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The Brief
Published: 14 Dec 2018

Colour & Material Highlights from Design Miami/

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Hypernature

Each year, Design Miami/ unveils some of the most inspiring, unconventional and directional work on the design calendar. December’s edition in Miami, Florida, did not disappoint, with rising designers given a platform to show new avenues in their work through collaborations and gallery representations. Here are four of our favourites.

  • Italian fashion house Fendi commissioned Rotterdam-based designer Sabine Marcelis to create 10 water fountains symbolising the historic Fendi logo, and the importance of water in the production of its luxury goods. Streams of water cascaded from polished resin blocks in warm hues of rose, amber and yellow, which were placed on plinths of travertine stone.

  • New York’s Cristina Grajales Gallery’s sensory, tactile space showcased notable new furniture from Korean designer Sang Hoon Kim (also featured in our A/W 20/21 Colour & Materials Direction Grounded). For three generations, Kim’s family has run a foam factory – allowing him to explore the peripheries of the material’s possibilities. Expanding foam treated with different chemical solutions resulted in layered goopy surfaces, viscous drips and stippled textures.

  • Behind billowing sheer curtains featuring a faded sand-dune pattern, sat the liquid algorithmic forms and sensory furniture selected by New York’s Friedman Benda gallery. Centre stage was Lebanese sculptor Najla El Zein’s sandstone bench, featuring two forms nested together. Meanwhile, Dutch designer Joris Laarman’s Maker Bench showcased the possibilities of digital manufacturing with a seamless construction of Maple and Walnut woods.

  • French champagne producer Maison Perrier-Jouët commissioned London design star Bethan Laura Wood to create an enchanting space to drink and relax amidst a riot of colour. Called HyperNature, it featured anodised aluminium tree structures with tendrils of Perspex foliage overlaid with rainbow tints. Nestled within the branches were spirals holding flutes of champagne, which visitors were encouraged to take.
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Sabine Marcelis for Fendi
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Sabine Marcelis for Fendi
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Published: 13 Dec 2018

Free Rentals? Ba&sh’s 'Happy Hour' Retail Teasers

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Ba&sh

How much do you trust your customers? Possibly not as much as French womenswear brand Ba&sh. It’s currently seducing fans at its sociable new NYC store by allowing them to congregate on Friday nights for Happy Hour with Prosecco, manicures and free-to-borrow outfits (just return them by 7pm Monday, please).

Building on the rise of luxury garment rental companies such as US-based Rent the Runway, which let shoppers pay to borrow outfits for a pre-designated period (see Pause & Pulsate in our Liquid Retail Spotlight), Ba&sh has gone a step further by reimagining leasing as a fee-free engagement opportunity. 

There are, however, a few caveats: shoppers must leave a credit card at the store as insurance; garments must be returned by 7pm the following Monday; and (slightly questionably, considering the need for inclusivity) only sample sizes are available. If shoppers fulfil these requirements, they have from 5-7pm on Friday evening to select their weekend outfit from the brand’s loaner selection while sipping Prosecco and receiving complimentary manicures.

While ‘try before you buy’ is rife in retail, it’s generally contained within the store environment – kept under the watchful eye of the brand (see The Soft Sell). This presents Ba&sh’s concept as an unusually trusting gift to its fans, both existing and prospective. It’s also likely to appeal to the next generation of luxury consumers – detailed in Luxury Youth, Selling to Gen Z – who are increasingly more interested in a brand’s accessibility than its price point.

Notably, Ba&sh is bolstering its browse-and-borrow Friday Happy Hours with other community events devised to thrust its Gallic heritage front and centre. On Thursdays, there are French language classes. Occasionally, it hosts ticketed dinners with acclaimed French chefs. And each month, in solidarity with native retail partners, it will highlight a new French brand making its US debut. 

Published: 13 Dec 2018

Disney & Audi's Streaming Service for Driverless Cars

Disney and Audi have announced a partnership ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that will see the entertainment giant develop a new streaming service for Audi's future autonomous vehicles. The project points to huge upcoming opportunities for media brands to take advantage of the free time consumers will gain when driverless cars hit the mainstream.

