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Published: 21 Jul 2017

Lamp Imitates Natural Light Indoors

Dutch designer and engineer Leslie Nooteboom has created a series of algorithmically generated moving images that imitate the dynamic nature of natural light for an ethereal and calming lighting solution.

Called Komorebi, the table lamp-style object features a projector that beams subtly changing light patterns onto the walls of a room, mimicking the appearance of natural light streaming in through a window. As it is programmable, the light can change shape and location, interacting with its environment for a natural and serendipitous feel.

The projections are randomly generated by an algorithm, although certain aspects – including colour and brightness – can be controlled via an accompanying app.

There are three projection styles to choose from: light filtering through leaves, reflection of light on water and “dappled light”, which has small moving circles that alter in intensity and brightness. Users can also create a light playlist depending on their mood and preferences.

Created during his studies at London’s Royal College of Art, Nooteboom’s project was based around his research on the correlation of people’s happiness and the amount of natural light in their urban homes.

As previously highlighted in The Business of Wellbeing: Transformative Spaces, the quantity and quality of natural light is crucial to people’s general health and wellbeing, with many designers looking for innovative ways to artificially replicate or enhance it. 

Published: 21 Jul 2017

Infused Snortable Cacao

Coco Loko

Orlando-based dietary-supplement producer Legal Lean has launched a brand of snortable chocolate powder called Coco Loko. The product, which costs $24.99 per 1.25oz can, is a blend of raw cacao, gingko biloba, taurine and guarana (of which the latter three can all be found in energy drinks).

The brand claims the powder provides a 30-minute buzz, lifting mood, reducing anxiety and providing a hit of energy, much like the effect of an energy drink - minus the associated sugar crash.

Available only to those aged 18 and over, the product was inspired by the increased popularity in Europe for cacao ingested as a stimulant, as tracked by Stylus in New Food Covetables.

The product is aimed at those who frequent regular social events, participate in sport and those who are looking to boost their energy.

For a broader look at product innovations in the confectionery realm, see Chocolate Trends 2016 and Vitafoods 2017.

To read further on the new booming market for legal stimulants, see Cannabis: The Culinary Opportunity, Cannabis-Infused Confectionery and Kering-Friendly Cannabis Pods.

Published: 21 Jul 2017

Retail Platform Reframes Autism

Wolf + Friends

Echoing initiatives detailed in Empathetic Brand Engagement, new lifestyle website Wolf + Friends caters to parents of children with autism and other special needs by linking to a selection of need-appropriate yet aesthetically appealing products from both chains and independent retailers.

Such parents now present a sizeable demographic – approximately one in 45 American children has an autism spectrum disorder of some kind (US National Center for Health Statistics, 2015).

Considering itself a curator above all, Wolf + Friends links to third-party retailers’ product pages. Its contemporary design approach and compassionate sensibility in terms of key messaging/copy are devised as an antidote to the dour experience of therapy websites, where most parents seek product guidance.

Deliberately inclusive, featured apparel, toys and home décor products have mass relevance but happen to work well for kids with autism, sensory processing disorders, ADHD and anxiety. For instance, indoor tents create a space for a child to self-regulate, as the site explains. A team of parents, kids and experts in childhood development review all products pre-publishing. A Design Ideas content section expands on key product benefits. 

Following an earlier blog post with Honest to Nod – the blog for Land of Nod (US furniture brand Crate and Barrel’s kids’ décor division) – Wolf + Friends is currently seeking brand partnerships for sponsored content.

Communal activities also beckon. An “inclusive and sensory-friendly” pre-Thanksgiving meal is scheduled for November 2017 in partnership with family-focused US dining event company Nibble & Squeak.

See also Compassion Culture and Cannes Lions 2017: Inclusive Innovation

Published: 21 Jul 2017

New Exhibition Celebrates History of Plywood

Plywood: Material of the Modern World

The latest exhibition at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum is solely dedicated to plywood.

Following its progression through time, Plywood: Material of the Modern World reveals how this versatile, often overlooked material helped shape the 21st century.

