Design in Crisis: How Economic Bust Has Redefined the Value of High Design

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An Italian design legend considers the positive effects that the world’s financial crisis has had on luxury design.

Design in Crisis: How Economic Bust Has Redefined the Value of High Design
The Paraiso development on Biscayne Bay, where construction on Lissoni’s One Paraiso Tower broke ground in December

The disastrous results of the global economic meltdown cannot be exaggerated, but it is too easy to view the state of affairs in which design now finds itself in a wholly negative light. In fact, the last several years have been a period of productive innovation for manufacturers, developers, and designers willing to extend their reach into unfamiliar territories.

Before 2008, the design world had a fixed center—Italy. For most of the second half of the twentieth century, the country that produced the likes of Giò Ponti and Michele De Lucchi was synonymous with quality design and cultivated consumption. When you look at Italian design, however, it isn’t possible to simply discuss the work of Italian designers. In Italy, the manufacturers are the other half of the equation—they are responsible for nurturing and taking a chance on new, younger talents while also upholding the legacy of classic Italian design.

Since the crisis, these same manufacturers have been forced to expand their vision to look beyond their own borders. More and more have, in recent years, adopted an increasingly open-minded approach, actively seeking out new energies from countries and markets far-flung from the factories and galleries of Milan or once considered to be incompatible with quality design. In the last decade, manufacturers such as Cappellini—and, more recently, Flos—have helped to promote designers like the Bouroullec brothers and Jasper Morrison. []

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