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Published: 19 Jan 2018

Cooper Hewitt Showcases Innovative Accessible Design

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LR: Wicab, DJCAD

The Access+Ability exhibition at New York’s Cooper Hewitt museum showcases innovative, life-enhancing products that help people with cognitive, sensory and physical disabilities. The show reflects the move towards inclusive design, and features items highlighted in our report Design for Disability: Transformative Tech.

Self-expression is key. Hands of X – a collaboration between DJCAD at the University of Dundee and the Institute of Making at University College London – lets users customise prosthetic wooden hands with unique woods and leather accents. Last summer, London eyewear brand Cubitts hosted a pop-up kiosk for the service in its stores.

Other pieces address entertainment. Portuguese designer Miguel Neiva’s Uno playing cards for Mattel denote colours with symbols to assist people who are colour blind (see also Samsung App Aids TV Viewing for Colour Blind).

Wearable tech features prominently, such as Maptic by London-based designer Emilio Farrington-Arnas. The tactile piece of jewellery uses voice technology, GPS and an iPhone app to send vibrations to the wearer, offering a discreet wayfinding system for people who are blind. 

Meanwhile, BrainPort – an oral electronic vision aid from US company Wicab – consists of a camera attached to a pair of sunglasses, a hand-held controller, and an electrode array that sits on the user’s tongue.

The camera translates digital information into patterns of electrical stimulation – a sensation that resembles the bubbles in fizzy drinks. Interpreting these patterns allows users to perceive the shape, size, location and motion of objects – essentially enabling them to see with their tongues.

The exhibition runs until September 3 2018.

Published: 19 Jan 2018

Edible Banana Peel

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D&T Farms

Japanese agricultural research company D&T Farm has developed a new banana variety that has a completely edible skin.

The fruit, called the mongee banana, is produced using the 'freeze-thaw' method, whereby bananas are cultivated in temperatures mimicking conditions of the ice age.

To achieve this, the research farmers first freeze the banana saplings to -60C, then thaw and replant. The change in temperature encourages the banana plants to grow at a rapid rate over the course of four months, resulting in a sweeter product that is 100% edible. The process is also completely void of any chemical or pesticide interference or genetic modification.

The skin of the mongee banana is high in vitamin B6, magnesium and tryptophan – a strain of serotonin that is said to aid sleep.

This process not only eliminates waste but also allows for growth of the crop in cooler climates, potentially reducing food shortages in the future, according to D&T.

For more on how food producers are providing solutions for future food sustainability, see Feeding Tomorrow's Consumers and Reframing Rare.

For more recent examples of sustainable food production techniques, see Making Food from Electricity and Extreme Ingredients.

For earlier iterations of next-gen natural produce, see Strange Fruit.

Published: 19 Jan 2018

Waste Pioneers: Food Industry Material Innovations

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Faced with the ever-increasing global issue of non-biodegradable waste and limited resources, a growing number of designers and researchers are developing sustainable material alternatives using industry waste. Here, we highlight exciting projects combining food industry byproducts with innovative material developments. 

  • London start-up Aeropowder uses waste feathers from the poultry industry to create sustainable and environmentally friendly insulation materials. With more than 1,000 tonnes discarded each week in the UK alone – often ending up as low-grade animal food or being incinerated – the start-up believes feathers could offer a viable alternative to standard petroleum-based products.

    Feathers are lightweight, thermal, water repellent and biodegradable, and the team is currently exploring how these properties can be exploited. It has produced an early-stage block of white, lightweight material and is continuing to develop further prototypes.

    See our CMF Industry View: Architecture & Spaces report for more on the latest building materials. 
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  • Dutch start-up Mestic is tackling the global surplus of manure by converting animal waste into new materials such as biotextiles, plastic and paper. The agricultural byproduct contains phosphorus and nitrogen – excessive amounts of which become harmful to the soil, water and air.

    The production process involves extracting a base substance of pure cellulose from dry manure, and the cellulose acetate – required to create the materials – in the form of acids from wet manure. Shiny white bio-plastics and parchment-like papers can then be achieved, along with fibres for the biotextiles.

