Mirei Monticelli, Founder of StudioMirei, Milan

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As part of the effort to ICAD Design Days to stimulate deeper discussions with the design community on the nature of being a design professional and the values of our work as a collective, we reached out to various industry practitioners and stakeholders, seeking their perspectives on a series of thought-provoking questions on current issues in relation to the core values professionalism.

Mirei Monticelli, Founder of StudioMirei, Milan shares her views with us.


What should the relationship between the academia and the industry be? How are we able to bridge the gap between what the academia is producing and what the industry is demanding (skills/traits/attitude, etc.)?

It is a must for academy and industry to collaborate to have a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship and obtain the best of both worlds. Both practices are different – academia leans more towards theory, while the nature of the industry is to make things practical or commercial. The theory is that what academia produces must be put into practice by the industry, but at the same time, the industry must keep the academia updated on current trends or practices. In some cases, we see a big disconnection between academy and industry when collaboration is limited, and the students who come out of a program feel like they did not learn much because what they learned has become outdated.


What does “multidisciplinary” mean to you? In your practice/industry, do you think it is more important to be a “generalist” or a “specialist”, and why?

I don’t think that being one or another is better because it is a personal decision that should fit the lifestyle and personality of the artist or designer. In my case, I find it important, as well as interesting, to keep learning things outside of my specialty. I try to learn to love doing things that I don’t love because I know that someday I will make connections between these different fields. I like to think that there is still a long road ahead of me, and it’s important to be flexible and adapt to the needs of the times and learn as much as I can as I grow into this field.


How has your industry incorporated ethical practices, if there are any? Do you think ethical responsibilities fall on the shoulders of the artist/designers or the client, or both?

We as artists and designers are naturally creators, and there is a growing pressure to apply our skills in an ethical as well as aesthetical way. I would say that designers should play the part of having a transformative role in the society. If we look back at history, we see that a lot of past designers’ choices are affecting our present time drastically. In my personal experience, it took me a while to dive into the role of becoming an independent designer because I felt very conflicted by the impact that my practice could result in. I find it very important to design something that has value and creates meaning in other people’s lives. The Nebula lamp that I designed is very close to my heart because each piece represents the hard work and talent of a community of weavers that make its natural textile (banana-abaca). Each person who owns a piece knowingly or unknowingly is supporting the preservation of this textile tradition, helping a community of weavers and making sustainable choices.


Are the nature of awards and competitions still relevant today and why?

There is a good and a bad side to awards and competitions. I think they are fundamental to push the industry forward and expand the thinking process of designers / artists. More than the reward from winning an award, I think that it is the process of developing something that matters – especially if it is outside of one’s comfort zone. Awards and competitions bring fresh ideas and encourage new discoveries.

On the other hand, there are some competitions that tend to exploit designers by asking for an exorbitant entry fee and subconsciously ask the designers to work for free. If this is the case, it somehow cheapens the industry and the work of the designers.

What do you think is important for the arts practitioners/designers of the future to think about and challenge?

We are currently living in a historic event today that may change our ways and practices in a large scale. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic would force us to rethink about how to design our lives to keep humanity safe, how to protect our planet and to avoid this from happening again. This event would accelerate the development of technologies and processes. I think the challenge is how to keep up with these developments and incorporate them into our practice. At the same time, we should preserve our culture and tradition so that we do not lose our identity as a human race.