Starting in the 1850s, the exhibition traces the evolutionary applications of this industrially produced material – in furniture, architecture and transport.

It is divided into three sections marking specific developments in the evolution of the material: the invention of rotary veneer cutting, moulding and CNC cutting. A car with a cut-out section reveals the use of moulded plywood, and a single-sheet moulded armchair by London designer Gerald Summers demonstrates how designers have exploited plywood’s qualities over the years.

Plywood is renowned for being relatively cheap and easy to produce. Layers of thin, cross-grained wood sheets known as ‘plies’ are glued together, making it strong and stress-bearing. Often a prejudiced material, it was regarded as a cheaper alternative to cast metals, and mainly used structurally or disguised as solid wood.

The exhibition also illustrates its recent resurgence in popularity, with computer-controlled machine cutting offering a world of product possibilities.

Plywood is particularly good for CNC cutting owing to its strength, stability and worldwide standardisation, meaning a design can be cut reliably anywhere.

Designers are also placing emphasis on natural and relatable materials, seeking understated luxury through beautiful raw surfaces. See Enduring Luxe: Materials for more on shifts in the perception of luxury.

The exhibition runs until November 12. 

Published: 19 Jul 2017

Vexed Generation: Fashioning Resistance

Vexed Generation

Political fashion brand Vexed Generation is making a comeback for Autumn/Winter 2018. The announcement follows the London brand’s inclusion at NY-based retailer Opening Ceremony and Byronesque’s collaborative #FashionPorn pop-up.

The technical clothing outfitter made a name for itself in the mid 90s, with its student founders, Joe Hunter and Adam Thorpe, designing the uniform of the era’s growing political angst. Garments were crafted with the social and environmental challenges of the city in mind. Fleeces came with face masks to protect against air pollution and increasing CCTV surveillance, while parkas were endowed with padded areas that could soften the blow of a police baton.

The duo’s return is timely – with state scepticism and a politicised youth increasingly characterising UK culture of late, fashion brands would do well to consider the nuances of a fragmented society.

For further reading see Instagangs: Design for Purpose, A/W 18/19 Reorder and Brands Take a Stand.

Published: 19 Jul 2017

Ermes x IBM Watson: AI-Powered Real-Time Pricing

IBM Watson X Ermes

The perennial retail problem of identifying ideal price points and the exact timings of markdowns is being tackled head-on by Cyprus’s largest department store brand Ermes Group – assisted by IBM’s cloud-based, artificially intelligent pricing tool Watson Commerce.

Watson Commerce recommends the most appropriate pricing action based on a combination of metrics. It fetches web data including page views and cart abandonment, and mixes it with real-time popularity-monitoring data such as sales trends (online and offline) and competitors’ pricing of similar products. It then implements the pricing action according to pre-set brand rules.

For example, if sales of a fitness tracker have dropped, a discount may be suggested based on the key competitor’s recent discount and the pre-set rules of staying within a 1% range of the competitor’s pricing. Setting limits also allows the brand to ensure pricing suggestions only happen at relevant times. Once Ermes reviews and accepts the proposal, the new price appears online or on electronic shelves in-store within a minute.

Watson Commerce also offers a dashboard presenting both long- and short-term insights such as sales trends, revenue per quarter and margin performance. It also helps brands stay ahead of the curve by notifying managers of pricing strategy recommendations it thinks the brand should review for specific products that don’t have pre-set rules attached.

See also Reactive Retailing, Rapid Retail and Haggle-Tech Pioneers Custom Pricing.

For more on innovating with agility, look out for the report Reflexive Retailing, part of our upcoming Liquid Retail Industry Trend, publishing on September 27. 

Published: 18 Jul 2017

Royal Opera House & Moma: High-Culture Emoji

The Royal Opera House

For World Emoji Day on July 17 (the date featured on the calendar emoji), London's Royal Opera House (@RoyalOperaHouse) partnered with Twitter to retell the stories of famous operas and ballets using only emoji. Members of the public could win pairs of tickets by correctly guessing which stories were being retold.

