Master - Furniture Design Learning from the Italian Experience.
The furniture industry is undergoing profound transformation and therefore companies are reconsidering their product ranges, presence in international market, distribution channels, and product and brand communication. All this requires a strong upgrading of the skills of designers and their ability to relate to added value building.
The Master is based on the capacity of Italian companies, working in the furniture industry, to use design as a fundamental lever of competitive advantage and a structural element of corporate culture. The core of the program is focused on the knowledge generated from the advantageous relationships instilled between the Italian production system and the network of professions involved in design. The Master sets its cultural roots in the “Italian model” of rapport between enterprise and design, while also aiming to develop new knowledge in innovation that responds to the challenges posed by technological, social and market changes.
The program’s structure takes on a systemic vision of the role of design in the furniture industry, teaming new fields of interest to the traditional focus on product development, along with the growing importance of brands and its tangible and intangible elements of expression.
The Master course intends to form knowledgeable designers of the most advanced models of relationship between the product development processes, market dynamics and technological developments. It also intends to complete the training of professionals in R&D, marketing and brand management in the furniture sector, offering them a better understanding of design management skills as a lever to create a competitive advantage.
The Specializing Master is based on practical activities with the participation of some of the most prominent Italian furniture companies and international designers.
Students will work on real problems related to contemporary challenges of the industry, starting from real project briefs from the partner companies.
The Specializing Master in Furniture Design provides the following types of training activities:
Introductory and specialized lessons, entrusted to a highly qualified faculty, composed of teachers from the Politecnico di Milano, professionals from the industry and experts from the business world. The lessons will introduce and go deeper into the various aspects of contemporary design and will give an overview of methods and tools intended to innovate and manage added value through design.
Seminars and meetings with designers and companies that will bring participants into direct contact with the protagonists of Italian design.
Project work in small teams starting from project briefs from partner companies with the support of professionals and experts from within the industry.
Practical activities through workshops to acquire physical and digital modelling and rendering skills.
Professional experience by way of internship at companies and professional studios (minimum 300 hours), with the aim of experimenting and expanding the skills acquired during the Master.
The course is divided into the following modules:
1. Italian Furniture Design and Manufacturing Module
1.1 3D Modeling and Rendering
The course introduces 3D modeling and rendering tools and techniques for product design, based on the most common software programs. Teaching will be based on introductory lectures and on exercises meant to transmit practical skills.
1.2 Introduction to Italian Design, Technologies and Materials
The course combines a short cycle of lectures meant to provide an overview of the history of contemporary Italian design and a short cycle of lectures meant to introduce the basics of technologies and materials in the furniture sector. The latter offers an overview of the main production cycles and models in the furniture industry, and introduces notions of product engineering for designers as well as notions about environmental sustainability and tools for its management (life-cycle design and assessment, design for assembly / disassembly).
1.3 Italian Furniture Design and Manufacturing
The course aims at providing an understanding of the relationship between designers and Italian furniture companies. It will illustrate by way of case studies, seminars with designers and companies, and visits to companies and points of sale, the use of tacit and explicit productive knowledge to create added value, and advanced customer-supplier relationships as elements of characterization of the Italian production model. Moreover, visits to factories will enable students to see in real-life contexts the manufacturing processes illustrated in the previous course.
2. Product Design and Engineering Module
2.1 Ideation and concept design
The course focuses on the initial stages of the innovation process. It proposes a practical exercise that starts with a design brief, passes through a phase of context analysis (socio-technical and competitive landscape, opportunities and constraints) and concludes with the development of innovative conceptual solutions.
2.2 New Product Development
The course focuses on the development of new products, linked to the concrete needs of partner companies, who provide briefings and support for students during project development. It aims at developing the capacity to manage design requirements and product development tools within a learning-by-doing framework.
2.3 Product Engineering
The course provides an overview of the issues and tools related to detailed design, including physical and digital prototyping. The course is primarily focused on the final steps of the design process and aims at developing the capacity of designers to anticipate engineering problems and manage the collaboration with technicians and suppliers operating in the furniture manufacturing process. It is structured around a learning-by-doing exercise, which will give the opportunity to experiment manual and digital prototyping techniques.
2.4 Design for Manufacturing
The course provides an overview of the problems connected to the optimization of manufacturing of newly designed products. It is primarily focused on design for manufacturing, and introduces approaches for the early detection of manufacturability issues (simultaneous engineering), as well as practical tools. The lectures will be complemented with the presentation of case studies and with an exercise meant to experiment the application of process and product optimization principles on an already designed product.
2.5 Shapes, Surfaces and Colours
The course aims at providing skills for the integrated management of shape, color and finishing in the furniture field. It introduces CMF (Color, Finish and Material) design as a new area of expertise in the furniture industry. The course is divided into introductory lessons, case studies that exemplify the different areas of application (from characterization and renewal of product collections to environments), and exercises meant to practically learn how to use those methods and tools.
3. Design Strategies Module
3.1 Design and Brand Direction
The course introduces strategic design, design direction and management approaches and tools. It will provide an understanding of the logics behind brand positioning and brand identity management, working towards a coherent design of the elements of brand expression (product portfolio, presence at the point of sale, communication tools and services). Lectures and case studies will be complemented with an exercise, in which students will be asked to give shape to an innovation strategy, based on the “Ten Types of Innovation” framework.
4. Communication, Retail, Service and Exhibition Design Module
4.1 Digital Media and E-commerce
The course introduces the strategies and tools for digital media management and the issues and perspectives of digital distribution channels. In addition to introductory lessons, the course proposes a project conducted together with the support of a partner company.
4.2 Retail, Service and Exhibition Design
The course introduces retail issues (channel types, presence format etc.), sales organization (layout, atmosphere, styling etc.), service design (service and experience design) and integration between tangible and digital experience design. It includes lessons, seminars, site visits and targeted design exercises.
Extra didactic activities:
The Master provides complementary elective teaching activities, meant to reinforce the manual skills of the students (manual sketching and sketch modeling), to give support for the preparation of personal portfolios, and to provide stronger transversal skills (inter-personal and intra-personal skills). With reference to this last objective, the Master proposes a mentoring and coaching programme in collaboration with Fondazione Franco Albini, based on the Albini method that gives students a unique occasion to clarify their long-term objectives with a view to individual and collective achievements.
Moreover, the Master provides complementary activities to the teaching, which aim at making the Master an experience of going into Italian design as a socio-cultural system connecting places, events and networks of people. These activities, which are not mandatory but strongly recommended, will take place mainly in the evening, outside the university and under the responsibility of participants. In particular, the Master will propose:
Visits to museums and temporary exhibitions;
Participation in events;
Active participation in the Milan Design Week (Salone and Fuorisalone), through agreements with the organizers.
At the end of the programme, once the final examination has been passed, the 1st level Specializing Master in Furniture design. Learning from the Italian experience diploma will be issued, with the related achievement of 60 CFU/ECTS.
The master seeks to train international designers for companies and design studios working in the international market, in Italy and abroad.
The program trains students for the following roles in the Furniture Industry:
Designers or Leaders of Product Development Teams;
Product Engineers or technical experts in the design of furnishing elements;
Product Portfolio Managers;
Design Managers or Art/Design Directors;
Communication and Brand Managers.