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Paris Design Week 2017

Paris Design Week is an international feast of design taking place in the very heart of the French capital. This year, the organizers proposed seven main themes around which exhibitions and shows were centred. These themes indicate the most important areas that are worth looking at (and not just in the design category).

The themes of the Design Week included solutions focusing on: #art, #food, # savoir-faire, #fashion, #projets, #design en construction, and #upcycling. Displays and exhibitions (this year there were more than 250 exhibitors) were located in different districts of Paris and to see them all, one would really have had to spend the whole week at the fair. Unfortunately, I had a limited time for my visit, so from a long list I chose only a dozen or so places and exhibits that seemed the most interesting. Here are the most interesting places I’ve seen.

1) keywords: #senses, #experiences

Many exhibits have focused on areas relating to the senses and the sphere of physical experience (from which we increasingly separate ourselves when we function more and more in the digital reality). One of the most interesting exhibits was the “Scents of the City” installation, created by Thalys (a train operator). The most typical scents from 4 cities – Paris, Amsterdam, Kiel and Brussels – were collected and placed in special “tubes”. Everyone could smell the scents of a particular city and travel there by closing their eyes and using only their own nose. For example, in Amsterdam, the smell of coffee shops intertwined with the smell of tulips, hibiscus tea and latex. Paris smelled of coffee, hot chocolate, macaroons and make-up powder. For me, it was a fantastic trip, and the best thing about it was that each scent composition was different and new every time. The wealth of possible scent combinations was infinite and different for everybody.

* Interestingly, I have recently learned that research shows that for the youngest generation the smell of real chocolate is the smell of… Nutella.

Installation of “Scents of the City” by Thalys.

2) keywords: #wellbeing, #work

Kwerk is an office and co-working space, which during the Paris Design Week was open to the public. Thus I had the opportunity to see what wellbeing meant in practice, and how to think using categories that focus on employees and their needs. From the fact that desks and chairs were designed here for specific people (e.g. their height or preferences) to the fact that the ceiling was fully glazed to provide daylight that is good for our well-being. More than 300 different plant species were grown there (because green is calming, as my guide and office worker here told me), there were yoga rooms and a library where you could read in peace, as well as spaces with large tables where whole groups of people could work together on projects. The staff could also take advantage of three terraces (overlooking the Eiffel Tower), where on rain-free days you could also work, lunch or meet with your business partners.

Space at one of the kitchens, where you can drink coffee or meet with business partners.

Conference room, which is also a library.

* According to the JLL report, 96% of the 6,500 surveyed organizations have already introduced elements of employee wellbeing, and as many as three quarters of them plan to expand this offering within the next two years as they see productivity improvements among their employees.

Other exhibits also took up issues related to broadly understood #wellbeing. During Now!Off! a specially designed armchair, cancelling environmental noise and encouraging relaxation, was very popular with the visitors.

3) keywords: #recycling, #beinggood, #designing for good

Now! le Off exhibition was an opportunity to see, next to exhibits by young artists, offerings from famous brands or even companies not connected with design, presenting their solutions or the effects of cooperation with artists, designers or students of art colleges. One of the most important topics (and at the same time one of the seven leading themes of the event) was recycling and many of the works referred to it. I saw ways to use pineapple leaves (which can imitate leather), crab shells, coconut shells, or salmon skin. New textiles can be reused for the construction of partition walls in offices or for making boats. Recycling was associated with the #designing for good theme and was one of the most important topics during #PDW2017.

Aleksandra Trapp
head of research

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