"We grab any opportunity to tell narratives and teaming up with Twitter means we do this at an unprecedented scale," said Jeremy Paul, head of marketing communications, audiences and media at the Royal Opera House. "It's part of a strategy to pivot into dialogue platforms like Twitter."

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF Moma) is also using the power of dialogue to connect to new audiences. The museum has launched a text-messaging service through which people can receive artworks from its archive in response to moods, keywords, or emoji they send.

SF Moma has 34,678 artworks in its collection, of which the museum can only display about 5% at a time. According to Keir Winesmith, head of web and digital platforms for SF Moma, skipping apps or mobile sites in favour of a text-messaging service was the best way to minimise barriers between the public and SF Moma.

Exploring channels that are accessible to broader audiences is key for any brand, and it's important that they use language that aligns with digital culture. For the latest developments in online communities' modes of communication, follow our monthly Pop Culture Round-Ups. For more on mobile engagement, see The Messaging Opportunity.

Published: 18 Jul 2017

Tech Tools for Ethical Shopping

Some 63% of US consumers feel that ethical issues are becoming more important

A desire for sustainable consumption is triggering a rise in forward-thinking tech solutions that help people to shop more ethically.

More than three in five consumers (63%) in the US feel that ethical issues are becoming more important (Mintel, 2015). Brands that allow people to track both the progress of companies and their own sustainable habits are set to succeed. Recent noteworthy initiatives include:

  • Considerate Fashion: My EP&L is an app from the Paris-based luxury fashion company Kering and New York-based college Parsons School of Design that helps fashion designers to understand the impact their designs will have on the environment. Launched in October 2016, the app lets users compare multiple options to identify the most sustainable design, sourcing and production methods.
  • Ethical Online Shopping: Available since November 2016, US digital-commerce company's DoneGood Chrome extension makes it easier for consumers to buy from companies they feel good about supporting. The extension recommends ethical alternatives while shopping online and provides discounts when purchasing from socially responsible companies.
  • Fighting Food Waste: Tan Jun Yuan, a partner at The Happy World Café in Singapore, created the 11th Hour app for last-minute food deals to prevent waste. Released in October 2016, the app provides a win-win situation for both merchants and consumers. Eateries offer meals they otherwise wouldn't sell at a 30% discount and waste-conscious customers have access to affordable local food.

For more on how brands are helping consumers to cultivate ethical shopping habits, see Sustainable Futures 2017/18 and Retail: The Eco-Ethical Upsell.

Published: 17 Jul 2017

Moët Hennessy Becomes Tequila Producer


French luxury alcohol giant Moët Hennessy has developed its first premium tequila in collaboration with Mexico's tequila-producing Gallardo family, produced below the Tequila Volcano in Mexico.

The LVMH Group-owned giant, which has historically acquired established spirits brands instead of developing its own from scratch, has created its new Volcan De Mi Tierra tequila in two expressions: a creamy Cristalino (an aged tequila whose colour is removed through filtration) and a zesty, lively Blanco, a blend of both highland and lowland blue agave.

Volcan De Mi Tierra CEO Trent Fraser told upscale US publication Forbes: "We never looked at a crazy acquisition. But we looked at medium ones. Then I moved away from this because you inherit a lot of amazing things but you also get the pre-existing brand identity. It was more that we wanted to own our place – our everything."

For more on how luxury brands are innovating in saturated categories, see New Food Covetables. Also, DIY Mixology and Packaging Futures 2017/18: Luxury look at product development and gifting opportunities in the alcohol domain.

See also Brand Stretch: Elastic Food & Drink Development for more on brands stretching beyond their traditional and well-established category remits.

For broader alcohol developments, see Alcohol Trends 2017: Imbibe Live and Alcohol Packaging Trends 2016.

Published: 14 Jul 2017

Securing the Smart Home: Norton Core

Norton Core

Norton Core is a powerful wireless router that promises to protect the smart home and connected devices from malware and cyber threats, while delivering high-speed internet. 

