfection, highlighting the Audi Aicon and Audi A6 Sedan with the exclusive installation “Fifth Ring” — a spatial installation of a ring, amidst swirling mists, that symbolizes progress and evolution.

“The illuminated ring in the square boundary of the historical courtyard stands for mankind’s strive for perfection,” describes Ma Yansong, the founder of MAD Architects, the staging. “It floats above a water basin and reflects the constantly changing sky. It gives the viewer the feeling of walking in the clouds.” Fabrizio Longo, Brand Manager of Audi Italy adds: “This search for perfection is the force for innovation and the drive that makes Audi cars so special.”

Milan Design Week | 2. Bravissimo to all the finalists of the Lexus Design Award 2018, and to The Extrapolation Factory for winning the Grand Prix with Testing Hypotheticals, a brilliant series of workshops to encourage the public to imagine how we might live in the future. (Special sartorial mention to the Chilean design group Sistema Simple Studio for their ponchos.) Each year, the Lexus Design Award brings twelve finalists to exhibit their work in Milan, including four whose projects have been prototyped with the help of mentors, like Studio Formafantasma who worked with The Extrapolation Factory, architect Sou Fujimoto and designers Lindsey Adelman and Jessica Walsh. Thank you Lexus for inviting me to join the jury with architects David Adjaye and Shigeru Ban, MoMA curator Paola Antonelli, Design Boom’s Birgit Lohmann and Yoshihiro Sawa of Lexus International. You can now vote for your favourite of the twelve finalists in the new LDA People’s Choice Award on www.lexusdesignaward.com. #design #salonedelmobile #salonedelmobile2018 @isaloniofficial @milan.design.week #mdw2018 #lexusdesignaward #lda2018 @extrafactory #testinghypotheticals @formafantasma @sou_fujimoto @lindseyadelman @jessicavwalsh @adjaye_personal_sketchbook #shigeruban @paolaantonelli @designboom @birgitlohmann #lexusinternational #ldapeopleschoice

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Lexus showcased the Lexus Design Award winners, whose designs were selected for their ability to make the world a better place. On April 17, Lexus International announced the Grand Prix winner of the sixth annual Lexus Design Award 2018 – “Testing Hypotheticals by Extrapolation Factory.” The 2018 Lexus Design Award drew a record 1,319 entries from 68 countries under the theme of “CO-“. The winner was selected by a group of design luminaries: Sir David Adjaye, Shigeru Ban, Paola Antonelli, Birgit Lohmann, Alice Rawsthorn, and Yoshihiro Sawa.

The theme of the brand’s activation this week: “CO-” as a Latin prefix meaning with or together in harmony. At Lexus, we seek the harmonious coexistence of nature and society through sustainable design. “CO-” is an approach that allows us to explore our potential and that of our environment by creating new possibilities through collaboration, coordination, connection, and the like.


MINI joined forces with London-based architects Studiomama to present MINI LIVING – BUILT BY ALL. This installation was billed as “a visionary living concept brought to life in a close collaboration between residents and architects.” A surface area of just a few square metres is used to create very personal and attractive spaces, reflecting MINI’s core principle of the “creative use of space.”

MINI Milan Design Week 2018

MINI LIVING was launched in 2016 with the aim of devising creative architectural solutions for the urban lifestyles of the future. BUILT BY ALL is the third installation presented by MINI at Milan Design Week to highlight aspects of MINI LIVING. MINI LIVING builds on earlier visionary concepts for shared and collaborative living/working in cities at Milan Design Week in recent years with the MINI LIVING – BREATHE and MINI LIVING – Do Disturb installations.

The first habitable MINI LIVING project will open its doors in Shanghai in 2019. An innovative space-related concept for living and working is taking shape in converted industrial buildings on a surface area of just under 8,000 square metres.

Google Softwear Milan Design Week 2018

Google earned rave reviews in its first year exhibiting at Milan Design Week. Google aimed to show visitors what it would be like to live with Google design studio pieces in their homes. As connected home products become more a part of our everyday lives, tech is increasingly being integrated into the fabric of the home. Whether you find it frightening or enlightening, heating, lighting, locks and even ordering groceries can now be controlled by the touch of a phone or voice activation.

