This article is written partially in response to the video posted by the lovely Grace Bonney from Design *Sponge expressing her disappointment with this years ICFF (international contemporary furniture fair) 2011 which you can see and read here, and partially are some of my own thoughts about the show.
Sadly for me the show was a terrible disappointment and although I am glad that I went and was able to find a handful of interesting things, I would have to think twice before again spending the $50 registration fee to attend.
On a positive note; what stood out most for me was to see so many more pieces that are now “American Made,” many locally from Brooklyn, NY and many many more from all around the USA. I think there is allot of entrepreneurial innovation happening in design right now where small and even big companies are making it worth their while not to have to produce overseas. In time I think their success will inspire more local manufacturing and with it will follow many more innovative designs that will be affordable and innovatively American.
In the meantime here are some thoughts I had about why I think, as Grace mentioned, unique and innovative designs, although plentifully exist, still seemed to be lacking at the show this year.
A. Generally Speaking – It is becoming more obvious that when choosing furniture and with regard to interior design, in general, Americans are aesthetically more conservative. Although she may disagree, I think the success of blogs such as Grace’s are because they appeal to the rather larger conservative audience. Since innovative designs more often tend to be visually unique, they often don’t fall in line with branded contemporaryism most Americas are used to and comfortable with. I think many of these innovative designers may feel that their work isn’t targeting the larger retail consumer and therefore may not feel they need to spend the time and or money to be there.
More on why I think Americans are aesthetically conservative to be posted soon.
Side note: Innovative design often is complex and unorthodox, and since most people won’t take the time to care for or appreciate them, for good innovative design to commercially succeed it has to be something people “just” like and not something that they have to be told why they should like it.
B. On matters of Cost -The cost for designers and manufacturers to attend these events are particularly high, and although it is true that many cannot afford to attend, in truth, if they did splurge and then added those expenses onto the price of their pieces I think it may make it more challenging for them to sell.
With the multitudes of blogs and magazines covering design it really isn’t so difficult for small companies to spend a few hours a week trying to contact these platforms to gain more press and thus visibility.
C. Innovation vs. Innovative – Small innovative designers often are artists wanting to only produce small quantities, allowing for their work to be more exclusive and therefore must compensate by demand higher prices. Like artist they rely on small galleries and designers to find and promote their work and whose business would fail if everyone knew where to find them.
Innovation on the other hand often relies on pricey technologies, possibly forcing designs to stay relatively conservative so they sell sooner, and although the aesthetic results can be more innovative it somehow becomes less important in the scheme of things. The only way that will change is if more people actually seek the innovative designs making it a product worth producing on a larger scale.
Side note: Displaying the unique and original work of small artistic designers at a big show allows the many larger companies to potentially copy and run with ideas that would thus kill the point and value.
Finally; I don’t want to discourage anyone from attending the show but rather I would like to encourage more people to seek out local designers who either cannot afford to attend a big show or who just may not want to and support their work. Obviously these trade shows are very important yet I think there are other, maybe better and more effective ways to promote your own work.
Over the next few weeks I will try and post some of my favorite pieces and designers from the show that I think were quite interesting and unique.