As the canny, optimistic winners of this year’s Monocle Design Awards all demonstrate, staying on top of your game in any field requires the instincts of a true detective – and a curiosity to find out what makes the world tick, writes our editor in chief, Andrew Tuck.
Designers need a bit of Miss Marple in their dna. They have to be able to look at the clues around them in society and deduce where the world is headed, from how we want to work to the spaces where we yearn to live. Only then can they create the products, buildings and technology that will make our lives just that little bit better. But being in the vanguard of any industry these days also requires you to pause and contemplate some knotty issues – is what you are making good for the environment? Can it be repurposed or reused when tastes move on? In short, do we really need this? It’s a series of questions that can easily dampen the mood and lead to some worthy but slightly miserable outcomes. But somehow, as evidenced by the Monocle Design Awards 2023, designers are not only tackling the gritty stuff but are coming up with creations that offer plenty of joy too.
Our design editor, Nic Monisse, has been the chief organiser of this year’s Design Awards. Though the task has kept him in the office at all hours, he has taken it on with unabashed glee, while simultaneously pulling together our annual newspaper for Milan’s furniture fair, Salone del Mobile. Perhaps his optimism has been fuelled by the sunny, ambitious winners. There’s the office building in Vietnam festooned with greenery, an urban park in Indianapolis that not only provides a new place to play but helps to control floodwater too and some handsome seating built from wooden shipping crates. There’s also an architectural line-up that shows how modest materials, such as timber and brick, can be used to dazzling effect. It’s all very encouraging. And there’s something else important at play here: a sense that people are trying to create products that can be in our homes and lives for the long term. This matters because one of the simplest ways to do good is to make things that can be fixed and repaired, that look enhanced and loved by the patina of use, and that meaning can be attached to.
The design-theme train makes some other stops in this issue as we investigate its transformational powers. In the business pages, we get a lesson in branding as we look at how iconoclastic wine producers have dispatched with formality on their labels as they fight for shelf space – and a place on your dining table. We also head to Mipim, the world’s leading property fair, held in Cannes, to see how that industry is attempting to come good on the same sorts of questions as above (to be frank, some companies have some work to do). Then, in our Expo, we jump onboard the refurbished L’Arlecchino, a 1960s train redolent with the exuberance of that era’s jet-age outlook, as it heads from Rome to Naples. In our fashion pages, there’s a deep-dive by Natalie Theodosi into Copenhagen’s exciting scene – for both makers and retail.
Meanwhile, in the Agenda pages, I report on the boom in private members’ clubs in cities around the globe – even in places once deemed to be inhabited by folk who would never pay for such privileges. Some of these are venues for heady nights, while others are spots where freelancers can find a perch to work. But something more interesting emerged as I spoke to the players old and new in this flourishing industry: people who have been displaced from offices, not happy working alone at home, are after a sense of belonging. Clubs can offer this and make you feel part of a community. It is also clear that just as designers need to hone their detective skills to stay on top of their game, you need the same skills in hospitality (as well as in property and the wine trade) to stay relevant.
One simple fix? Read monocle, of course, or tune in to Monocle Radio. The station not only has a new name but has also had a total sonic refresh. And then there’s our new travel show, The Concierge, which brings you the best in hotels, rural retreats and undiscovered city neighbourhoods to explore. We are very proud of what the team has created. Thank you for being a monocle reader and, as always, feel free to drop me or any of our team a line with ideas, comments or recommendations. You can reach me at email@example.com. Have a great month.