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Published: 19 Oct 2018

China’s Future Home: Flexible, Playful & Connected to Nature

Open Architecture

Ten of China and Japan’s top architecture firms explored how the home could and should respond to the pressures of future living with a series of conceptual pavilions for House Vision, an exhibition within Beijing Design Week (September 26 to October 5). The installations exposed three consumer needs – flexibility, fun and connection to environmental resources – that will be pivotal to future architectural practice. Here, we give you the highlights.

Chinese studio Open Architecture queried how humans might settle on another planet with its Mars Case pavilion. The pod design features a cube-shaped metallic base housing the kitchen and bathroom, as well as a soft-skinned extension that inflates to create a living space. The pavilion constantly recycles air, water and energy to enable inhabitants to exist without access to natural resources. The design is also aimed at the growing community of nomadic consumers seeking sustainable housing alternatives – see our A/W 19/20 Design Direction Essence for more.

Chinese studio Penda took inspiration from traditional hutongs – and their role as communal meeting places – in its Urban Cabin design for Mini Living. A playground-like interior creates a sense of being in a public space, featuring a swing and moveable puzzle-shaped seats. A periscope protruding through the roof connects inhabitants to the outdoors, enabling them to look around the house and syphoning sunlight into the space.

Beijing-based architecture studio Blue used modular wall and storage sections to imagine how design can be used to activate China’s abandoned buildings. Its pavilion was filled with five-metre-high box structures that create semi-enclosed private living spaces. Users can position sofas, chairs and tables inside and outside of these structures, using the divides to delineate social and intimate settings.

Each project appreciates space as a vital commodity and explores how new ways of managing it can create buildings that nurture their inhabitants, even when in a restrictive environment.

Penda x Mini Living
Blue Architecture
Published: 19 Oct 2018

The Indulgent Future of Vegan Dairy: Top 3 Innovations

L-R: Daiya, Lavva, Wonderfuel

At Natural Products Expo East 2018, dairy alternatives continued their mass-market push. Plant-based milk now accounts for 13% of all US milk sales (Nielsen, 2018), while cheese, yoghurt and ice cream are the fastest-growing plant-based segments. We highlight three category innovations to watch.

  • The Melt Factor: Savvy brands are emphasising vegan food’s indulgent side with junk food-inspired cheese sauces. In 2017, Canadian company Daiya introduced a Cheeze Sauce line that blends tapioca starch, pea protein and coconut oil to replicate melty cheese’s unctuous texture. 

    Other brands are opting for whole food thickeners, smartly appealing to both vegan and non-vegan consumers craving better-for-you options (a category explored in depth in Frozen Food’s Health Push). Californian company Parmela makes nacho-style dips with cultured cashews, which impart a creamy texture and cheesy flavour. For a lower-calorie option, North Carolina-based Plant Based Pantry thickens its nacho sauce with potatoes. 
  • Yoghurt’s Plant Pivot: Yoghurt sales have increased since 2012 and steady growth is projected until 2022 (Supermarket News, 2018). Complementing the nut-based yoghurts seen at 2017’s Natural Products Expo East, New York-based Lavva deploys Southeast Asian pili nuts to give its yoghurt a light flavour and silky mouthfeel. For tangier yoghurt, consumers can try fellow New York brand Nancy’s oat milk yoghurt, which is boosted with probiotics. 

  • More Than Milk: Clever producers are introducing plant-based, non-dairy beverages with added benefits. Similar to its full-fat nut milk, presented at Natural Products Expo West 2018, Californian brand Forager Project introduced a half-and-half drink that mixes cashews with coconut cream for a mild flavour and lush texture.

    Functional products are also growing in number. California-based Wonder Fuel riffs on keto-friendly beverages with its coconut drink infused with MCT oil, a supplement intended to promote mental acuity. 

    See Oceania Food Trends: Fine Foods Australia for more innovation in non-dairy milks.

For more on veganism’s multifaceted future, see Materials for Vegan-Friendly LifestylesMcDonald’s Launches Vegan Burger and Superdrug’s Vegan Pop-Up.