Nils Wollny, Audi's head of digital business strategy and customer experience, described the partnership's goal as creating "a new media type that isn't existing yet that takes full advantage of being in a vehicle".

"What we've focused on is... not at all a classic marketing partnership [of the sort] that very often happens between automotive companies and media companies," he added. "We created something completely new together, and it's very technologically driven." It's speculated that the format will involve virtual and augmented reality technologies.

Audi is investing in new media platforms to take advantage of what it calls the "25th Hour" – the time consumers will regain as a result of the rise of autonomous vehicles. Other brands across automotive, advertising and entertainment are also looking at its potential. Elon Musk is said to be adding video streaming to his next Tesla firmware update, while Japanese ad agency Dentsu is currently working with the Center for Research on Adoption of NextGen Transportation Systems (CRANTS) to develop content and advertising delivery systems for the mobility society of the near future.

Autonomous cars may become the new living room, and considering Americans spend an average of 17,600 minutes driving every year (American Driving Survey, 2018), the engagement opportunities for brands will be huge.

For more on the future of media, see our 2018 Pop Culture Review and The Future of Television.

Published: 11 Dec 2018

Nécessaire Launches Sex-Positive Bodycare Range

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Nécessaire

Driven by the self-care movement, US start-up Nécessaire is expanding on The Bodycare Boom by exploring the lucrative sexual wellness industry.

In November 2018, the unisex range debuted with three essentials: Body Wash, Body Lotion and Sex Gel – all of which are free from sulphates, parabens and alcohol. Each product is fragrance-free and pH-balanced, but the body wash is available in two additional scent varieties – sandalwood and eucalyptus.

Nécessaire’s line is sex-positive and aims to broaden the bodycare category with products like lubricant. As sex-positive products permeate the mainstream beauty industry, we predict sexual wellness will be a growing sector for modern and agile brands to tap into. The global sexual wellness market is projected to be worth £32bn ($41bn) by 2019 (Technavio, 2018). For more examples of sex-positive brands and marketing strategies, see Instagangs: Indie Male Beauty, Female Sexuality in Focus  and How to Talk About Sex & Sexuality.

The ‘shelfie’-worthy branding and price point of $25 per item aim to elevate the daily act of washing. The luxurious textures of each product also appeal to wellbeing warriors, who treat shower time as precious ‘me time’. Néccesaire’s products specifically target this cohort, since they value ritual-led experiences. To read more about this burgeoning trend, see Luxurifying Personal Hygiene and Supercharge Your Shower: Skinjay’s Nespresso-Style Capsules.

The launch also capitalises on the rise of the non-gendered beauty category – 41% of British men would be more inclined to use skincare and bodycare products if they were marketed as genderless (Future Thinking, 2018). To read more about genderless branding, see Men Embrace Genderless Beauty and The Gender Agenda.

Published: 10 Dec 2018

Weekly thought-starter #005: The rise of the repair economy

Date:Monday, December 10, 2018
Author:Charlie Gilbert

Designing for longer product lifespans is not anti-consumerism. It’s a way to win favour with an increasingly critical and conscious audience.

This is the argument we make in The Repair Economy: Top Product Strategies, our latest Product Design report, which uncovers consumers’ intensifying fight against in-built obsolescence.

But longer-lasting products are only half the story – because consumers also want to know how to repair products when they eventually break down. And they’re looking to brands for DIY help.

Indeed, brands may actually be forced to assist. A Council of the European Union vote will soon decide whether companies need to provide customers with access to spare parts and repair documentation, while in the US, Right to Repair bills are gaining huge momentum.

How, then, can your business capitalise on these demands? Well, you could follow Motorola’s lead in exploring the potential of self-healing materials, with the company well on its way to creating a phone screen that, should it get cracked, regenerates itself.

You could also tap into the potential of protective coatings, modular constructions or, if you happen to be in the personal care or beauty sectors, ‘heirloom’ packaging designed for refills.

And in terms of repairs, consider joining online groups like iFixit. Again, Motorola is a nice example – when it joined the platform in October, it made DIY repair kits available to consumers. In doing so, it helped turn the tide against the monopoly brands currently have on mending electronics. Which, when you think about it, is pretty big.