Made by Californian security software company Norton by Symantec, the device monitors the activity of all items connected to the router. If suspicious activity is detected, Core creates a quarantine around that device until the issue is resolved, protecting access to private information or home-monitoring appliances such as smart cameras.

An accompanying app lets users monitor the network in real time and view threats that have been blocked by Norton Core. It also provides a security score and related tips to improve it, such as stronger passwords. Users can also install parental controls within the app to protect younger family members by setting limits on their internet access.

The router itself is encased in an attractive geodesic form – highlighting a new approach that sees technology designed for display. See New Tech Aesthetics for further insight.

As previously noted at IFA 2016, security is a key focus of the smart home, with items such as indoor cameras and surveillance doorbells being particularly popular. Norton Core demonstrates how this shift is moving towards securing the smart home itself. There is a growing demand for all-encompassing smart-home security, with a 2016 report discovering that 89% of consumers would prefer to secure all smart-home devices through a single integrated security package.

Also see firewall device Cujo for more smart home security with cute features.

Published: 14 Jul 2017

Rituals Takes Shoppers to Moroccan Spa with Sensorial VR

Rituals' VR hammam experience

Embracing the growing value of sensorial in-store experiences (see Topshop’s sensorial VR water slide), Dutch beauty brand Rituals hosted a semi-immersive virtual reality (VR) concept in its London and Belfast stores earlier this month.

Created to support the relaunch of its newly reformulated Ritual of Hammam range, the experience offered customers the feeling of visiting a Moroccan spa. Shoppers wore Samsung headsets to watch a VR video shot on location in a Moroccan hammam, simultaneously receiving a therapeutic hand massage featuring signature oils. While not exhibiting the kind of innovative, tech-embedded immersion discussed in Retail’s VR Future: Communal Digital, the project did illustrate how rudimentary touch and smell can be used with tech to elevate the still predominantly visual world of virtual reality.

The concept also educated customers about Moroccan spa traditions. The VR video explained the five steps involved in the hammam ritual, teaching customers how to recreate the experience at home.

The VR experience, which was available for a month-long period finishing on July 9, was created in partnership with technology provider VR Owl and creative agency JamJam Marketing (both Dutch).

The value of virtual technologies in the beauty sector is booming, but is so far largely executed without a sensorial edge. For more, see the Exploiting ‘Ego Tech’ section in Retail Tech: Future-Shaping Tools & Trends.

See also Lowe’s Haptic-VR DIY Skills Clinic, Immersive Brand Experiences, Virtual Added Value (part of our Post Digital Macro Trend) and Virtual Immersive Commerce.


Published: 13 Jul 2017

Pollution-Fighting Health Drink


A new juice product claiming to protect lungs from the damaging effects of pollution is to be launched in China in late 2017, according to New Zealand ingredient supplier Anagenix.

The beverage will contain BerryQi, a newly developed ingredient derived from New Zealand boysenberries that has been scientifically proven to reduce symptoms of airway inflammation. The ingredient was developed following research from scientists at the New Zealand-based lab Plant & Food Research that highlighted the lung-health-boosting benefits of boysenberries, dubbing them a new 'superfood'.

The New Zealand-produced drink will be targeted at Chinese consumers who are feeling the negative health effects of poor air quality in its major metropolitan areas. Meanwhile, Anagenix recently announced a formal partnership agreement with Plant & Food Research that will see products based on scientific research in New Zealand fast-tracked into the global market.

New products, ingredients and tech that tackle the visible and internal effects of pollution are also being developed in the beauty space, including recent examples from British plant-based skincare brand Ren and US skincare brand Dermalogica. See also New Beauty Formulations: In-Cosmetics and Beauty 360 for more on anti-pollution skincare.

From a product perspective, see Air-Cleaning Bicycle, and for deeper context into the environmental hazards of pollution – and how clean air has become a prized luxury – see Reframing Rare.

Published: 13 Jul 2017

Retailers Capitalise on LGBTQ Pride Celebrations

Topshop Oxford Circus

Channelling the growing value of adopting a more socially active brand stance (see Amazon Unveils Ethical Initiatives, Retailers Tap Socially Aware Talent and Brands Take a Stand), several retailers embraced the LGBTQ Pride celebrations held globally throughout June and July.

