The reason why it is all so exciting, according to Nova Beatrice, is that change is all around us.
The Internet has helped in envisaging new ways of creating, producing, selling and distributing products. Globalisation has raised many questions related to the actual cost price of items, especially signature furniture. The rise in blogging and e-magazines has taken the power away from the printed press and is providing young, unknown designers with platforms to be known, appreciated and even funded.
On a superficial level, it looks like all is going much better than ever before and that there are now many more opportunities for talented people and companies. Yet the world is a lot more complex than it seems. And when things are changing and you are in the middle of it, it is difficult to grasp the new rules that will drive this shift.
In her book, with the support of several high calibre contributors, Nova Beatrice helps all those involved
in the design industry to do just that – figure out what’s going on in reality through the words of those who are living the change on their own skin.
Last April, when reporting about the Salone del Mobile,
The Economist wrote about the dawn of a “third
industrial revolution”. The reference was to the fact that, for the first time, machines seemed to have taken over from products and stolen the scene of the
The most sought after events were, as a matter of fact, the ones in which designers created products through 3D printers or other CNC tools, directly in front of the public. This, according to the English weekly magazine, was the sign that a major shift was about to occur. After the first industrial revolution and the second one (operated by Henry Ford, who introduced mass production), this shift might well bring us to a production 3.0, which will be individualised.
At the same time, great discussion was occurring among designers and companies about the future
of the design profession, not only in philosophical terms (as is usual), but also in view of economic sustainability. In other words, is the royalty system still a valid one? How will the industry be able to absorb the ever growing number of designers churned out by schools each year? All these topics are talked about extensively in Nova Beatrice’s book.
Joseph Grima writes about the role that crowd-funding has on the new development of products made by young designers and about the almost redundant role of companies in the new scene. Anna Bates delves into the depths of production-related issues and analyses the birth of the new, individualised way of manu-facturing items with the help of 3D printing and CNC machines, as well as the open source phenomenon.
On the cost front, Nova Beatrice herself provides
a thorough breakdown for some products, with the support of the companies that manufactured them. Interestingly, a lamp by Harri Koskien by Design Stockholm House appears to cost, when in stock, a mere €18.30 but has a retailer mark up of €98.20. For each item sold, the design and product development cost is only €6.10, but the royalty to the designer will only be 3.5 per cent of the overall company earnings (which obviously excludes the retailer mark up).
Not all stories in Behind the Scenes are that technical.
Journalists, for instance, will find it revealing to read Marcus Fairs’ account of the birth of the Internet magazine Dezeen. After being fired from Icon, the magazine that Fairs had launched three years before, in 2006 Fairs found himself without a job and with a family to support. He initially thought of creating yet another print magazine, but a publisher told him he needed around a quarter of a million pounds for this.
“By contrast, it took about one hour, and cost just US$20 to launch Dezeen: no investment, no paper or print bill, no editorial or sales team, no distribution or stockists,” says Fairs. In other words, no barriers.
“Five years ago, if you wanted to know what was going on in the design world, you bought a magazine,” continues Fairs.
“Today you visit a website. This superficially simple change in reading habits marks a profound one in both the media and the design industry: the internet has revolutionised the design media, which is in turn transforming the way designers operate and the work they produce,” says Fairs.
In his chapter, Fairs talks extensively about the supremacy of images over text, the economic issues that blogs and magazines need to face (that impact on their editorial content), and the value of comments.
In another article, about the ‘Italian model’, Stefano Giovannoni reiterates: “The big mass of design objects, in particular in the furniture context, only aims to get visibility in magazines. Nobody wants to buy them.
The sad and serious thing is that behind this big mass of products there is a wide waste of material and intellectual energy and the first victims of this situation are young designers.”
The sentence that summarises the whole relationship between design and communications is written by Luca Nichetto, in a chapter called ‘The new landscape’.
“To be a designer today doesn’t only mean you deal with design. You need to have many other talents at the same time, and you have to work between them all the time. A designer that does not care about communications is not going to have an easy time today. Our core business is to make good products, yes, but it’s also important to communicate them and take care of everything around the products. In the past, our job description didn’t read like this but we have to evolve. Today, an independent
designer is running a small company. And to be a good public relations manager is definitely a part