But even bigger still is the future of the world as we know it. As Greenpeace campaigner Robin Perkins said: “By sharing, caring for and repairing things, we can make more of what we already own, and give our planet a break.”

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Published: 9 Dec 2018

Trend report lowdown: The Future of Money

Date:Sunday, December 9, 2018
Author:Charlie Gilbert

Make no mistake: the future of money has implications for every area of your business. Discover how new behaviours and technologies are uncovering a future that will affect all industries.

Does the future of money actually tell us more about the future generally?

“It’s almost as though you know I’m going to say yes. But, and this is genuinely fascinating, what people want from financial services is a reflection of what they want from brands in every industry.”

What do people want from financial services?

“Hyper-personalisation. Less time interacting. Increased security. But at a more granular level, what people want depends massively on what generation they fall into.

“Take millennials. They’re cautious about investing, but if they do invest they want to do so philanthropically. Or Gen Z, who’d rather bank with a disruptive, distinct brand than an actual bank.

“Silver spenders, meanwhile, want solutions to their fears over underfunded retirements.”

Is the finance industry responding?

“Well, going back to the point about increased security, safety deposit boxes have started making a comeback.

“But, more generally – yes, it absolutely is. In The Future of Money’s three reports, we reveal what happens when consumers’ lives are put into a financial context by not just disruptive start-ups, but traditional banks (clue: personalised, on-demand approaches to managing their money).”

You mentioned that Gen Z aren’t big on banks. Presumably banks can’t afford, ahem, not to connect with them?

“Yep, more than a third of Gen Zers (34%) don’t trust banks. Which, considering their global spending power ($44bn and counting), is bad news for banks. I feel like I’m saying ‘banks’ too much.

“Fortunately, we reveal how more traditional financial institutions (there we go) can engage with younger consumers who – and we’ve said this once or twice before – value meaningful experiences over, say, queuing in branches.”

Talking of engagement… has digitisation, and consumer distrust, made this generally more challenging?

“That’s right. Face-to-face touchpoints, thanks to mobile banking, are in decline. But that doesn’t mean banks – and the challenger services they find themselves up against – can’t physically connect with their customers.

“In The Future of Money, we profile the US lending company that puts on skill-building events for its members, the financial services corporation that’s developed a suite of sound, animation and mobile vibration patterns, and the challenger bank creating point-of-sale talking points.”

What else will The Future of Money teach me?

“How to develop your own fiscal identity, why multi-currency debit cards are becoming a thing, and the role belief has in consumers’ investment choices.”

If you’re a Stylus member, you can read The Future of Money now. If you’re not, discover the benefits of joining.

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Published: 7 Dec 2018

Altruistic Christmas: Brands Courting Conscious Consumption

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Choose Love

The increasing value of revealing eco-ethical brand behaviour, including nurturing a more mindful attitude to consumption (see The Brief), is swiftly filtering into the Christmas shopping frenzy. We track the brands flipping the focus by reframing the festive season as a platform to raise awareness and give back.

  • Fighting Against US Child Poverty: Aiming to help those 14 million US children living in poverty, US department store Barneys’ Make Change campaign deploys the cent as a symbol of change. Two million pennies form an in-store installation, including a pile in the windows that grows as consumers donate. All the coins will go to Save the Children USA post-Christmas, with Barneys adding an extra $5 for every social media post featuring #centiments and @barneysny.
  • Local Choices: Both maker-focused e-commerce marketplaces Etsy and Not On the High Street have opened bricks-and-mortar spots in London to promote locally produced goods.
  • Supporting Refugees: The Choose Love pop-up in Manhattan and London allows consumers to buy gifts for refugees in 80 international camps. Separated into three categories – Arrival, Shelter and Future – items include clothes, sleeping bags and education vouchers. The 2017 London pop-up raised £1m, affirming the consumer appetite for retail with a charitable dimension.
  • Trialling to Support: East London’s Westfield Stratford mall has opened a rental pop-up called The Drop, offering coveted items including Supreme sweaters for hire from £10 ($13). Visitors can rent pieces for four to seven days, with all profits going to charity initiative Save the Children – Big Up Uganda. The pop-up taps into the lucrative business of street culture (see Brands Harnessing the Hype and The Brief), as well as a growing interest in ethical practice in the luxury sector – 20% of millennial luxury spenders always take ethics into account (Statista, 2017).

