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At fairs in London, Paris,
Stockholm, New York and,
in particular, the Salone del
Mobile in Milan – touted to be the
largest design event in the world –
the most interesting surprises have
come from these national collectives.
To use the analogy of a ‘star-filled sky’,
it is easier to notice the constellations,
represented by the various national
associations that proudly display the
creativity of their territories, than a
single star on its own.
Brazil, Chile and Argentina are the
most proactive countries from South
America. Sweden, Germany, France,
Poland, Belgium, Serbia and Slovenia
all represent Europe. China, Japan, the
Philippines, Korea and Taiwan make
the world aware of the great creativity
in Asia. South Africa and Morocco
carry the African flag, and in 2015, the
design community had the pleasure
of discovering the great creativity of
Australian design at both the Furniture
China fair and London Design Week.
So, why is the role of an association-
led delegation across fairs or design
festivals so important?
With globalisation, the competitive
space has widened, and has become,
well, global. In order to effectively
compete in this global market, it is
increasingly important to follow two
1. Network: collaborate, organise
and join forces to achieve what the
individual can hardly dare to dream of.
2. Enhance the originality and diversity
of individuals and territories by
bringing attention to the national
This is why leading associations
such as the AFA, which believes in
the creative value of its country, have
an increasingly important strategic
role to play in bringing delegates
together to compete as a collective,
and to assist individuals who are
likely to be competing against the
world on their own.
Great associations provide young
designers and emerging brands with
the opportunity to participate in major
international exhibitions, showing the
world the impressive creativity that
their territories are able to produce.
This is especially true in the design
market, which can be difficult to crack,
and very overcrowded.
Even though this part of the strategy is
important, it is not all that is required to
succeed. Being present is not enough
to get noticed.
Exhibiting at international events
requires that participation is project-
managed in great detail, and designed
in order to achieve maximum success
and maximum visibility.
The vision and the essential strategic role
of the ‘delegation leader’ of the association,
in the case of the AFA, is similar to that of
a football coach. Not only do they have to
plan the match, but they must also bring
home the best result possible.
A good leader must be able to create
an efficient strategic event plan with a
strong, detailed operational foundation.
The best participants must be selected
and bonded together to form a good
team, then trained and motivated. The
result should enhance the creativity of
the individual members of the team, while
also boosting the outcomes of the team
as a group.
A successful leader will be able to
provide intel, and propose topics, ideas,
and trends to help guide delegates
towards the final destination, where
everyone can contribute and benefit
from the overall positive achievements
as a whole.
The leader must ensure that all
participants representing the country,
the industry, and the association put
their best foot forward in order to
secure the best opportunities and to be
highly visible in the global market.
Finally, the leader must organise an
event that is noticed by professionals
and attracts media attention.
It is the combined strength of the
project, vision of the association and
ability of the leader that will determine
the difference between those who
come to the fairs as simple isolated
exhibitors, and international pavilions
that can deliver a concrete and
effective group proposition, and a
The formula for creativity is not as
simple as mathematics. In the design
world, the strength of a collective is
enormous. The creativity formula of
1 + 1 + 1 does not necessarily equal
three – it can actually equal six!
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