A conclusive and synthetic contribution to the works of the EDF Symposium must
necessarily examine several of the emerging characteristics and issues of
contemporary design which, though it must work within a global cultural and
market approach, has a vital need to protect or to build (re-build) a speciﬁc
methodological and disciplinary horizon, as well as a local identity, both
national and European.
Over the past two days a number of useful and important issues have emerged
that can help to focus the theory and practice of design within a context
like the one we must deal with today, inﬂuenced internationally by
radical economic, social and cultural transformations: some concern the relationship
with the market and the organization of production; others involve new consumer
trends; others again have to do with the role and signiﬁcance of design
And in a way that is different from the past, the production of artifacts
within the contemporary ‘economics of symbolism’ involves a variety
of subjects, each according to his own speciﬁc characteristics and
skills, from the manufacturer to communication to distribution.
ISSUES IN CONTEMPORARY DESIGN
Based on these premises, this lecture has been divided into two parts, each of
them related from a different point of view. The ﬁrst deals with and
reﬂects upon several issues that arose from the two intense days of
work; the second provides a synthesis of several elements concerning the history
and the current state of Italian industrial design, which I think may be considered
a paradigm for understanding the future of European design in a globalized
context. The Italian example and model appear particularly signiﬁcant,
and strictly related to Europe, because of the common identity towards a quality
project (perhaps not always on the question of quantity), and also because
in Italy, within the context of internationalized labour, there are many European
designers at work who ﬁnd the ideal conditions for their design expressions
and intentions in its cultural and productive context.
Over the past two days, a variety of issues has come under consideration: the
relationship between design, manufacturer, business and market; the increasing
importance of public relations issues, involving the product and the overall
design system; the impact of design on the environment, city and public spaces;
design in relation to the places where it is taught, and where its history
and memory are conserved, protected and cultivated.
The lecture by Koenraad Debackere proved particularly interesting. In dealing
with the relationship between design and innovation, he raised the interesting
question of how technological innovation prevails, though it is not always
followed by a corresponding design innovation. What then do we mean by innovation?
It can be typological, functional, esthetic, or related to use; at times there
is a risk, however, of confusing it with fashion, or the search for something
new at all costs.