For our full analysis of festive retail, including the missed opportunities and concepts with year-round relevance, see Christmas 2018 publishing on December 13.

Published: 6 Dec 2018

Pantone Crowns Living Coral Colour of the Year 2019

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Pantone Colour of the Year 2019: Living Coral

Global colour system manufacturer Pantone has announced its forecast Colour of the Year for 2019 as Living Coral (TCX 16-1546). The vibrantly soft shade is cited as a warm, nourishing hue that provides “comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment”.

Last year the company selected Ultra Violet – a saturated, blue-toned purple that represented ingenuity and visionary thinking (see The Brief). This optimistic, forward-thinking hue is now replaced by Living Coral. Described by Pantone as an “animating and life-affirming colour that symbolises our innate need for optimism and playful expression”, it’s intended to enliven and energise. 

“Colour is an equalising lens through which we experience our natural and digital realities, and this is particularly true for Living Coral,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute. “With consumers craving human interaction and social connection, the humanising and heartening qualities displayed by the convivial Pantone Living Coral hit a responsive chord.”

It’s this fusion of internal human desires and modern technology that makes this colour choice so relevant for 2019. We expect to see this highly commercial colour applied across industries, particularly in beauty, fashion, homeware and packaging.

We also include the vivid shade Coral in our S/S 19 Colour Direction Primal Power. Read more about the orange hue group in our Evolution S/S 19 colour analysis.

Published: 5 Dec 2018

Bioreactor Set to Make Food on Mars for Future Colonies

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Discussion around climate-change-driven food shortages and the possibility of colonising other planets has begun to permeate mainstream discussion, and scientists are seeking ways to feed people using alternative, low-impact methods. One such example is Lappeenranta University of Technology’s (LUT) bioreactor, which is capable of creating food using air and electricity.

As covered by Stylus, researchers at the university discovered a way to make a synthetic, edible, high-protein powder using water, carbon and microbes last year. Now they've teamed up with the European Space Agency (ESA) and launched a company called Solar Foods, creating a bioreactor capable of producing this edible protein on Mars. The project has also received more than €2m in funding.

"The conditions in Mars colonies are very different from those on Earth, but they have sunshine, and there are huge amounts of carbon dioxide in the planet's atmosphere," said Kimmo Isbjörnssund, manager at ESA Business Incubation Centre Finland. "The pioneering technology of Solar Foods enables a new way of producing food even in closed spaces. We assume that ingredients available at the Mars base can be used with the new technology."

The development also has exciting implications closer to home. This method of production could be used in areas where food is scarce due to poor farming conditions or drought, without putting pressure on existing resources. The bioreactors may even find their way into the home kitchen, allowing consumers to create their own sustainably sourced sustenance. See Self-Sustaining Spaces for more inspiration.

For more thinking on sustainable food production and how we'll feed ourselves in the future, see New Architecture of Taste and Feeding Tomorrow's Consumers.

Published: 4 Dec 2018

Kohl Kreatives’ Make-Up Brushes for Motor Disabilities

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British start-up Kohl Kreatives is showing the beauty industry how to design for disabilities with a set of multipurpose make-up brushes.

The non-profit company, which is dedicated to beauty empowerment, was inspired to create the Flex Collection for consumers who have difficulty applying make-up. The brushes are the first of their kind to be catered towards individuals with motor disabilities. 

Each of the brushes in Kohl Kreatives’ patented five-piece collection stands up on its own when set on a surface, as well as having an easy-to-grip handle. All brush heads are also fully flexible, allowing them to be moved and positioned at different angles for better control.

The variously shaped brushes can be used on the skin in a stamping motion, with the softness of the bristles creating a blurring effect rather than a harsh appearance. This helps to smooth out any mistakes made due to unsteady application. For example, the small triangle brush can create a soft-finished winged eyeliner effect when drawn along the lash line, eliminating any wobbles that would usually be visible if using a precise liquid applicator. 

While the multiple shapes in the range can be daunting for users with disabilities to experiment with, Kohl Kreatives provides free workshops and tutorials in the UK and Hong Kong. 