Published: 19 Oct 2018

Slow Retail: Teatulia’s Tea & Book Sanctuary in London

Teatulia, London

A new tea store in London's buzzing Covent Garden is letting consumers escape the hustle and bustle of the city by encouraging them to linger in a peaceful home-like setting with tea and books.

"Many tea shops fall into the trap of being too twee, too busy or too worthy, crammed with confusing varieties and accessories or banging on endlessly about their 'detox' properties," says Teatulia's creative director Ed Cumming. "We also think it's impossible to really get a sense of what a tea is like without taking the time to make it properly, sit back and relax. We hope the shop lets customers experience our bold, flavourful teas at their best – over a chat or a book, or even a cocktail."

The space offers a variety of organic tea blends (sourced from North Bangladesh) by day, and tea-infused cocktails at night. A 'Living Bookshelf' at the rear of the 16-cover space features a monthly edit of books, exclusively curated by famous writers, musicians and artists. Consumers can enjoy them for free on a sofa or take one home for £10 ($13) – enabling them to immerse themselves in the brand and its products at their own pace. This month's edit was created by US actress Tilda Swinton, one of the brand's ambassadors.

The intimate and cosy interior was designed by London agency Russell Sage Studio. It mixes art-deco and mid-century elements such as a black terrazzo bar, floor-to-ceiling wooden bookshelves and geometric patterned carpets – creating a friendly environment that mirrors the 'at-home' experience consumers often have with tea and books.

For more on the latest strategies within the tea industry, see The Evolving Tea Landscape. To read about how brands are expanding into adjacent industries, see Retail x Hospitality and Brand Stretch: Attraction of Food. See also Soft Sell: The New Retail.

Published: 18 Oct 2018

Boost Your Beauty with This Works’ Bodyclock Facial

This Works

In Selling Cyclical Beauty, we highlight the shrewd brands tapping into body, time, and environmental cycles to maximise the benefits of beauty product. New retail treatment opportunities – such as the new Bodyclock facial – are showcasing how to further boost skin health and wellbeing, while also spreading brand awareness.

British brand This Works’ Bodyclock facial combines masking, massage, fragrance and light therapy in a multisensorial skincare treatment synched to the time of day. Clients can choose between five facials that align with the company’s time-oriented skincare and aromatherapeutic blends: Wake Up, Daytime, Evening, Night and 24hrs.

The Wake Up facial is billed as a ‘rise and shine’ treatment to replace overnight water loss, calm irritation, and prepare skin and mind for the day ahead. Daytime tackles skin that may have become dull, tired or shiny. Evening focuses on deep cleansing and is best experienced after 6pm, while Night offers a plumping, smoothing facial for the twilight hours (after 9pm). This is the optimal time for natural actives to aid nightly cell repair, and boost hydration in anticipation of overnight water loss.

The newest addition to the line-up is the 24hrs facial, which the brand views as a power nap for lacklustre skin at any time of day. It mimics overnight revitalisation in just 20 minutes for a smoother, clearer, more refreshed complexion.

Each facial is elevated by a corresponding This Works aromatherapeutic fragrance, which is diffused nearby to either invigorate or relax the client. The skincare and fragrance elements are also complemented with light therapy, in the form of either Lumie SAD lighting to lift mood, productivity and energy levels; or amber glasses to block out stimulating blue light and aid relaxation.

The facial is priced competitively at £20 ($26), which is redeemable against product – another enticing benefit that will inspire repeat purchase and gifting (the retail sweet spot). Currently, the Bodyclock facial is only available in UK department store John Lewis’s Kingston branch – presenting lucrative roll-out opportunities to other retailers.

For more on aromatherapy and mood-balancing beauty strategies, see Lush’s Spa-Inspired Range, Experimental Scent and Skinjay’s Nespresso-Style Capsules. For more on cyclical beauty, see Menstruation-Targeted Beauty and Circadian Rhythms Drive Beauty Innovations.

Published: 18 Oct 2018

Millennial Marriages are Slowing the US Divorce Rate


Owing to longer premarital co-habitation, and getting married later in life, millennials are causing the US divorce rate to drop.

