Milano Design Week
Elizabeth, Milan, Spring 2017
May 16, 2017

As a freshman at Rochester Institute of Technology, I attended a presentation about my Industrial Design (ID) department chair’s annual trip to Milano for Design Week. The pictures of the enormous fairgrounds, the product displays that seemed to go on for miles, and the stories he told convinced me that I needed to find a way to get there. Almost two years later, when I had the opportunity to study abroad, I remembered attending that presentation and knew that studying abroad in Milano would be my opportunity to attend Milano Design Week.

Salone del Mobile

Just two weeks ago, the city was bustling and design was in the air. The metro was packed like a can of sardines and I had never heard so many languages being spoken. Over 340,000 people representing 165 different nations attended Salone del Mobile (Milano International Furniture Fair) and even more visited events hosted by districts around the city.

Getting our tickets to enter the fairgrounds

I was lucky enough to share this experience with my R.I.T. ID department chair, the Interior Design department chair, and my ID classmate. Throughout the week we met up with current R.I.T. students who were studying abroad in Dessau, Germany, and alumni, who were in Milano for work and graduate school. This “R.I.T. reunion” was fun and made me feel like I was back home in the studio!

RIT ID Juniors studying in Dessau, Germany; RIT ID SAI Juniors studying in Milano, Italy; RIT Industrial Design Senior; and RIT ID Program Chair

The Salone del Mobile fair grounds hosted over 2,000 exhibits in twenty-four pavilion buildings. We spent an entire day at the fair visiting four of the pavilions. It was clear how important it is for interior, graphic, exhibit, industrial, and new media teams to work together, as each exhibit was so thoughtfully designed and incredibly detailed. Visiting the Knoll exhibit was one of the biggest highlights of the day, as I was able to sit in chairs designed by famous Industrial Designers such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Eero Saarinen (just to name a few). Each exhibit was drastically different from the others, which made me feel like I was constantly entering a new building. I now have a new perspective on the role and responsibility of exhibits in interactive and business spaces.

One of the many massive and incredibly detailed exhibits

Visiting the Salone Satellite, the young designers’ section of the fair, exposed me to what students from around the world are working on. Seeing incredible work from individual designers and from specific universities was really inspiring and has given me ideas for my own portfolio and senior thesis project.

Outside the furniture fair, we visited the design week events around the city. Some of the most interesting and interactive exhibits I saw were from MOOI, COS, Nendo, and PepsiCo.

The whole week consisted of 14+ hour days full of visiting exhibits throughout the city, meeting alumni, and stopping for gelato and espresso (and then more espresso!).

MOOI cinematic insect/hotel exhibit

The best part about Design Week was knowing that everyone was there to support design. This week has made me step back and really think about how important design is in everyday life. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to attend Milano Design Week. It was an unforgettable experience that has already made me a more observant and more motivated designer.

– Elizabeth was a spring 2017 SAI Milan student from Rochester Institute of Technology. 

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