This underserved cohort’s spending power is estimated to be worth $2.1tn globally (Business of Fashion, 2017). Recognising the gap in the market and understanding that this demographic’s needs are not being met by other beauty brands, Kohl Kreatives is going above and beyond to cater to them.

To read more about design strategies for mixed-ability users, see Access for All  and Crafting Modern Connections. For deeper insights into branding for people with disabilities, see A Fashion A’woke’ning and Empathetic Brand Engagement.

Published: 4 Dec 2018

Grocer Natoora Takes Radical Seasonality to the High Street

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Upscale British grocer Natoora, which supplies “environmentally responsible” fruit and vegetables to almost 1,000 restaurant partners, is directing its focus on seasonality towards a direct-to-consumer retail concept – an upmarket grocery boutique in west London that solely sells seasonal produce.

Disrupting the non-natural homogeneity of fruit and veg found in mainstream supermarkets, Natoora’s new retail space on Fulham Road in the affluent Chelsea district offers a rotating assortment of fresh, exclusively seasonal products. It clearly targets west London’s wealthy residents – a demographic with an appetite for sustainably sourced items of the variety used by the capital’s influential chefs (many of whom are Natoora’s wholesale clients). It’s the third standalone store for the brand; other locations include Sloane Square and Chiswick.

Affirming its deviation from traditional supermarkets, all the fruit and vegetables are tastefully merchandised on warmly lit concrete and timber terrazzo terraced shelves, with no plastic packaging.

Beyond only selling in-season produce, Natoora also sorts goods according to three seasonal stages (early, peak and late), meaning goods move between the respective display categories. Determined to re-educate consumers accustomed to purchasing based on a product’s cosmetic appearance (often unaware of what ripe produce should really taste and look like), the store encourages consumers to sample. The current ‘peak’ autumn selection includes pomegranates from Sicily and pumpkins from Lombardy (Italy), as well as collard greens from Cornwall (England).

Natoora also emphasises the transparency of its supply chain. Working with a curated global network of small-scale growers, which it calls craftsmen, it displays the seed, soil and source of everything it sells. Pushing the power of provenance, each grower is spotlit via documentary-style content on its website and product origin maps in-store.

The space was designed by Argentinian architect Noé Golomb and furnished by London-based cabinet makers FincH.

See also Future Supermarket Strategies and Boom of the Boutique Grocery Store.

Published: 4 Dec 2018

Sustainability Summit Advocates Monetising Waste

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"We have to find ways of giving what we unhelpfully refer to as waste a proper value; we have to monetise it," argued the Prince of Wales at the inaugural Waste Wealth Summit in London on November 22. Business in the Community (BITC), the Prince of Wales's responsible business network, held the event to address the pressing issue of sustainable manufacturing and consumption.

Over 200 leaders from government, academia and business attended the summit, where BITC launched the Waste to Wealth Commitment. This requires brands to:

  • Work collectively towards doubling the UK's resource productivity and eliminating avoidable waste by 2030.
  • Set targets to improve the productivity of resources.
  • Redesign how resources are used in products, services and operations.
  • Collaborate across organisations, value chains and sectors.
  • Reconvene and report on progress annually to share learning and demonstrate results.

The Prince of Wales, an advocate for sustainable practices, delivered the keynote speech at the summit. He focused on the need to integrate and celebrate waste materials in the production cycle: "We have become very good at making things, now we have to get much better at unmaking and remaking them."

BITC estimates that UK businesses could save up to £7.2bn ($9.2bn) by improving the productivity of energy and resources. At the summit, over 40 brands signed up to the commitment. Bringing businesses together to educate collectively and share findings and results is a canny way to encourage companies to be mindful of their energy and resource use.

Stylus has recently reported on businesses and designers committed to addressing the issue of sustainable production. To discover innovators pioneering new uses for waste materials, see our 10 Sustainable Colour & Material Influencers report. To find out more about how intelligent solutions are driving the circular economy, read our Sustainability Turns Smart report.

Published: 3 Dec 2018

Costa Clever Cup Offers Contactless Payments

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Costa Clever Cup

British coffee chain Costa's latest marketing initiative offers customers a Clever Cup that can be used to pay for refills. It's the latest in a number of brand innovations in the contactless payment space that are set to transform the way consumers buy.

