I wanted to start off this week’s ICFF coverage with something uplifting and exciting and full of exuberance about what I’d seen at this year’s show. But sadly this year’s ICFF wasn’t the show I hoped it would be. I spent most of yesterday agonizing about how to handle the coverage and at the end of the day (literally) I decided a video response felt like the best way to talk about what I saw. When I came home I felt agitated and frustrated and disappointed at what I felt was a show of people mainly playing it safe. Either by failing to push trends further or by leaning too hard on classic designs that have been staples since the 1950s and 60s. And that’s not the design community that I know and love. I know that there are amazing designers out there, pushing themselves to do something different and innovative. A handful of them were at the show this year, but for the most part it felt like those people doing exciting things weren’t (or couldn’t be) there.
I will the best first to admit that I have high standards for the design community. I have those standards because I have seen how inspiring this community can be and have been continually pushed and excited by this community’s work for my entire working life so far. So rather than just being disappointed I wanted to discuss these issues here this morning in hopes of starting a dialogue. A dialogue about the state of the design right now and the state of design fairs/shows. After thinking about the issues with yesterday’s show for hours and hours I came away wondering if this wasn’t just a symptom of a larger issue: younger companies not being able to afford to participate in these larger shows. So I sat down in my bedroom last night and recorded my thoughts in hopes that you’ll join me with your responses. My biggest issues are:
- Are large (and expensive) design fairs obsolete? Are their costs so high that smaller/independent/innovative designers can’t participate?
- Is there room for creativity in a tough economy? Or should we expect less innovation when people might need to play it safe to pay the bills?
- Should design fairs have an online component that allows these younger or more innovative companies to have a voice on this bigger platform?
- Should we expect less excitement from these shows and rely more on the edgier off-site shows for the big “WOW” moments?
I’d love to hear your thoughts this morning. Did you attend the fair this year? If so, what did you think? And more importantly: where do YOU think innovation is happening and what do you think the future of larger design fairs is? I hope this dialogue can spark some ideas that help shows like this stay alive, stay relevant and stay exciting. I would love nothing more than to see platforms like ICFF thrive and continue to be a place where people who love design can come to be inspired and excited and leave feeling hopeful about the state of the design world at large.
All this said, I did see some things I liked at the show this year and will start that coverage next. I wanted to get these thoughts out of the way first so I didn’t have to bring any negativity or doubt into a post about design I really enjoyed. Thanks for listening and thanks for your feedback. xo, grace
UPDATE: Megan Auman did a great response video here.