Design Shanghai: an overview of contemporary design and the identity of the emerging Chinese Scene
This year I had the opportunity to visit one of the global leading design fairs, Design Shanghai, from 26th – 29th November 2020, at its brand-new venue: the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Center. I found the exhibit to be highly representative of the contemporary scenario, in its global and local dimension, through a layered narrative engaged with the main emerging issues in the field of design: aesthetic evolutions, new manufacturing technologies, innovative materials, contemporary home and work solutions, research approaches and new user experience.
The space showcased more than 400 local and international brands from 30 countries and regions, never-before-seen installations, and the thought-provoking design forums.
Aside from well-known international brands and global design studios including Gufram, Zanotta, Ligne Roset, Rolf&Benz, RocheBobois, AYTM, what really captured my attention is the emerging Chinese scene, represented by both leading studios and new talents, and the high experiential and educational focus on materials, light and colors.
Speaking about the Chinese design scene, YANG DESIGN studio brought on the stage very meanigful insights. YANG DESIGN is one of leading product strategy and design consultancies in China. For Design Shanghai the studio created two inspiring and relevant exhibiting spaces, one designeted to its brand YANG HOUSE, dedicated to high quality lifestyle and one to its last annual report on China Design Trends. YANG HOUSE aims to create a touching experiences to define an advanced aesthetic of daily life based on the syncretism between traditional humanities and digital civilization, called “Essence of Objects”. The series of products include household, travel, office, dining utensils, space devices. YANG HOUSE won the Red Dot, GOOD DESIGN, the IDEA and China Design Power 100, among other design awards.
The second space is an enlightening journey through the evolution of the Chinese Design system.
The Studio created an installation to showcase their report’s contentes: 4 step of trend prediction methodology; an annual summery of the Chinese market, with a collection of six expert interviews from various fields; four design macro trends; a main palette of 5 colors, a sub-palette of 7 colors and 12 pieces of materials representing each macro trend.
Key features at Design Shanghai included a new ‘Talents’ initiative in support of emerging designers and the Collectibles Hall featuring limited edition and collectible design from around the world.
In the section dedicate to “Talents” I had the opportunity to discover and discuss with emerging designers, who I am very interested to know better in the near future.
Studio KAE is a young design consultation studio dedicated to bringing new insights into home products with innovative processes and sustainable materials. The studio’s philosophy is to develop unique design languages from the perspective of the relationship between industrial production and craftsmanship.
Very interesting is the conceptual work of Anne Zhou, of Studio Miman, who presented Kinesthetic Time, a series of three objects in constant motion and of which each interprets a unique aspect of internal time: increments of time, duration of time, and social time through kinesthetic empathy.
Our internal time is a biological clock that helps people to anticipate and adapt to the regular rhythm of the day.
In the Hall dedicated to Accessories & Objects, there was a selection of refined independent design with an original identity. EY-Products is an independent design brand founded by Jerry Huang and Eva Zhou in 2010 in Shenzhen, China. The studio name sounds closely to “unexpected pleasure” in Chinese; the founders decided to design small and beautiful items to bring surprises and pleasures to daily life inspiring a sense of harmony and closeness to nature.
As said before, the protagonists of the fair have been materials, light and colors.
Both renowned companies and young studios and professionals dedicated great attention to the topic of sustainability and materials innovation. NEUNI Design Group, founded in Shanghai in 2015, created a big installation to communicate the impact of materials on our planet and to bring the attention on sustainable innovation and technologies. NEUNI core business integrates the use of cutting-edge knowledge in interdisciplinary design, new materials applications and digital fabrication. Another example of the strong strategic, systemic, multidisciplinary and explorative approach of the new leading Chinese Design representatives.
An unusual and impressive interpretation of light comes from the Chinese MARIO TSAI STUDIO.
Founded in Hangzhou in 2014, it is a research-oriented studio whose core function is to explore the potential attributes of materials and new production methods while adhering to sustainable design principles, expressed in many different ways, from product design to art installations.
Mario Tsai was nominated for “Rising Star” in Stockholm Furniture&Lighting Fair in 2017 and selected for “Rising Talent” by Maison&Objet Paris in 2019. Its essence is based on a soft minimalism achieved using less materials and simple processes.
Another alluring space is the House of Wang, a Chinese design platform from Beijing, which showcased a collective of UK brands including Lee Broom, Bethan Gray, Apparatus and Sé. The combination of lights, materials and contemporary furniture, recreates home spaces charged of poetry, elegance, quality and dreams.
Besides offering the opportunity to meet and explore the most significant and leading Companies in the international Design scene, this event has represented for me the chance to depict an overview of the main directions of contemporary Chinese design and in particular to point out the strong commitment of young generations of designers to new values and innovative practices, based on deep research path and on a mature and meaningful hybridization of industrial, handcrafted and technological approaches.