    The team is currently working to scale up and industrialise the production of the biomaterials. Mestic was one of the H&M Global Change Award winners in 2017 – see our blog post for the other projects. 
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  • A project by Dutch designer Basse Stittgen explores whether discarded slaughterhouse blood can be used to manufacture an eco-friendly material – an attempt to utilise the millions of litres wasted by the meat industry every year.

    The designer has developed a protein-based biopolymer using 100% animal blood, which is dried out to create a powder before being heated and pressed. The albumin protein within the blood acts as the binding agent, solidifying the blood into a material. A series of small, solid black objects – such as a jewellery box and an eggcup – showcases the material in use.

    For more on using animal refuse, see Dutch Design Week 2017: Colour & Materials.

    For more food-based materials, look out for our Visual Directions report in the Future of Flavour Industry Trend, publishing soon.
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Published: 18 Jan 2018

Gucci Garden: Experiential Museum-Retail Concept

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The fusion of experiential museum spaces and luxury retail has been elevated to a new level with the opening of Gucci Garden in Florence. Celebrating both its past and its rejuvenation as a must-have luxury brand under creative director Alessandro Michele, Gucci opened the immersive multi-purpose venue in January 2018.

Spread over two floors in a 14th-century palace, Gucci Garden powerfully amalgamates exhibition spaces, hospitality and retail, with an €8 ($9.80) admission charge.

  • Retrospective Rooms: Artworks are organised by theme. Put together by Italian fashion curator Maria Luisa Frisa, objects and artefacts from the Gucci archive (dating back to 1921) sit next to memorabilia and contemporary art pieces. The ‘Guccification’ room shows the transformation of the Gucci logo over time, while ‘Ephemera’ describes Gucci’s story from its inception to the present day.
  • Cinema de Camera: A small auditorium completely draped in red velvet shows branded films.
  • Gucci Osteria: An intimate 50-seat restaurant headed by three-Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura dishes up elevated versions of Italian classics. The green-tinged oasis and verdant velvet chairs reference the brand’s current nature and garden theme.
  • Bazaar-Like Boutique: From ready-to-wear to décor, the retail space offers exclusively designed goods that are unavailable elsewhere. Its interiors pay homage to the original architecture of the palace, featuring marble tile flooring, yellow plaster walls and arched doorways.

Gucci Garden is open seven days a week. To show its respect for Florence’s impressive architecture, Gucci donates 50% of each ticket to support restoration projects in the city.

See also The New Rules of Luxury, Museum Retail and Brand Stretch

Published: 17 Jan 2018

Tostitos’ Personalised Pre-Super-Bowl Ads

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American snack brand Tostitos is getting ahead of the Super Bowl advertising competition by letting people generate over-the-top ads to promote their own at-home viewing parties.

San Francisco-based creative agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners has set up a microsite where visitors can add the details of their party – time, place, host – and then use a video generator to assemble a personalised invitation. The final result splices together clips of game-day advertising tropes like talking babies, fluffy animals, mouthy seniors and nostalgia-tickling celebrities (Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton on 90s TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) to create a Super Bowl ad-themed invitation video. The clip collection allows for hundreds of variations of the final product, letting users remix their videos until all their favourite advertising clichés are featured.

Facebook has just reset its feed algorithms to favour posts from friends and family over content from brands and publishers. While this comes as a shock to media outlets that have 'pivoted to video' at Facebook's previous behest, the move will be a boon to user-generated content in marketing. Tools like My Super Bowl Ad let brands follow consumers to their favourite platforms by becoming a part of their personal branding and conversations with friends and family.

For more on the latest online content tools and platforms, check out 7 Platforms to Watch in 2018 and State of Media: The Fan-First Revolution.

Published: 17 Jan 2018

VIDEO: CES 2018, TV Highlights

Colour & Materials editor Lauren Chiu gives an overview of three TV new launches from CES 2018, the world’s largest consumer electronics show.