In an analysis of US census data, Professor Philip Cohen of the University of Maryland discovered that the country's divorce rate dropped 18% between 2008 and 2016. When variables such as age and marriage rates were factored into Cohen's analysis, the divorce rate was still 8% lower in 2016 than it had been eight years earlier. The census also reveals that divorce in the boomer demographic (aged 54 to 72), had almost doubled between 1990 and 2015 (Pew, 2017). These findings led Professor Cohen to argue that divorce rates are set to decline in coming years, owing in large to the millennial demographic's approach to marriage.

Millennials are getting married later: in 1990, the median age for a first marriage was 26.1 years for men and 23.9 for women. In 2017, it had risen to 29.5 for men and 27.4 for women (US Census Bureau, 2017). In Norway, the average age of marriage - 39 for men and 38 for women - is seven years later than the average age of becoming a parent. This indicates that couples are living together for much longer before marriage than previous generations - and in some cases, starting families prior to marriage.

As relationship structures and timelines shift, we expect to see new forms of celebration and milestones emerge among consumers. Brands should look to help couples forge their own traditions and rituals. The New Family Network, from our latest Macro Trend The Kinship Economy, highlights the brands providing such services.

Published: 17 Oct 2018

Retail Storytelling: Ntwrk App Taps Episodic Live Content


Retailers are transforming into media entities and turning to broadcasting to reach those four out of five millennials who consider video content when researching a purchase decision (SMT, 2017). Ntwrk – dubbed “QVC meets Comic-Con” – is a new player that wants to redefine commerce’s modus operandi by melding TV, retail and the gloriously nerdy enthusiasm of convention culture.

The app-based concept was launched by US streetwear visionary Aaron Levant, founder of street culture convention ComplexCon and streetwear trade show turned marketing festival Agenda (for more, see our blog). Ntwrk sells goods via bite-sized video broadcasts, celebrity-packed episodic content (think game shows featuring prime-time chefs and hardcore rappers), and shoppable, physical pop-up theme parks.

Setting Ntwrk apart from its traditional counterparts (including QVC), shopping will be frictionless, with users able to save their credit card details and make purchases without leaving the entertainment environment. Categories include gaming, music, streetwear and art, and everything sold is a Ntwrk exclusive, with prices ranging from $45-$300. However, limited editions or collectable items exceed this in some cases.

Broadcasts come in two formats that are both relatively short but focused, appealing to Gen Z and Y’s desire for high-quality content in short bursts. Supermarket is a celebrity-hosted 15-minute themed show (Monday is about selling games, Wednesday about fashion etc), which currently runs three days a week but aims to increase to seven in 2019. The Meltdown is a weekly late-night Q&A show hosted by US comedian Eric Andre.

Ntwrk benefits from heavyweight funding from investors including Warner Bros’ digital content division Digital Networks, US basketball icon LeBron James, and Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Ntwrk plans to open ticketed 30-day-long theme parks in 2019. “They’ll be like Instagram factories and shoppable via e-commerce,” says Levant.

See also Live Commerce is Impacting Retail.

Happiness in Hospitality: A New Survey into the Industry

Job satisfaction is key for those in the industry

Ethical employment has become a key part of the conversation around sustainability in hospitality, with our reports Sustainable Restaurants and Boundless Hospitality highlighting the topic. With this in mind, UK media company Code conducted its inaugural Happiness in Hospitality survey, the results of which were published last week.

The survey questions were designed to identify industry workers' drive, pressure points and hopes for the future, focusing on staff's wellbeing as well as details around benefits and remuneration.

Code's founder Adam Hyman believes that achieving a deeper understanding of what employees value and what they believe could be improved will allow brands to create positive workplaces – and therefore improve their recruitment, retention and business sustainability. "As an industry, we need to unite and collectively implement improvements to the workplace to attract new talent and retain those already working in it," explains Hyman. "People work in restaurants, bars and hotels for more than a pay cheque – they do it from a more deep-rooted passion."

