Hubert Burda Media

Why do designers need to be storytellers?

Industry expert Eggarat Wongcharit says designers must learn the power of storytelling.

Milan Fair 2016; Photo courtesy Eggarat Wongcharit; PrestigeOnline

All images courtesy of Eggarat Wongcharit

Founder and head of Craft Factor (also known as Crafactor) Eggarat Wongcharit has more than earned the Thai honorific of “Ajarn” (given to well-respected experts and professors of a field). He co-ordinated and curated the two exhibitions detailed in the ensuing pages, and as such is the unifying force for products and brands presented on behalf of Thailand in Milan each year.

What three concepts do you think describe this year’s showing at the Milan Fair?

Designer entrepreneurship, cooking and new technologies.

What are some of the most influential trends you observed at this year’s Milan Furniture Fair? Which did you enjoy the most?

The most interesting ones tended to be the off-fair exhibitions in the whole part of Milan’s city area. There are about four exhibitions from hundreds of Milan Design week exhibitions that I personally enjoyed.

They are: “The Nature of Motion by Nike”, curated and designed by John Hoke; “Neo Preistoria -100 Verbi” [New Prehistory -100 Verbs] curated by Andrea Branzi and Kenya Hara Milan Triennale, a voyage through the history of humanity depicted by artifacts, from prehistoric tools to nanotechnology; “Woman in Italian Design”, curated by Silvana Annicchiarico and designed by Margherita Palli at the Design Museum, Milan Triennale, and Stanze. There is also “Un’altra filosofia dell’abitare” [Rooms. A Different Philosophy of Living], curated by Beppe Finessi, which focuses on interior design as a metaphor of today’s manifold way of life.

All the exhibitions reflected different aspects but shared the same feature theme, and that is freedom of imagination without limit, followed by advanced technologies that serve futuristic functionalities of urban dwelling.

Why did you feel the need to create Bar Sweet Tooth? How have the exhibits been received, and what is some feedback you’ve heard?

For this year, the content of the two exhibitions went parallel to and complemented on one another. The world’s economy is in crisis and the index still reflects the slowness of global business in the next few years. Food has become more popular and further developed as it is the only pleasure people can easily afford to buy. The agricultural and food production context of Thailand was featured as a story behind each designer’s objects at the exhibition to reflect how waste from agriculture and food industries can be developed into home decorative accessories. 

Twenty-four young Thai designers’ works were selected to display at “Slow Hand Design: Bar Crops and Props” at the off-fair event, Ventura Lambrate, while “Bar Sweet Tooth” at Rho Fiera Milan trade fairground featured the furniture collections reflecting design concepts related to Thai sweets to go with the strong identity of Thailand.

Both exhibitions are supported by Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) and the aim is to uplift the brand image and identity of Thailand’s design industries. This year, Mitr Phol group, our co-sponsor, presented MITTE syrups, a cocktail drink mixer that is infused with Thai flavours of lotus, Thai tea, coconut, lemongrass and more. Mitte syrup was very popular among international buyers and so were the two design showcases that drew many good pieces of feedback among public and media.

What are the take home messages that you think Thai designers should be aware of and should learn from?

Telling good stories has become powerful. We may have plenty of good design but still lack stories and good ways to communicate concepts, which can support the value of our own design industries. Brand identity is the only way to survive in the world economy at the moment.

So, doing things relating to [Thailand’s] roots will help with differentiating our product market positioning. Meanwhile we need to also cope with new media, new technologies and aim to expand our market on a global scope.

Tell us about your concept for Crafactor this year: from materials to manufacturing process to design?

I’ve become more interested in the “upcycling” design concept using remnant materials from the industries to express the slowness of the economy. Spending less to get a dramatic outcome is the concept of this collection, or in other words, turning waste into refined taste. However, if I don’t tell you about this [concept], you wouldn’t know.

You are a veteran designer and a well-respected industry expert for decades. What or where do you go to keep your passion, curiosity or interest alive?

I travel a lot and I collect information from whatever I feel impressed with by jotting it down in my little    notebook. One day when I come across a design project, this information will intuitively become data for the research part of my work. Then I’ll cross-link all these bits of data in my head and of course, it will relate to whatever experiences I had in the past, which are both global and local. It is who I am inside of me – I can’t explain this verbally – it is more of my own intuition.