Equal rights for the LGBTQ community are a particularly important issue for young people. In a recent YouGov survey (UK), 48% of Gen Z respondents said they were not exclusively heterosexual. 

  • Levi’s: Coinciding with Pride marches in Berlin, Madrid and Amsterdam, Levi’s used its stores in those locations to host HIV-awareness talks alongside Designers Against AIDS – an organisation uniting designers and students on fashion collaborations devised to raise AIDS awareness. Levi’s also hosted a screening of Oscar-winning film Harvey Milk – a biopic of America’s first openly gay elected politician – during the London event.
  • Tesco: At one of its stores along the London march route, UK supermarket Tesco hosted a pop-up bar serving rainbow-inspired cocktails, performances from the London Gay Men’s Chorus, and a ‘Ride for Pride’ bicycle-powered smoothie maker. 
  • New Look & Topshop: British fashion brand New Look distributed free Pride T-shirts at its Oxford Street flagship, while competitor Topshop ran an online competition for the best Pride outfits, and painted rainbows on its windows and pavement (both London). 
  • Wah Nails: Trading on its ongoing activist ethos (see Feminism-Fuelled Retail for more), British nail salon Wah Nails held ‘self-love’ and ‘pride party’ events prior to London Pride, discussing gender and sexuality while providing glitter make-up and nails.

Retail’s Activist Brands publishes August 10. 

Published: 13 Jul 2017

Adidas All Day: 360-Degree Fitness App for Women

German sports apparel manufacturer Adidas has launched an app called All Day for women seeking a 360-degree fitness experience.

Designed for versatility-seeking female athletes, the app goes beyond suggesting tough workouts. Instead, it provides recommendations on four key areas: movement, nutrition, mindset and rest. Along with monitoring their physical progress, users can use the app to discover new ways to exercise, bespoke nutritional recipes and recovery techniques, such as foam rolling.

The app integrates with the Adidas Chameleon – the company's smart bracelet – to track activity and health. It is likely to appeal to millennial fitness devotees, who are increasingly demanding more holistic solutions for a balanced body and mind.

"Adidas All Day will initially focus on the female athlete who seeks variety and likes to try new things to challenge and inspire herself to be better every day. With an experience powered by rich scientific insight, the app makes fit living more approachable, while still keeping it fun," said Stacey Burr, vice-president at Adidas Digital Sports.

Available in the US since the end of June 2017 for both iOS and Android devices, the app will be coming to other markets later this autumn.

For more on full-circle wellness habits and how the latest technologies are shaking up the millennial fitness market, see Millennial Fitness Update: Tech Tones Up and Millennial 20/20 Summit.

Published: 13 Jul 2017

Designing for Alzheimer's Patients & Carers

Design for the Mind

Industrial design students from New York’s Pratt Institute have worked with medical experts, caregivers and patients to develop products that will improve the day-to-day lives of people who have Alzheimer’s disease. Their collection was showcased during the city’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

Everyday tasks can become difficult for those experiencing memory loss – a common symptom of Alzheimer’s. Some products had the objective of helping people relearn an activity, while others used clever design to simplify tasks and remove confusion.

One example was the Mirror Table, which helps a cared-for person brush their teeth or eat food by copying the actions of their carer. Each person sits either side of a wooden frame, as if they are looking at a mirror.

Other projects include a clock that illuminates with the sun or moon to prevent confusion about the time of day, wallpaper with a Velcro texture that allows users to store objects and avoid misplacing smaller items, and oversized dice with pictures of hobbies or accomplishments that can trigger storytelling and conversation.

Pratt students worked with the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and the Alzheimer’s care organisation CaringKind on the project. By working with CaringKind, the designers learned more about the disease and its impact, giving them precious insight into the needs of carers as well as patients.

As highlighted in Diversity Outlook, designing with marginalised groups – rather than for them – is becoming increasingly important to guarantee that products and services truly meet the needs of their intended audience.