Corona virus – Few days before the now scrapped Milan Design Week 2020 should have kicked off, architecture and design magazine Dezeen launches Virtual Design Festival, a digital platform for companies eager to launch their new products as Milan Design Week and other fairs have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Joining the virtual event the companies will have the chance to present their novelties with digital launches, talks and interviews. Some will be promoted by Dezeen, some will not be charged.
Virtual Design Festival had been put on hold with editor in chief Marcus Fairs’ publicly apologising following accuses from the Italian and global design community for wanting to capitalise on a terrible tragedy at the expenses of the people of Milan. Actually, the event was initially called Virtual Milan but then swiftly renamed Virtual Design Festival to placate the trolling and to reset the message in a less aggressive and more positive tone.
“We never for one minute intended it to be disrespectful to the city of Milan, its community and its current suffering amid the Coronavirus pandemic.” Wrote Fairs in a post where he admitted the whole thing was “the wrong thing to do“. “We didn’t think of it as a competitive move against Salone del Mobile or any of the other Milanese design platforms, but rather as something to support the global design community at this difficult time. […] Our thoughts are with everyone during this terrible time. Please stay safe and let’s all stay connected.”
Still, for many readers, the apologies might not be enough. Jimmy MacDonald, Founder of London Design Fair wrote: “Marcus, adding an apology to the end of a multi-story newsletter is not going to cut it. The Italians will not forgive you until you make good. Those that say you have apologised so move on clearly don’t understand Italy. Italian brands and fairs have made Dezeen what it is today. It’s time to GIVE something back and fast, or you will lose their patronage.”
Despite all that, the Virtual Design Festival will kick off anyway. At Archipanic we believe the tool Dezeen put forward is useful and needed. And given the energy and resources it will require as well as the expertise and the influential role of the magazine, it is fair Dezeen – a for-profit business – gets paid for the effort. Is Dezeen trying to substitute Milan Design Week by offering his services? Let’s see!