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Salone del Mobile.Milano, Italy’s prestigious design and furniture fair is scheduled to take place this year from April 16th to 21st, along with the biannual kitchen exposition EuroCucina and International Bathroom Exhibition (which alternate with the Euroluce lighting showcase every other year). Launched in 1961 as a vehicle to promote the country’s furnishing and accessories industries, the Salone Internazionale del Mobile—rebranded with the aforementioned name in 2018—has long been one of the most successful and anticipated design events in the world. Last year, it hosted 2,000 international exhibitors and more than 300,000 attendees from 181 countries. It was at that 2023 Salone, too, that the winds of change began to infiltrate the city’s well-trod fair grounds with a more visitor-friendly approach to the trade show experience.

At a recent “Road to Salone” tour in New York—one of nearly a dozen pre-show events for press, architects and designers throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia—an entourage of Salone representatives led by the organization’s president Maria Porro (who also leads the marketing team at her family business, the 90-year-old furniture brand Porro) gave some insight into how the show is changing and what attendees can look forward to at its upcoming 62nd edition.

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A new promotional campaign features AI-generated graphics that correspond to dialogs with the design community. Image courtesy Salone del Mobile.Milano

“A lot of things changed after the pandemic, and we realized that trade fairs also need to be rethought,” said Porro. “Salone is 61 years old. While it’s important to respect what it represents, we realize it needs to evolve.” Working with the Milanese architecture, design, and branding studio Lombardini22, Porro and the Salone team zeroed in on the site’s general layout to improve wayfinding and its general logistics. At the same time, they considered how they might better reinforce the commercial raison d’etre of the trade fair—the presentation, sale, and purchase of new products—with compelling social and educational components for the design community and general public.  

Modeled on an idealized urban plan with plazas, museums, restaurants and gathering places, the redesign was introduced last year at the Euroluce pavilion, exceeding expectations with an 87 percent attendee approval rating. In addition to the improved placement of the actual manufacturer booths and convenient areas to convene, eat and relax, new features included exhibitions and installations that explored the history and technology of lighting design, as well as its relationship to architecture. There was also a central arena for programs featuring architects like Snøhetta and Shigeru Ban that, according to Porro, were well attended. “We also had a book shop and library, which Salone never had,” she said, adding, “We will have another one this year—but in a more prime position.”

Along with the better-situated book shop, all of these changes will be evident throughout the grounds at the fair’s 2024 edition: the biggest design companies will be concentrated in one area; SaloneSatellite, a showcase for young designers celebrating its 25th anniversary, will be located next to an entrance and free to the public; and there will be installations, exhibitions, and presentations in every pavilion addressing topics such as sustainability to trigger discussion between the business and design cultures. The “talks” will also continue in the arena with a soon-to-be-released schedule of speakers.

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Revamped pavilions for EuroCucina (1) and the International Bathroom Exhibition (2) will be easier to navigate with central installations and event spaces plus ample dining venues. Images courtesy Salone del Mobile.Milano

The Salone del Mobile.Milano leadership plans to announce more details about its 62nd edition later this month. In the meantime, look out for a colorful promotional campaign created by Publicis Group that takes advantage of artificial intelligence to generate a series of changing graphics—all corresponding to dialogues with the design community. It is meant to represent a greater conversation Porro and her colleagues hope to stimulate at this forthcoming and future editions of the fair.