This is a time of existential re-examination for the purveyors of design magazines. On the one hand, it is our mandate and great pleasure to seek out and showcase the very best in product design, which is the focus of this edition, our annual Product Issue. On the other, there is also way too much stuff in the world, a lot of it superfluous and unsustainably made, the weight of it all threatening to tax our planet — perhaps beyond recovery — through excessive waste, rampant carbon emissions and insidious new forms of pollution (think microplastics in our oceans).
Fortunately, many designers and manufacturers are also confronting this duality, balancing the imperative to create and innovate with the need to do so responsibly. It is these types of players that we’ve chosen to highlight on the following pages, their conscientious methods of working — even when it involves mass production —offering a feasible way forward.
Take +Halle, the Danish contract-furniture company profiled by Elizabeth Pagliacolo. Aiming to redefine the way that its lines are conceived and rolled out, +Halle enlists a rotating roster of global studios to collaborate on their creation, ultimately distilling their individual perspectives into surprisingly cohesive collections that are far from cookie-cutter. In the realm of home furnishings, meanwhile, the Canadian brand EQ3, admired on its home turf for its thoughtfully curated product range, recently launched a major expansion into key U.S. markets, betting that its quality-driven ethos will resonate with an even wider audience.
And then there are the ongoing efforts by a host of major design brands to tackle the problem of unrestrained plastics use, a phenomenon detailed by Susan Nerberg in “The Future of Plastic.” Among the most potentially revolutionary are those being explored by Kartell, the Italian manufacturer whose entire reputation and business model is based on the creation of plastic furniture.
Although Kartell has always marketed its pieces, from Philippe Starck’s iconic Ghost chair to Marcel Wanders’s Stone stools, as collectors’ items meant to be kept for a long time, it has nonetheless started experimenting with alternatives to the material, including a new bioplastic derived from food waste.
To some critics — including Belgian academic Jan Boelen, cited in Nerberg’s article — such initiatives are akin to, well, a mere drop in the ocean. Be that as it may, they are also very necessary, the first concerted baby steps on the road to more permanent solutions. As Boelen himself tells Azure, plastic is “a good material that lasts for a long time, but we’re not designing things to last.” Finally, that may be changing.
– Danny Sinopoli, Editor
Azure Editor Danny Sinopoli introduces the 2020 Products Issue.