Monday, June 24, 2019

By Josh O'Leary, Iowa Magazine, June 2019

This past spring, more than 350,000 people flocked to Milan, Italy, for the design world's biggest event of the year. An intersection of art and commerce, Milan Design Week brought together the world's top furniture makers, architects, interior designers, and tech companies. Dozens of the city's historic buildings and exhibition halls teemed with trendsetters. They explored avant-garde furniture exhibits, ethereal light displays, AI-powered robots, and other glimpses of a hyper-stylized future.

It wasn't just the Herman Millers and Louis Vuittons of the industry dazzling visitors. In Milan's Tortona district, inside a sprawling old industrial complex, show-goers stopped to admire a collection of sculpture-like lamps that would look just as at home in a museum as a living room. The functional art pieces weren't created by a big-name European design house, but by a group of American students from the Midwest. Over the past decade, the University of Iowa, which has a proud tradition in the fine arts, has emerged as an incubator for contemporary design talent. UI students regularly compete at prestigious shows for top honors with some of the world's best design academies.

Led by art professor Monica Correia (99MA, 00MFA), the UI's 3D design program has been invited to exhibit at Milan Design Week each year since 2014. This spring in Milan, five undergraduates and five graduate students took part in the Ventura Future exhibition, which showcased up-and-coming designers from 18 schools alongside professional talent. Correia's students spent the week exchanging business cards with industry leaders and ideas with peers from major international design academies.