Talking design

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It’s not often you get to spend the best part of a month talking design with large groups. At DEVELOP3D Live and during a trip to Milan Design Week Al Dean got to do just that and learned a few things along the way

DEVELOP3D LIVE keynote speaker, Philip Norman of Ross Robotics

After months of planning and organising, DEVELOP3D Live, which took place at the end of March, has now been and gone.

If you made it out for the day, you’ll have joined over 1,000 other folks to learn about the state of the art in design and engineering technology and heard from a range of speakers practicing those arts in their day to day jobs.

D3D Live is always a curious event for those of us behind the scenes. We seem to spend much of it running around like headless chickens trying to find a speaker that’s gone missing or to track down an obscure connector for someone’s ageing laptop.

But between those panic inducing moments, we also get to catch up with folks we’ve met along the way or talk to visitors about the work they do. It’s those bits, in my opinion, that are the most enjoyable.


Following the whirlwind of the show and its aftermath, I got to spend a few days in the workshop preparing content for the next few issues before getting on the road again for my first trip to Salone del Mobile, or as it’s often known, Milan Design Week.

Ever since starting out as a product design student, I’ve always wanted to visit and had great expectations of what I’d see — but I wasn’t prepared for just how large the scale of it is.

Spread across large swathes of downtown Milan, you’re greeted on every street corner with a temporary exhibition whether it be crammed into shops, warehouses or pretty much any available space.

What I found fascinating was that, for one week, an entire city is full of folks interested in design — and design in the broadest sense, but always focussing on physical products.

There were the huge, mega brands like Toyota, eBay, Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Samsung and Intel, to name but a few, co-existing with smaller companies doing equally, if not more intriguing things.

At the legendary SuperStudio event, JLR was sitting alongside small-scale, high concept Italian furniture design while Biomega Bicycles, with its product that looks as stunning in real life as it does in photographs, sitting next to eBay.

For someone that not only trained in design, but is a true enthusiast for it in all its forms, it was a treat for the senses.

The conclusion that I came to was that, in this world of electronic communications, it’s a nice alternative to meet up in person, to talk, to enthuse, to learn and to connect with folks doing interesting things.

What I also learned was that there’s a distinctly different way in which things are working today. Traditionally, design, engineering and manufacturing has been a secretive business.

That’s shifted dramatically in the last few years. People are still carrying out their day to day tasks, but also working on side projects like never before and businesses are being established as a result.

Designers and engineers are becoming more open to collaboration, to networking and sharing what they’re doing as their work progresses.

Perhaps the best example I’ve seen of this in the last few months was the team from Mayku, a London-based company who are on a mission to build the world’s first desktop factory. We were delighted to have them on stage at D3D Live, sharing their ideas and their forthcoming Kickstarter campaign.

I was then even more delighted to see them swamped by intrigued members of the audience afterwards.

So, after a successful show, the D3D Live team have recuperated enough to start planning next year’s one. 28 March 2017. Save the date now.

From Warwick to Milan, Al Dean immerses himself in all things design

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