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Telling a Story in Milan and Copenhagen

NEXT UX: From Salone del Mobile Milano to the streets of Copenhagen, the most impactful environments and experiences are crafted by storytelling




STORYTELLING PLAYS A crucial role in creating engaging, exciting and memorable experiences – it is a means of sharing, exploring and connecting ideas with others on a profound level. When done correctly, storytelling has an emotional impact that creates memorable impressions that can last a lifetime. I spent a week with colleagues in Milan at Salone del Mobile Milano, April 16-21. The 62nd edition of one of the most eagerly awaited international events of the year was hosted at Rho Fiera, which was the backdrop to a rich program of educational sessions, networking events and almost 2000 exhibitors.

“Where Experience Evolves” was the title of the new “communication campaign” of the event, which gathered attendees from 35 countries in 174,000 square meters of exhibition space. This year’s show included the two biennials, EuroCucina and the International Bathroom Exhibition. Coinciding with Milan Design Week, designers and creators showcased a wide range of immersive installations, exhibitions and events, turning courtyards and historical buildings into hubs of inspiration that engaged all the senses.

Telling a Story in Milan and Copenhagen

For further inspiration after the show, we traveled to Copenhagen and immersed ourselves in a city of historic and contemporary architecture that is easily experienced on a bicycle. The waste-to-energy power plant CopenHill (designed by Bjarke Ingels Group) was the highlight for me, not only for its impactful design but also for its purpose and innovative sustainability solutions and human engagement.

Afterward, there was a little detour to see the restaurant Noma. As we were walking around the grounds, we encountered Noma’s Chef and Owner, Rene Redzepi, as he was closing the garden with pots so no one would enter and disturb the diners – we snapped a few photos before quietly leaving.

Telling a Story in Milan and Copenhagen


There was so much that engaged our senses during the trip, it’s hard to recap everything, but the one most impactful impression left, without a doubt, was the importance of storytelling. A good stand, booth, shop, restaurant, park, product, song, scent and taste all have a story to tell – and to be memorable, any related story needs to be told well.

In this context, storytelling helps define the identity and purpose of a brand and how it is expressed in the built environment and through the in-store experience. By weaving in narratives about the history, culture and aspirations of a place or product, creators can give it a distinct character and purpose: One such example is the corporate office of luxury fashion brand Zegna in Milan, which was open to the public during Design Week.

Zegna’s brand story was incorporated into the space and captured our eyes, ears and hearts. An experience honoring a place’s heritage might implant elements of local folklore, familial anscestry or historical events into its design, creating a sense of identity and pride.


Telling a Story in Milan and Copenhagen Experiences at Salone del Mobile Milano and in Copenhagen engaged visitors with stories that capture the heritage of a place or brand.

As observed throughout Salone del Mobile Milano, effective storytelling often involves these key elements:

  • Memorable characters drive the narrative forward and allow the audience to connect emotionally with the story.
  • Sequencing creates the story’s plot and provides structure and purpose. A well-crafted plot typically includes elements such as conflict, rising action, climax and resolution.
  • Setting establishes the time, place and atmosphere in which the story takes place. It helps to create a vivid backdrop against which the events of the narrative unfold.
  • Theme of a story is its underlying message or central idea. It often explores universal truths about the human experience, such as love, friendship, courage or redemption.
  • Conflict is essential for driving the story forward and creating tension. It can take various forms, including internal conflicts within characters or external challenges they must overcome.
  • The resolution of the story provides closure and often offers insight or lessons learned from the events that transpired.

In short, storytelling is a powerful tool. Use it wisely to engage your audience, and, expected or not, it will have a lasting impression, sometimes even life changing.





MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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