On October 6 last year Slow Food Italia, in collaboration with the design faculty, Domus Academy, the European Design Institute and the University of Gastronomic Sciences, organized a one-day ‘Slow+Design’ seminar on the ‘slow approach to distributed economy and sustainable sensoriality’ in Milan.
The event sought an answer to two questions: what can design learn from the Slow model? How can design contribute to the success of the Slow model, again inside and outside the food world? Judging from recent press coverage, its impact is starting to be felt outside Italy only now.
Ezio Manzini of Milan Polytechnic and Giacomo Mojoli Slow Food Italia favor a more strategic approach to design, focusing on every aspect, from product systems to sustainable, quality products offering satisfying sensory experiences. The slow approach, they argue, is rooted in local communities and organizations, but at once needs to be international and to form global networks.
As they wrote in the seminar program:
‘Above all, the slow approach means the simple, but in current times revolutionary, affirmation that it is not possible to produce and appreciate quality if we do not allow ourselves the time to do so, in other words, if we do not activate some kind of slowdown. However, slow does not only mean this. It also means a concrete way of actually putting this idea into practice. It means cultivating quality: linking products and their producers to their places of production and to their end-users who, by taking part in the production chain in different ways, become themselves co-producers.’
Under the ‘sustainable’, ‘eco’ and ‘green’ design labels, these ideas have been long carried forward by professionals, but mainly in Western Europe and Australia. If Slow Design is to succeed globally, it needs to catch on in the USA too.
The only ‘American’ presentation at the Milan seminar was made by Carolyn Strauss of New York City’s slowLab, an emerging nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote ‘slowness’ as a positive catalyst for networks and collaborative projects, such as Slow Water by Cranbrook 3-D students (‘a table water system that delivers water at a speed determined by the liveliness and activity at the table itself’) and Project Alabama, or Alabama Chanin (which ‘creates projects that reflect a wide range of disciplines, from sustainable clothing and home furnishings to limited edition jewelry’), by Natalie Chanin.
Slowly but surely, then, Slow + Design is beginning to attract attention. But can it be a new formula for the future? Maybe: as Manzini pointed out at the Milan seminar, it offers design an opportunity to solve some of the problems it has helped to create.