A key topic within hospitality globally is the treatment of staff, with the survey revealing that nine out of 10 have experienced or witnessed abuse at work. However, 78% of those surveyed would recommend working in hospitality as a career. Job satisfaction is key for those in the industry, with 38% reportedly changing jobs for personal development. Only 7% cited an increase in pay as a reason, compared to 51% of the UK workforce generally. With 87% in the industry eager to be a mentor, and 72% of junior staff stating they'd like greater support, there is clearly opportunity for deeper connectivity across the industry.

Published: 17 Oct 2018

Dress for Success: Affordable Interview Dressing

Amber Butchart giving a candidate advice on interview attire

Dressing appropriately for a job interview is a key concern for jobseekers  as well as a financial burden. Charities in Britain and the US are empowering job hunters by providing low-cost and rentable clothing and accessories for interviews.

Recent research has found that UK graduates spend £58 ($77) on average on a new interview outfit – an amount which is unattainable for many (Barclays, 2017). But career-finding app Debut and fashion historian Amber Butchart have collaborated with charity shops across the UK to launch a new initiative: Dress to Impress for £10, providing a whole outfit for just a tenner ($13).

More than 650 charity shops have committed to the enterprise by dedicating retail space to interview-appropriate clothing. Store volunteers will also be on hand to share styling advice from Butchart to allay any concerns.

Similarly, in the US, the New York Public Library has extended its offering beyond books by launching the Grow Up Work Fashion Library in August 2018. The fashion library focuses on accessories, offering items such as professional bags, briefcases and ties for three-week loans. It also has information sheets suggesting interview tips, career resources, books and websites – including those with advice on professional attire.

The two initiatives illustrate how contentious the issue of workwear has become. While professionalism is often associated with traditional tailoring, a recent survey reveals that only one in 10 people wear a suit to work (Travelodge, 2018).

As working life adapts to societal shifts, affordable, high-functioning clothing will be in demand. For further insight into the future of workwear, see Fashion's Workplace Challenge. For more on navigating the changing workplace, see our Macro Trend The Work/Life Revolution.

Published: 16 Oct 2018

Patchology Targets Teens with Moody Face-Mask Range


With demand for face masks growing exponentially in global markets – forecast to reach $337m by 2024 (Transparency Market Research, 2017) – smart brands are now creating diverse and nuanced offerings in this category. US skincare brand Patchology is targeting a new audience with the launch of its Moodmasks, a range that specifically caters to younger skin types.

Patchology’s evolving product line includes three face masks that have been designed to work with teens’ ever-changing “skin moods”, ranging from inflamed and acne-prone, to dull and dehydrated. For example, Just Let It Glow is aimed at those with lacklustre skin, guarding against harsh environmental factors like pollution and debris. Together, pear fruit and seaberry extracts moisturise and deliver antioxidants to the skin.

In the past, Patchology has targeted older millennials, but with the launch of Moodmasks, the brand is tapping into the lucrative teen market. Its latest venture feeds into Gen Z’s enthusiasm for effective and targeted skincare products: US teens’ spending in this category has increased by 18% year-on-year (Piper Jaffray, 2018).

In addition, the brand has simplified lengthy skincare routines, a move that appeals to Gen Zers – time-saving innovations that deliver quick results are key when targeting this consumer group. Each mask boasts multifunctional properties – for instance, The Good Fight treats redness and breakouts while exfoliating and brightening the skin. The masks will be priced accessibly at $6.55 each.

To read more about beauty innovations for Gen Z, see our reports Teen Beauty 2018, Tweens: An Expanding Make-Up  Category and Teen-Targeted Beauty: Retail. For deeper cross-category insights into Gen Z, see our reports 10 Youth Trends to Watch and Teen Media Trends.

Published: 16 Oct 2018

Beijing Design Week Highlight: Sensory Chair Collection

Yuming Hu

Furniture is increasingly being considered as a tool to support emotional states as well as the body, with designers employing physically stimulating elements to engage the mind. This is illustrated in a new chair collection by Chinese designer Yuming Hu, which explores how sensorial design can help the user achieve improved relaxation, productivity and ergonomic support.

Exhibited at this year’s Beijing Design Week (September 26 to October 5), the range of six chairs engage the body in different ways. Each chair is designed to satisfy the micro-movements that one’s hands, arms, back, legs and feet make when sitting down.

