From body-enhancing exoskeletons to games that merge the real and virtual worlds, design is moving in ever-more exciting directions. Here to make sense of them is Dewi Pinatih, Stylus’ senior editor of Product Design, who talked to us about what to expect in Autumn/Winter 2018/19.
So Dewi, in a nutshell what are Design Directions?
“They’re three design concept packs that best exemplify design trends for each season – two years in advance. They’re based on consumer lifestyle insights, global colour and material trends and innovation in design and tech.
“Design Directions should be seen as inspirational and instructional decks for product developers. Their structure is designed to support their work; they help them understand what people want and need, and how they will interact with the things around them in two years’ time.”
Design Directions Autumn/Winter 2018/19 recently came out. What themes did they cover?
“The first, Sacred, is inspired by highly personalised ideas around spirituality. Fewer young people identify with organised religion, but they still crave the awe-inspiring experiences that religion can offer – so the theme looks at symbolic products that merge cultures across past and present.
“The second, Amplify, looks at performance-enhancing properties for consumers on a constant quest for self-improvement. Part of it looks at how consumers will increasingly rely on tech to stay independent and have a good quality of life.
“The third, Tamed, explores a desire for stillness among overwhelmed consumers of any age. They crave purity and focus, reject multi-tasking and want to reduce contact with their electronic devices.”
Sacred sounds like it was possibly the most surprising theme. Was it?
“The whole process is full of little surprises as the pieces of the puzzle start to form a bigger picture. Sacred was surprising in the sense that we didn’t expect themes such as magic and elevating the everyday to be so grounded in tech. This opens up lots of new possibilities, but Sacred is also very humane. It shows you how virtual reality is used to teach empathy; it has this magical, do-good sense to it.”
Of the projects uncovered by your research, which is your favourite?
“From Sacred I really like Beasts of Balance – a table-top game that merges the real world with the virtual. In a really lovely, easy-to-understand way it shows how this merging – something that people have been talking about for a long time – could actually work.”
Which Direction are you most excited about?
“Probably Amplify. From a tech perspective there are exoskeletons, which give you extra muscle power. This kind of thing is already being used in work environments – the robotic gloves that allow you to lift very heavy things, for example.
“From a non-tech perspective, I love the shoes that Nike recently produced to break the two-hour barrier in the marathon. It’s created using tech, but it’s more about seamlessly working with your body to speed you up.
“Then there are the earplugs that provide real-life translations – so you could speak another language to me and we’d understand each other. It’s basically a superhuman power, but it also shows how we’re slowly becoming more robotic. Little steps like this show you where the future’s going.”
You’re currently working on Christmas Design Directions. Can you give us a sneak preview of your findings?
“Well, there’ll once again be three themes. One will explore the treasure troves found in the museums and mansions of the past, and how historic aesthetics are being reinvented; another will look at the influence of fairy tales.
“A third Direction will examine how glacial landscapes and ice and snow are shaping things like awe-striking LED designs that feature pared-down uses of colour.”
And finally, what do you enjoy most about your role at Stylus?
“That’s an easy one to answer: getting to explore all these amazing concepts. I feel really lucky that I get to investigate what talented creatives across the world are working on, and I like the idea that Design Directions might actually add a little something.”