This year sees the arrival of intriguing alternatives to typical TV screens. Now they’re bigger, brighter and even bendable – suggesting the days of the fixed screen may be numbered.

LG presented a larger, more flexible update to the prototype OLED display shown in 2016. The 65" screen be rolled up tightly and hidden in a compact box when not in use. Another innovation making screens disappear is Sony’s 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector (LSPX-A1), which looks like a sleek piece of furniture, featuring an artificial marble top, aluminium frame and wooden shelf. The luxury item ships in spring 2018 for $30,000. 

Samsung introduced an impressive 146” television concept called The Wall. It uses ultra-bright MicroLED screen technology and is also modular, allowing it to be increased in size for an at-home cinema experience.

CES ran from January 9-12 in Las Vegas. Look out for our full coverage of the event, publishing on January 22.

Published: 16 Jan 2018

Pre-Fall 18 Influencer Show: Prada

Miuccia Prada revisited the house archive for her latest Pre-Fall womenswear showing, deserting the recent mood for maximalism in favour of a revival of her groundbreaking 90s sportswear looks. 

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The house’s iconic 80s Pocone nylon was revived and worked into simple pragmatic shapes that looked new and fresh, creating a protective urban uniform. A palette of black and white was punctuated with pops of clean sportswear brights. Bold branded logos and selfie-style name tags or identity badges helped compound the uniform feel on softly padded boxy silhouettes.

The house’s print archive provided fertile ground for the collection’s mix of print and pattern, with instantly recognisable motifs like the iconic lipstick all-over, ‘bad taste’ 70s-style furnishing geos, Hawaiian florals and an eye-searing flame border placement. All worked in a happy kaleidoscopic mismatch on simple shirts, knee-length skirts and boxy commuter coats. 

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Branding stamped the accessories with a sense of identity, from the Prada jacquard socks to the elastic strappy sandals and those influential name tags that replaced jewellery for Pre-Fall 18. Bags came in elongated boxy profiles –  some in eye-catching painted leather, others in a mix of matte leather with glossy croc trims – while nylon bucket hats look set to appear on the high street any day soon. 

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NEED TO KNOW:

  • Sporty minimalism looks new and fresh
  • Smooth padded nylons create a protective uniform feel
  • Contrast that pragmatic sporty vibe with a mismatch of iconic prints
  • Identity tags and selfie pins look set to be the new jewellery items for Pre-Fall and beyond
  • Black and white offset with pop brights
Published: 16 Jan 2018

Murdock Cocktail: Where Fragrance Meets Flavour

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Murdock London

UK-based distillery Silent Pool and luxury barbershop brand Murdock London are collaborating to launch the Murdock Cocktail in January 2018. Playing with the boundaries of fragrance and flavour, the cocktail emulates notes of Murdock’s Black Tea Cologne.

The cologne was created by barbers for Murdock’s target clientele – the modern British man. It combines natural and raw ingredients such as leather, musty woods and Egyptian basil to represent the exotic spice and tea routes of historical British traders, as well as the “wanderlust traveller” of today, according to the brand.

Spicy and woody elements of the cologne were integrated into the cocktail to craft a unique blend – emphasising the intersection between flavour and fragrance. Stuart Bale, head of innovation at Silent Pool, used aromas from the Black Tea Cologne to transform this fragrance into a beverage. Black tea supplied by British firm Rare Tea Company is the base ingredient.

In addition, flavours that are not typically associated with drinks – cedarwood, sandalwood, neroli extract and petitgrain – add aromatic zest to the cocktail. A subtle warming essence was made with more conventional ingredients – Tasmanian mountain black pepper and nutmeg.

The cocktail will be available at Murdock’s barbershop in Covent Garden, where customers will receive the cocktail when spending over £50 ($68).

This collaborative initiative is a good example of how flavour and fragrance are merging in innovative ways to create dynamic beauty and food experiences. We will explore this topic further in Stylus’ new Industry Trend The Future of Flavour, publishing on January 29. 

