Symposium: The Global Shift – Who shapes the future of design?

15 April 2015, 2pm – 6pm, Palazzo Clerici, Milano

At the start of the 21st century, major shifts in global power structures coincide – and possibly correlate – with a mounting discussion around the potential of design. The Vitra Design Museum’s current exhibition »Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design« suggests that African design and art can make a unique contribution to this discussion. To delve deeper into this subject matter, the Vitra Design Museum brings together prominent thinkers and designers from the Global North and the Global South for a day of discussions and lectures.

The speakers explore pertinent areas of contemporary design discourse such as the future of production, social design and the merger of analogue and digital technologies. The question at hand: Can concepts that originate outside our traditional, Western-centric understanding of design offer an entirely new perspective and perhaps more relevant approaches in addressing today’s challenges?

During the Salone del Mobile 2015, the historic Palazzo Clerici at Milan’s city centre will become a point of intense activity, speculation and discussion around future conditions of living. A diverse array of installations, micro-exhibitions and events organised by some of Europe’s most renowned designers and institutions will animate the palazzo each day. Further participants are Domus Academy, Dirty Furniture, Jesse Howard, Maniera, Minale-Maeda, OpenDesk, PIN-UP, PROKOSS + Space Caviar, PROOFFLab Magazine, SYNOPSIS, Unfold, Vincent Tarisien and Z33 and more. 

On our youtube channel you find films of all the talks!



2 pm | Introduction
Amelie Klein, Curator, Vitra Design Museum

2:15 pm | Part 1
The Future of Production
Keynote: Mugendi M’Rithaa
Discussion: Peter Mabeo, Ville Kokkonen, Mario Minale
and Tahir Karmali with Amelie Klein

3:30 pm | Part 2
Design as a Social and Political Tool
Keynote: Anil Gupta
Discussion: Basma Hamdy and Corinna Gardner
with Joseph Grima

4:30 pm | Part 3
The Analogue/Digital Merger
Keynote: Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid
Discussion: Indy Johar and Thibault Brevet with Jan Boelen

6 pm | Aperitivo in the Courtyard



Researcher and educator Mugendi M’Rithaa combines local and international perspectives on design in Africa – he is a professor of industrial design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town and the president-elect of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID). An expert thinker on participatory design methods, he discusses the hacker and maker mentality that places African designers at the forefront of contemporary issues in design.

Peter Mabeo is a furniture manufacturer based in Botswana who has collaborated with international contemporary designers such as Patricia Urquiola and Claesson Koivisto Rune on sustainable, humanely produced pieces and interior design projects that celebrate African craft heritage and support local craft economies.

Finnish designer Ville Kokkonen looks back at over 10 years of working with leading international companies in the field of design and technology, focusing on strategic design, research and product development. Among his clients were Nokia, Iittala, UPM and Comme des Garçons but perhaps most notably boutique furniture company Artek, where he was design director from 2005 until 2014.

Mario Minale is one half of the up-and-coming Rotterdam-based Studio Minale Maeda. The studio is interested in the effects of consumerism and design’s potential to improve quality of life, as well as the possibilities of both mass-production and skilled craftsmanship. The studio has collaborated with a variety of companies and craftsmen, from the likes of Droog and Skitsch to traditional weavers and upholsterers in Italy and porcelain crafters in Japan.

Kenyan-born photographer and mixed-media artist Tahir Karmali lives and works in New York. In his collages, he explores the methods and strategies employed in the do-it-yourself and maker culture of East Africa. Based on an intricate, self-organizing community of largely informally trained mechanics, welders and woodworkers, among others, it is a fascinating phenomenon born out of necessity.

Amelie Klein is a curator at the Vitra Design Museum. Her most recent curatorial work is the current exhibition »Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design«, which brings together the work of 120 designers, illustrating how design is accompanying – and even promoting – economic and political change on the African continent.

Anil Gupta is a professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedebad and has become one of the most admired thinkers in social design worldwide. The Honey Bee Network, a new social movement he founded in the late 1980s, collects and disseminates grassroots green innovations and traditional knowledge and helps facilitate and spread these throughout India and elsewhere by supporting those who are rich in knowledge, but not in resources.

Basma Hamdy is an Egyptian designer and professor who has been teaching design in the Middle East for nine years. Her research focus includes cultural preservation, Arabic Type Design and Egyptian Pop Culture with a special interest in art and design that has transformative power within communities, societies and nations.

Corinna Gardner is curator of contemporary product design at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Gardner has worked with colleagues to introduce Rapid Response Collecting as a new strand to the museum’s collecting activities.

Joseph Grima is an architect, writer and editor based in Genoa, Italy. He is a founder of Space Caviar, a design research collaborative operating at the intersection of architecture, technology, politics and the public realm. Grima has previously edited Domus magazine and directed Storefront for Art and Architecture, an independent gallery in New York. In 2012, he was co-curator of the first edition of the Istanbul Design Biennial.

Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid, is a NewYork-based composer, multimedia artist and writer. He suggests that recycling should be referred to as »remixing«, an act of sampling and recomposing information or material. He describes this as a quintessentially African practice. His recently published anthology »The Imaginary App« explores the cultural and technological shifts that have accompanied the emergence of the mobile app. The publication questions whether an app is an object or a relation, and probes if it could be a »metamedium« that supersedes all other artistic media.

Indy Johar is an architect and co-founder of the London-based studio 00, a collaborative of architects, strategic designers, programmers, social scientists, economists and urban designers practising design beyond its traditional borders. He is a serial co-founder of social ventures including and and is a director of Data Science London and an advisor to the Earth Security Initiative.

Designer Thibault Brevet’s work – physical devices that are employed as a medium – is strongly influenced by his studies in engineering and physics. His Grand Central project of 2012 is an experimental social exploration through the combined mediums of art and machine, while the self-destructible interactive chair DRM of 2013 collapsed after being sat on eight times. Brevet works as an interaction designer at the EPFL-ECAL Lab in Switzerland.

Trained product designer Jan Boelen currently holds the position of artistic director of Z33, house for contemporary art in Hasselt, Belgium, a contemporary art and design exhibition space. He is head of the masters department »Social Design« and the master »Design Curating and Writing« at the Design Academy Eindhoven (NL) and and curated BIO50, the 24th Biennial of Design in
Ljubljana (SI), in 2014.