One chair has a back that extends out into a large hoop decorated with curved barbs that hold two smaller hoops. This design allows the user to stretch out their arms and back by reaching up to hold onto the smaller hoops while remaining seated.

Two curved wheel-like legs on one chair enable the user to rock forwards to assist with standing up, while a curved backrest on another allows the sitter to position themselves at any angle.

To help with concentration, the chairs feature pedals and silver balls to engage the feet and fingers. According to Hu, the hands need to be considered more often in design: “The activity of the hands is very rich. Imagine that holding a glass of red wine in your hand will make you more confident when talking to others. The satisfaction of hand movements will make us feel natural and safe.”

By incorporating responsive elements into design, users are able to release nervous energy and find their unique position for comfort. For more on the importance of sensorial design, see Sensory Product within our Spotlight Trend The Sensory Opportunity.

Published: 16 Oct 2018

Smart Caption Glasses: Theatre for the Hearing Impaired


As of October, London's National Theatre will offer Smart Caption Glasses for hard-of-hearing audience members. The glasses provide live subtitles, enabling theatregoers to enjoy performances as they unfold in real time.

Developed by tech company Epson, the software follows live production dialogue and stage directions, such as audio and lighting cues, to provide instant subtitling. This accommodates changes in pacing that might occur during performances. It also ensures that hard-of-hearing audience members reach significant points in the production - such as jokes - at the same time as the rest of the viewers.

The Smart Caption Glasses can be linked to a touchpad that allows users to alter the subtitling font size, colour, placement and the background display to suit individual needs. The technology could also potentially be used to offer foreign-language subtitles to non-English-speaking audiences, similar to US health-tech company Starkey's recently released translating hearing aids.

The glasses will be available for the National's 2019 season, including at some performances of a touring production of Macbeth. The glasses can be reserved through the National Theatre's online ticketing interface, with booking launching at the end of October for members, and November for the general public.

In the UK, there are 11 million people with hearing loss, making initiatives such as these a wise investment (Action on Hearing Loss, 2017). Time and again companies are proving the commercial benefits of appealing to traditionally under-represented consumers.

For our take on some of the recent designs accommodating a wide spectrum of abilities, see our Design for Disability report, as well as blogs on inclusive clothing for children and adults, and on new technology for the visually impaired.

Published: 15 Oct 2018

CBD in your Soda: Coca-Cola Considers Cannabis

Coca Cola

Following a boom in innovation in the cannabis drinks space, Coca-Cola has confirmed that it's exploring the possibility of using CBD oil in some of its drinks in the future.

Coca-Cola has embraced the massive financial potential of the cannabis space, which is set to be worth $22bn by 2022 (Brightfield Group, 2018). The global brand is in talks with Canadian medicinal cannabis producer Aurora Cannabis with the aim of developing a range of drinks infused with non-psychoactive CBD. The drinks will take advantage of the medicinal effects of the compound, which is said to ease pain, inflammation and anxiety.

For more on cannabis as a multipurpose elixir, see our report 10 Wellbeing Trends to Watch.

Michael Christopher, head of Californian cannabis drinks brand Mood33, is enthusiastic about this new development. As he stated at Advertising Week New York (October 1-3 2018), "It's a huge validator of our category for CPG [consumer-packaged goods] to be using [CBD] as a hero ingredient."

It appears, then, that Christopher doesn't see Coca-Cola as a threat. Instead, he is welcoming it as a potential investor in regional brands like Mood33, should cannabis eventually become fully legal across the US – as many expect it will do.

See our Spotlight Trend Commercialising Cannabis to learn more about this fast-growing industry. You might also want to take a look at The Beverage Buzz: Alcohol-Style THC Drinks for examples of how North American drinks brands are currently tapping into the cannabis space. Additionally, Fluid Flavours offers insights into innovations in the beverage industry.

Published: 12 Oct 2018

Open-Ended Toys Teach Code Through Magical Interactions


Children’s toys are being reframed as life-training tools, embracing simplified tech as a catalyst for computer-based dexterity (see also Gen Alpha: Childhood Rebooted). UK tech company Kano takes this a step further with its Harry Potter-branded coding kit, which explores how toys can help develop children’s skills, while fostering a sustainable relationship between child and product.