Published: 16 Jan 2018

VIDEO: CES 2018 Trend Preview

Consumer Lifestyle editor Kate Johnson reveals two important trends emerging from CES 2018, the world's largest consumer electronics event.

As the autonomous driving era approaches, car brands are focusing on self-driving vehicles that offer functions far beyond transport alone. Both Japanese giant Toyota and Swiss automaker Rinspeed introduced modular containers on wheels, with cabins that can be switched or redesigned for different purposes.

Toyota's boxy e-Palette concept has numerous interior options, providing services as diverse as parcel delivery, ride sharing, on-the-road stores or mobile hotel rooms and spas. The arrival of this type of customisable vehicle will have a huge impact across multiple industries in the future.

Regarding personal electronics, we've noticed a rise in innovative accessibility tech, with new products designed to help an ageing population and those with disabilities.

A noteworthy example is Graphiti – a device from US non-profit organisation American Printing House for the Blind and tech developer Orbit Research that ensures equal learning opportunities for all. The book-sized product sits on the desk of a visually impaired child and contains tiny pins that rise and fall in changing formations. This allows students to feel pictures that they wouldn't be able to see on the board or computer, such as an illustration of cells in the body, or a graph.

CES ran from January 9-12 in Las Vegas. Look out for our full analysis of the event, publishing on January 22.

Published: 16 Jan 2018

Zappos Targets Female Sneakerheads

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US footwear e-tailer Zappos is tapping into the increasingly lucrative women’s streetwear market, launching female-focused editorial hub The Ones.

The concept, which operates alongside Zappos’ traditional e-commerce site, features interviews with female artists, influencer style inspiration, and a curated collection of looks from sneaker brands like Adidas, Converse and Vans.

Extending its reach offline, the brand has also partnered with New York City boutiques Bird Brooklyn and Beyond, bringing a curated pick of sneakers to each pop-up and enlisting store owners to create their own fashion-led edit.

“We felt like the market needed a one-stop shop for classic sneakers; those you love to death, replace, repeat,” said Zappos brand marketing manager Kristin Richmer. “We’re also focused on firing up the more casual, feminine, and gender-fluid side of the sneakerhead world.”

Female-focused offerings are proving to be a smart move for footwear brands, as the sportswear industry looks to take a more inclusive approach to the underserved female consumer. US active brand Puma experienced an 11.5% increase in quarterly sales in 2015 (Puma, 2016) – crediting its collaboration with pop star Rihanna for the success.

For more on the female sneakerhead opportunity, see Unravelling the Culture & Community, part of our Sneakerheads Unboxed Spotlight Trend. 

Published: 15 Jan 2018

Art Meets Fashion: Miami Retail Latest

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New luxury flagships and mall expansions have opened at pace in recent months in Miami, which hosted the annual Design Miami/Art Basel event on December 5-10 2017, attracting more than 100,000 visitors. Here’s our pick of the best, with an emphasis on fashion-meets-design/art, residential-style spaces and concierge services such as VIP rooms.

Fashion Meets Design/Art

  • Design District Expansion: Positioned as Miami’s high-end retail, dining and art neighbourhood, 18-block Design District has opened a new phase. Included are new flagships from European luxury brands Gucci, Prada and Joseph, plus New York’s Rag & Bone and LA’s Oliver Peoples.

