Design: experience and super-nature. Future trends

The alliance between nature and human beings, wellness as a priority or regenerative policies for resources and materials are concepts that will have impact on the creativity industry in 2023. Lisa White, of the trend forecasting company WGSN, explains how to track down the social and economic drivers of change that guide production sectors. For 2019, prior to the pandemic, White had already foreseen more systematic, circular design, with production focusing on emotions and experiences, and the growth of demand for more inclusive and local design. For 2023, she confirms an acceleration of these trends.

SuperNature, Making the Metaverse, Collective & Regenerative, Healing as Habit and New Alliances are the trends for 2023. Lisa White suggests, on the one hand, the pursuit of a different sense of connection between mind and body, with new rituals; on the other, in the wider scenario, she urges discovery of alternative, less human-centered modes of relation with the world, aimed at nurture and care. These new practices will imply new needs for objects and services, to be developed through design methods that go beyond the boundaries of disciplinary “silos.”

Lisa White, Creative Director of WGSNLisa White, Creative Director of WGSN

 

I Trends and drivers of change:
what they are and how to predict them

Crises of healthcare, environment and energy. We are immersed in global challenges that bring long-term interference on a social, political and economic level, generating profound changes in consumer behavior. Lisa White, Creative Director of WGSN, the international trend forecasting company, calls them “shifts”: forces and drivers of change, perceptible in our present and recent past, which will shape our future. But how is it possible to develop forecasts? WGSN intertwines proprietary data with in-depth investigation conducted by a global team of analysts, data scientists and researchers who examine societies, technologies, the environment, politics, industries and creativity, to identify the macro-forces that have impact on the production of services and consumer goods.

As a participant since the first iterations of the conference Next Design Perspectives of Altagamma with her forecasts on the main trends in the luxury sector and the creativity industry, in 2019 Lisa White predicted a shift from design focused on product to a new concentration on systems, with circular models; she foresaw a passage from possession to (even temporary) use of material assets, also aided by the spread of digital channels, towards an economy based on emotions and experiences; and she pointed to the growing demand for more inclusive, local design that respects diversity. These shifts are being confirmed today in a series of trends for 2023, which White summarizes as: SuperNature, Making the Metaverse, Collective & Regenerative, Healing as Habit and New Alliances.

© Virgil Cayasa

 

II Trends for the creativity industry in 2023

The era of frenetic rhythms will come to an end. People will spend more time on hobbies, family, physical fitness and rest. At the same time, the climate emergency will urge us to find regenerative strategies, in which artifice and nature collaborate in new processes and paradigms. At Next Design Perspectives, Lisa White illustrates the main trends for the creativity industry in 2023.

First of all, Healing as Habit, implying personal care, mental, physical and spiritual health, achieved through integrated cross-industrial services. Next comes Collective & Regenerative, namely practices that have the aim of regeneration of resources and materials, involving agriculture, design and research [also read: Blautopia: when rebirth is blue]. In this trend, with an eye on the environmental footprint, technological progress in the world of materials and products sets out to conserve and perpetuate natural resources, leading to a “super-natural” future (the SuperNature trend). Companies are therefore driven to find scalable and marketable alternatives to products that require major exploitation of resources. And to incorporate natural elements, or nature itself, in private and public spaces [also read Biophilia, a science for interior design]. Making the Metaverse – the shared and explorable virtual space that includes VR/AR, NFTs, blockchains and gaming – emphasizes not only the advent of a new horizon for design and business, but also – at a deeper level – rethinking of social dynamics and behaviors. Finally, New Alliances urges the priority of community over individuality, and of inter-sectorial organization over “silos,” opening up unprecedented creative collaborations.

The overall scenario involves a renewed relationship between body and mind, on the one hand, which prompts exploration of a new sense of connection between human beings and the world. On the other, and on a more macroscopic level, the altered relationship between organizational systems and habitat suggests seeking alternative, less human-centered relational modes, aimed a nurture and care.

CaT Pin, design Leah Heiss, is a wearable device to detect lonelinessCaT Pin, design Leah Heiss, is a wearable device to detect loneliness

 

III Wellbeing as a priority.
Towards more emotional business

Particularly for Gen Z and the Millennials, the changes brought by the pandemic have heightened the need to focus on mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. Personal care will take on an importance that should not be underestimated in the design of products and services [also read Wellbeing: an estimable condition].
In the hospitality industry a new formula appears: “emotional hospitality,” a term invented by the hotel chain Six Senses, where the theme of emotional health is part of the offering. In their resorts in the Maldives, guests are encouraged to remain barefoot, while in other facilities barefoot trails have been developed as a way of reconnecting with nature. The Four Seasons in New York offers “Self-healing Immersion” sessions with “wellness ambassador” Nicole Sievers, stimulating self-awareness and proprioception through a combination of eastern and western movement techniques.

Wellness can also extend to emotional practices in everyday life, where technologies – often wearable – keep us in touch with our moods and interpersonal relationships. This is true, for example, of the Breath Artefact apparel by Parisian designer Tom Ducarouge, where the relief pattern is the result of decoding the rhythm of breathing. Tracing the shape of the texture with the hands, the wearer can engage in calming respiratory exercises. Another case is that of the technological jewelry by Melbourne-based designer Leah Heiss, using biosensors that send a message to a caregiver if the wearer crosses a given health monitoring threshold for mental wellbeing.

Still in their early phases, these prototypes and practices point to a different way of relating to the world, based on slower rhythms, human relationships and new rituals that drive a new scenario of places, products and services. For example, workplaces – where we spend a large portion of our active lives – can no longer be designed according to functional parameters, but will have to reflect the emotional expectations of their users [also read When the working environment nurtures sensations].

 

The video "The Intersection" (2021) by Superflux studio

 

IV New alliances and getting beyond the
boundaries between production sectors

We are watching the collapse of global order and an accentuation of divisions between countries.  The weakening of international relations, worsened by the pandemic, is producing a series of effects on chains of production. This can be observed in the rising prices of energy sources and the lack of supply of raw materials, which both run the risk of blocking productive activities. Companies are paying attention to the idea of “nearshoring,” with the aim of investing in areas of the world in closer proximity. This renewed interest in a local dimension, observable at various levels, from politics to the creativity and luxury industry, leads to the formulation of new relationships and alliances. Lisa White emphasizes the trend of connecting with consumers through local initiatives, to build longer lasting relationships. She cites the example of the fashion designer Stella McCartney, who has opened corners for parallel activities – such as a florist – in her store on Bond Street in London.

The construction of new alliances is a matter of cultural proximity between people [also read Towards a different meaning of togetherness], but also of new collaborations between sectors, as in the case of robotics research and digital transformation applied to agriculture (agritech). This triggers unusual creative contaminations in product design: from fashion to the home, fitness to food, beauty to bionics. And it has repercussions on business strategies, which have to avoid the traditional organizational silos, getting beyond the boundaries of industries and disciplines.

White concludes with the video “The Intersection” by the Anglo-Indian multimedia studio Superflux: a dystopian, catastrophic vision of the impact of technology and social media in everyday life, and the challenges facing the world. In the end, however, she indicates that it is still possible to build a more inclusive future in which differences are not divisive factors.

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