The Dutch industrial designer - and member of Okay Studio design collective - has collaborated with the likes of Artek and Royal VKB, since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2006, and his work has found its way into MoMa's permanent collection.
Now creative director of Arco, van Ast talks about how the Dutch brand is changing and his experiences of Salone.
When did you first visit Salone?
About 10 years ago. I was doing an internship at that time in the north of Italy.
How has it changed since then?
The 'shows' have grown bigger and bigger. Some parts of the Fuori Salone almost look like fairgrounds. Output of new products seems to become bigger and bigger, with few items surviving longer then a handful of years.
What's the best thing about it in your opinion?
The best thing is meeting colleagues and friends from all over the world.
And the worst?
Less attention is being paid to the actual product (the concept and how well made it is) and more to the branding and the media coverage etc...
What are you showing this year?
We are showing a very interesting chair by Bertjan Pot, based on a 3D mesh fabric, a family of side tables by Jonas Trampedach (who graduated last summer from RCA), a dining and conference chair by Jonathan Prestwich and Burkhard Vogtherr, and a cabinet system by Dick Spierenburg.
Talk us through your thoughts behind the collection.
Since our 100th anniversary five years ago and its coinciding Arco 12 project - for which we invited 12 Dutch designers to comment on Arco - the collections has broadened and more experimental pieces have been added. At Arco we all found this development very exciting but learned from it that change for such an old company needs to happen slowly. Now we are trying to find the right balance in our collection - on the one hand, experimental and innovative products from which our design team and production learns a lot, and on the other hand, more accessible products. As a new generation has joined the company, it has generally become more informal.
Has the mood in the design world changed since last year's more sombre Salone and is this reflected in this year's collection?
Not really. We are only a small player and didn't get hit as hard as maybe some others did. Last year we focused mainly on tables, which is our core strength. This year we have developed our seating collecting further.
Is it possible to gauge people's reactions whilst you're at the fair?
Sure. The fair is all about meeting and speaking to people.
Do you have a chance to see much yourself during Salone?
I spend the first days at the fair and try to see as much as possible in the evenings and at the weekend.
Has there been one single moment that sticks in your mind as definitive of what Salone is all about?
Getting everything ready for the fair - which is usually a lot of hard work - and lots of late nights at Bar Basso!
What happens once it's all over?
We go home and reflect a bit, consider quitting having seen too much furniture, reconsider, then keep pushing forward to design and produce some great products.