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Milan Design Week: Lessons From Topflight Designers

Yves Behar, Naoto Fukasawa, Daniel Liebeskind, and others share their hard-earned wisdom.

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Thousands of new products were launched last week in Milan. Amid all the brouhaha, I asked some of the world’s most influential designers to pause, look back, and reflect on the designs lessons they’ve learned. Below are tips from the pros.

Yves Béhar:

“Ship only when you’re absolutely ready, when you’re 100% sure you have the best possible experience, the best possible product. There seems to have been, in the past few years, a pressure to do things quickly. And to be very expedient and to put it out there and see what happens. But I think it’s just the reverse. You only have one chance to launch, and you only have one chance to get people to love and appreciate what you do. If it takes a few more months, the company will never suffer from that, despite what marketing and sales will tell you.”

Jasper Morrison:

Jasper Morrison’s Hal chair, for Vitra

“At the end of one of these fairs in the late ’80s I was getting on a plane and I found myself next to [Italian furniture designer] Vico Magistretti. I was feeling really bad and not enjoying this job at all, not feeling creative, and I was trying and nothing was coming out. And he said, ‘We are so lucky, we have the best job in the world, we are free to just draw and create things.’ I was so shocked he said that, and I realized that it would change everything. I reviewed my whole way of working to make it enjoyable. It’s old sports advice: just relax and just do it. If you’re trying too hard you’ll be tensed up and miss the ball. I just relaxed. But it took awhile; it wasn’t a switch.”

Hella Jongerius:

Hella Jongerius for Vitra

“Design is never ready. If my product is launched, I know the next day what I would change–if I had one hour more, or day more, or year more. Some things are never finished. And it gives design oxygen, when something is never finished. There’s always something you could do better.”

Daniel Libeskind:

“Just look at a flower. Look at the beauty of a flower. Look how the stems and leaves form a perfect background. The beauty of something so mystical, that’s really true design.”

Naoto Fukasawa:

Cha Teapot by Naoto Fukasawa for Alessi

“I think designers should focus on observing the spontaneous behavior of the people to find out what they actually want to have, and to touch–not just the mind. People focus on the customer using his mind, but each mind is different. The body is kind of the same for interacting. The body is more honest than the mind.”

Konstantin Grcic:

“Design is about life and life is out there, right in front of us. The lesson is to observe, to be attentive, to be alert about everything that is going on, out in real life.”

More Co.Design coverage of Milan Design Week:

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About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.

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