Google’s installation Google Softwear—a play-on-words combining computer software and furnishings—explored the future of the connected home, but not in a cold, technical manner. Instead, Google designed a tiny home that visitors could walk through, with furniture and product collections, including sofas, teapots, speakers, lamps, plants and more; pink, blue, orange and pastel shades dominating the space. Tech and homeware products were intermingled, coordinated by color and material, with the same textile used on a sofa, a speaker or a virtual reality headset.

It aimed to represent how tech “naturally fits into the composition and environment of the home,” a Google employee told visitors. One room also featured embroidered textile hangings on the wall, which act as pieces of art but are made from materials used to make real Google hardware such as computers. One of the hanging textiles featured a surveillance camera, cutely colour-coordinated against a speaker.

Prada‘s Foundation, Fondazione Prada, inaugurated Torre, a 53-meter tower and the third structure built on the site of a former gin distillery by Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), the firm helmed by Rem Koolhaas. The white concrete tower boasts nine levels (six exhibition floors and three restaurant levels).

“To extend the typologies offered by the Fondazione, a series of systematic variations is applied: each next floor is taller than the previous one, rectangular plans alternate with wedge shapes, the orientation of the rooms alternates between panoramic city views to the North, or narrower views in opposite directions, East and West,” Koolhaas stated.

WeWork teamed up with Danish design label Hay and audio specialists Sonos to create an installation that was part gathering space, part retail store and part showroom. The result: the Sonos ONE speaker in a new array of colors—pink, gray, green, yellow, and red speakers—that retail for $299 and will be available in September, in keeping with Sonos’s mission to treat sound as a design element. “These speakers deserve to be treated like furniture; strong, independent objects that can blend in or stand out—functional accessories for any room that fit different needs and different spaces,” stated Mette Hay.

More than a crystal-maker and designer, Swarovski blends fashion, design, architecture and art with its Swarovski Palazzo installation featuring jewelry collaborations with Mary Katrantzou, Peter Pilotto and Jason Wu along with home pieces by Toord Boontje, Nendo, and Patricia Urquiola.

“We are giving the solution of the designers by allowing them to create jewelry pieces, but we’re also allowing the Swarovski jewelry customer to have a bit of fashion,” stated Nadja Swarovski. “We tried to do the same with home.”

Louis Vuitton Objets Nomades, the French fashion house’s collection of travel-inspired furniture and home pieces, introduced a number of new items including the Diamond Mirror by Marcel Wanders and the Ribbon Dance Chair by Andrè Fu. At Fiori Salone, it released Les Petits Nomades, a collection of decorative objects.

Tiffany & Co. constructed a massive greenhouse inside its Piazza Duomo store, where five female artists (Anna Galtarossa, Shantell Martin, Marilyn Minter, Laurie Simmons and Anna-Wili Highfield) selected by Tiffany & Co. chief artistic officer Reed Krakoff were invited to showcase their own vision, ranging from sculpture to collage, for a garden structure.

Bottega Veneta Home only releases a collection every other year. This year Tomas Maier juxtaposed an elegant yet minimal sectional sofa’s clean lines and subtle details against the decadence of an Italian palazzo. Maier continued to collaborate with Italian designer Osanna Visconti di Modrone to create three new cylindrical lighting pieces.

Hermès dazzled with a color-blocked environment at the Museo della Permanente. The new collection of furniture, tabletop and textiles was presented in small, cave-like structures within the museum that were clad in 150,000 colorful zellige tiles, imported from Morocco, that took three weeks to install.

Fashion designer Eileen Fisher‘s DesignWork installation in the Waste No More exhibition space greeted visitors with a huge arch made out of thousands of pieces of discarded clothing. The line of wall hangings, upholstery, and accessories that are the result of a dialogue between makers and consumers’ used garments—was part of the undergroud exhibition curated by LIdewij Edelkoort and Philip Fimmanon Ventura Centrale’s vaulted tunnels.

Smeg x Dolce & Gabbana - Milan Design Week 2018

Smeg stunned by revealing its latest kitchen appliances collaboration with Italian fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana (see more here).

While not showing this year, IKEA inspired designer Niklas Jacob and other designers to come up with “satirical flat-packed objects.”

Below, more from the Interbrand Milan team; visit their Instagram feed for more from Design Week 2018.

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