    The District is now also home to the new Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), opened in December 2017. Designed by Madrid architects Aranguren + Gallegos, it strengthens the District’s image as a mixed-use cultural destination.
  • Joseph: At 2,600 sq ft, this is the largest US store for European clothing and accessories brand Joseph. Designed by London architects Sybarite, the space is inspired by the curved, local architecture of the 1940s and 50s. Materials include concrete, marble, Corian and brass, with an epic black corkscrew staircase at its centre.
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  • Oliver Peoples: The LA eyewear brand Oliver Peoples hired Milanese architects Dimore Studio for its Design District ‘Spectacle Laboratory’. Occupying a one-level corner building, the 586 sq ft space features floor-to-ceiling shelving inspired by safety deposit boxes. Some of the numbered boxes open to reveal eyewear, while others remain locked. There is also a long, lab-style table with stools at the centre, and a faux-fur-lined shelf that adds warmth and dimension to the linear wall fixtures.
  • In-Sight: This is a first US concept store for Spanish fashion retailer In-Sight, located in the newly opened mid- to high-end Brickell City Centre mall. Designed by Palma-based architects Ohlab, the interior echoes the brand’s binocular glasses logo. This is achieved via 24 floor-to-ceiling white panels placed in parallel along the store’s walls, creating a curved tunnel that also doubles as shelving.
  • Aventura Mall Expansion: A new three-level, 315,000 sq ft wing marks the first phase in a $125m expansion for the long-established Aventura Mall. The clutch of new stores anchoring the wing includes European apparel and accessories chains Zara and Topshop/Topman, plus French luxury brands Chloe and Chanel.

    The mall aims to become an exciting destination for both retail and art. New pieces include sculptures by LA’s Hass Brothers, as well as German sculptor Carsten Höller and Miami-based Permuy Architecture’s Aventura Slide Tower. Visitors can slide down the playful 93ft interactive sculpture.

    For more on malls, see Digitally Immersive Malls and Modernising the Mall.
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Private VIP Rooms

  • Gucci: Creative director Alessandro Michele’s latest design concept for Gucci is played out via this 4,700 sq ft brand temple, laden with eclectic print and pattern. Displaying the full collection of apparel, accessories and home décor over two floors, the store has a dramatic red lacquered staircase that leads up to a selling space including a private VIP room.
  • Rag & Bone: Taking inspiration from its Manhattan roots, menswear and womenswear brand Rag & Bone has opened a two-floor store with a distinctly industrial loft aesthetic. Exposed piping and air-conditioning ducts hang from the ceiling, while the flooring is polished concrete. Simple plywood, reclaimed wood and metal piping are used for fixtures. The store also features a second-floor VIP room. 
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Retail Goes Residential

  • Prada: Original furnishings by Brazilian design practitioners of the Mobiliário Brasileiro movement (1945-1970) populate Prada’s new 7,000 sq ft flagship store. The Italian luxury brand’s two-storey corner location is conceived as an elegant domestic setting, with mint-green walls and checkered marble flooring contrasting with the iconic rosewood pieces – mostly from the personal collection of designer Miuccia Prada.

For more on residential-style spaces, see Retail Domiciles, John Lewis Live-In Concept and Rise of the Apartment Store.

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Published: 15 Jan 2018

Google Patents Everyday Heart Monitors

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Google's optical sensors could be placed in the patient's mirror

This month, Google published a patent application that shows how optical sensors placed in personal devices or everyday objects could monitor and measure cardiovascular function. This would help patients to prevent heart disease and motivate them to adopt a heathier lifestyle.

According to the patent, optical sensors could be used from the patient's smartphone, computer or Google Glass, and could even be placed in their bathroom mirror, where the programme would be able to gather data without any effort from the user. The sensors could measure hemodynamics (the patient's blood flow dynamics) by assessing physical appearance, such as skin colour.

Over time, Google's invention will be able to determine a cardiovascular trend for the patient and share the data with them or a medical professional. It will also be able to make more direct health assessments. For example, a sudden colour difference between the patient's two cheeks could mean they are having a stroke.

Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally (World Health Organisation, 2017), but most heart-related diseases can be prevented by making behavioural changes, such as adopting a healthy diet and an active lifestyle. One of the most important potential uses of Google's invention is its ability to motivate at-risk patients to change their behaviours by giving them positive feedback, as existing methods are not only inconvenient, but also expensive.

For more on innovative at-home technology for diagnosing, monitoring and treating illnesses, see CES 2017: DIY Doctor and Wellbeing Warriors.