Embedded in the cup is a Barclaycard bPay payment chip, which not only enables customers to buy their Costa coffee, but also allows them to make purchases anywhere contactless payments are accepted. The Clever Cup sells for £14.99 ($19.15), and £1 from every sale is donated to the Costa Foundation for youth education. Tying purchase convenience to sustainability is a clever way to build brand loyalty.

It's also the latest example of a fintech innovation trend that aims to align new payment tools with specific consumer moments. In 2017, Australian firm Inamo partnered with Visa to enable festival-goers to pay for goods using sunglasses featuring an embedded payment chip. The project grew out of Inamo's waterproof payment wearable The Curl, which was developed for surfers. Both tools aim to solve the problem of consumers worrying about the safety of their cards and wallets at such locations.

This month, Inamo announced it will be trialling similar initiatives in the US for the first time, starting in California. Contactless payments have yet to fully take off in North America, but in September, Visa launched a marketing push intended to drive increasing awareness for US merchants. Opportunities for customer engagement along the lines of Costa's Clever Cup will undoubtedly follow.

For more on fintech innovation, see The Future of Money.

Published: 30 Nov 2018

Patagonia Donates $10m Tax Cut to Eco Charities

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Having strongly opposed president Trump's executive order to reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah, US outdoor brand Patagonia has now publicly rejected the Republican administration's corporate tax reductions.

In a brisk statement shared on professional networking platform LinkedIn, chief executive Rose Macario announced the company would be donating the equivalent of its $10m tax cut to groups working to protect the environment and solve the climate crisis.

"Being a responsible company means paying your taxes in proportion to your success and supporting your state and federal governments, which in turn contribute to the health and wellbeing of civil society," she wrote. "Instead of putting the money back into our business, we're responding by putting $10m back into the planet. Our home planet needs it more than we do."

This is a legitimate concern for Patagonia – after all, the "air, land and water" it seeks to preserve are the very elements its products are designed for: no great outdoors, no natural habitat for its brand. Additionally, the announcement referenced findings from the most recent climate assessment report and the economic damage projected therein. Private corporations cannot make up for policy gaps – but at least Patagonia is putting its money where its mouth is.

For more on how brands can use and grow their platforms in an age of anxiety, check out Surviving the Post-Truth Era, our report from Social Media Week London; and Creating Shared Value: Sustainability Marketing.

Published: 30 Nov 2018

Toys Target Short Attention Spans & Mindful Learners

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L-R: Monopoly Fortnite, Nerf Laser Ops DeltaBurst

The dominance of digital tech is affecting children’s expectations of entertainment – prompting analogue toy brands to reduce game times and augment action for shorter attention spans. Meanwhile, educational toys are embracing slow play to reinforce mindful interactions. We unpack how strategic timing is being used to reinvent old favourites this Christmas.

Board Games Compete with Digital Play: US company Hasbro has released a new version of the family classic Monopoly that reduces game play to 30 minutes in order to hold children’s shorter attention spans and compete with digital devices. Monopoly Fortnite is also based on the popular online battle game and uses the storm within its narrative to shut down sections of the board, allowing players to progress faster to the finish.

Extreme Inside Action: Tech has also influenced the development of Hasbro’s new Nerf blasters, which embrace the high-octane action of digital screens to offer mess-free play for indoor environments. The Laser Ops DeltaBurst uses low-intensity lasers rather than foam darts to shoot and detect hits between players. The device features a corresponding app (an armband’s included for holding the smartphone), providing up-to-date information on performance as well as a solo-play version.

Compassion Care: Scruff-a-Luvs is a plush toy brand from UK company Worlds Apart that teaches children the importance of investing time and care in their pets and possessions. The toy is bought as a matted ball of fluff that children must wash, blow dry and brush to reveal its secret identity – a dog, cat or rabbit. Part of the cost of every purchase goes to supporting international animal care organisation the RSPCA.

For the most influential trends in children’s toys this year, see Toy Fair New York 2018. For more on how digital tech is offering thrilling experiences indoors, see Designing Amplified Experiences.

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