Published: 12 Jan 2018

IMM Cologne 2018 Preview: Emotion-Focused Lighting

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Czech designer Lucie Koldova has imagined a futuristic house that uses light to delineate rooms and influence emotion in this year’s Das Haus exhibition for German homes and interiors show IMM Cologne.

Returning for its seventh year, Das Haus invites a renowned designer to realise a conceptual house that expresses their personal projections for the future of home living and interior design. For IMM Cologne 2018, Koldova – who is known for her work in lighting fixtures and design – explores the potential of light as a medium to segment physical and psychological spaces.

Her plan for the 1,900 sq ft exhibition plot features a single-storey structure with five rectangular rooms surrounding a central living area. Each room is designed to express a different emotional state depending on its function –relaxation/sleep, meditation, bathing, inspiration/work and dressing.

Featuring three new lighting prototypes as well as pieces from her existing repertoire, Koldova uses temperature, composition and intensity to experiment with each light source and establish a unique experience in each room.

For more on how light is being embraced within design for its influence on the human psyche, read Exploring Light, Opacity & Projection, Lamp Imitates Natural Light Indoors and Light Play within Dutch Design Week 2017: Trends. Look out for our full coverage of IMM Cologne 2018, publishing on January 26.

Published: 12 Jan 2018

Mixed Reality: Starbucks’ AR-Boosted Coffee Roastery, China

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Starbucks Reserve Roastery Shanghai

Coffee behemoth Starbucks is tapping into the idea of ‘mixed reality’ brand experiences – the merging of real and virtual worlds, including augmented (AR) and virtual realities (VR) – with its fully immersive 3,000 sq ft flagship Reserve Roastery in Shanghai.

Coffee consumption in China has nearly tripled in the past four years, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Looking to engage with the country’s swelling coffee-loving demographic, Starbucks is giving coffee a new dimension through the in-store integration of AR technology. Accessible through a custom-designed Roastery digital web-app platform or on Alibaba’s Taobao app, visitors are invited to take an educative tour into the world of coffee roasting via their smartphones.

Encouraging self-steered exploration, as discussed in Rise of the Exploratorium, users simply point the camera of their mobile device at the Roastery machinery (such as the two-storey copper cask), unveiling animated images and video content detailing what happens to the coffee beans. Users unlock and collect digital badges for participating in the tour to receive a custom Roastery filter that can be shared on social media – see also Social to Store.

The AR platform also provides a digital menu displaying details of the coffee bars and brewing methods, and alerts consumers using mobile payment platforms Alipay and WeChat Pay when their order is ready.

The digital experience also extends to Alibaba’s online marketplace, Tmall, where consumers can purchase Reserve coffee and Roastery merchandise or register for specially curated in-store coffee-tasting experiences. 

For more on AR and VR, see Retail Tech: Future-Shaping Tools & Trends in 2017/18.

Published: 12 Jan 2018

Colourful ‘Dough’ is Playful Alternative to Glue

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British designer Stephen Johnson has developed an adhesive with the consistency of dough that can be used to bond a number of different materials. The colourful putty offers a fun alternative to standard glues.

Made with a mixture of synthetic and organic matter, Play can be used on wood, glass, marble and metal, and is strong enough to hold furniture pieces together. The adhesive mimics the children’s modelling compound Play-Doh and was developed to look and behave in the same way, but becomes incredibly rigid once cured.

The designer has produced a collection of tables to showcase the material in use. Various pieces of Play are used to fix wooden and metal legs to tabletops, squashed playfully into the joints. A series of lampshades explore it as a decorative element, with chunks of the material randomly layered and pressed to create a hand-built, haphazard surface.

The adhesive’s handle gives a unique aesthetic to products by displaying the maker’s fingerprints. See our A/W 19/20 Materials Focus report Sacred Earth for more on free-form craft.

Play aims to replicate the creative and innovative freedom explored by children when using modelling clay, encouraging users to create on a larger scale with more diverse materials. 

We are seeing an increasing number of playful surfaces and spaces that invite interaction. See Playful Optimism: Materials for more directions relating to this theme, as well as Gen Alpha: Childhood Rebooted

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