The wand coding kit comes in four pieces, which children assemble by following a step-by-step instructional guide. The wand pairs with an accompanying app, which allows users to programme spells to be triggered in response to a range of movie-inspired hand gestures. Children code by moving around brightly coloured blocks, with a split screen presenting the JavaScript version of their actions.

The app features a series of games – from levitating feathers to taming fire – that children play using their wand as controller. These actions physicalise the game and offer users an immersive experience, recreating the magic of the popular film series – for more on gesture-based interaction design, see our A/W 19/20 Design Direction Burst.

Kano’s open-ended design allows this sense of magic to be extended outside of the game, with the motherboard able to interact with other electronic devices. “You can use the wand to turn the lights on in your house,” says Kano’s director Aaron Hinchion. “This is something you can do whatever you want with.”

Modular design is key to Kano’s mission, tackling the throwaway culture in electronics. Incorporating no glue or screws, the plastic components can be recycled, with users then able to use the motherboard in different projects – or even craft their own wand out of wood.

Allowing hardware and software to run independently helps products respond to changes in age and interest, as well as future-proofing toys so that they can be enjoyed beyond childhood.

Published: 12 Oct 2018

Facebook Launches Its First Video Chat Device: Portal


Facebook is aiming to make video chat a more natural, seamless experience with the release of its first hardware device, Portal.

Facebook's Portal combines a video screen with an artificial intelligence-powered camera that tracks users' movements, keeping them in the frame throughout the chat. The device also features four integrated microphones that pick up speech, regardless of where the user is in the room. These features mean that, unlike smartphone and computer video-chat apps, Portal allows the user to move and speak freely, as if their conversation were happening face to face.

With Portal, Facebook is tapping into a global trend of dynamic, borderless living, facilitating a realistic communication experience through technology (for more on this, see our report Being Borderless). Facebook also appears to be targeting family relationships: Portal's Story Time, an augmented reality application, allows users to read stories to loved ones using a teleprompter while smart visuals and audio illustrate the story. For more on how technology is supporting new family dynamics, see Crafting Modern Connections, part of our latest Macro Trend The Kinship Economy.

Facebook is wise to capitalise on the popularity of video chat: in 2017, it hosted 17 billion video chats on its Messenger platform (Facebook, 2017). However, reaction to Portal has been mixed; reviewers have found the camera tracking effective, but are concerned about privacy in light of Facebook's recent data breaches and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Facebook describes Portal as "private by design", fitting it with features such as a camera cover and a button to completely disable the visual and audio recording functions, with the aim of increasing the product's privacy credentials. For more on how to preserve consumer privacy, see our Safeguarding Security report.

Published: 12 Oct 2018

Resilient Coating Lowers Temperatures in Extreme Climates

In 2018, global temperatures look set to reach record highs for the fourth consecutive year (Carbon Brief, 2018). As reports emerge of buildings and infrastructural elements melting in the heat, designers need to specify more resilient materials that prolong product lifespans and protect people. We look at one potential solution.

Researchers at New York’s Columbia University have developed a coating that reflects over 96% of heat without using pigment or power. The innovation has far-reaching applications as it can be fabricated, dyed and applied like a paint to anything, including rooftops, buildings, vehicles and spacecrafts. 

Once applied, the coating is not reliant on power, making it a passive daytime radiative cooling (PDRC) method. This could prove valuable for developing countries, where electricity sources can be unreliable and the effects of climate change are extreme. Alternative methods of keeping temperatures cool, such as air conditioning units and electrical fans, are extremely energy-intensive.

White paint is often applied to aeroplane fuselages and buildings in hot climates as it typically contains titanium dioxide, which gives surfaces the reflective properties needed to keep them cool. However, white paints usually have pigments that absorb UV light, limiting their performance.

In the same way that soap bubbles or snow reflect light, the new pigment-free coating has a bubbly structured surface with air voids to increase reflectivity and create an insulating layer.

In our S/S 20 Colour Spectrum direction Augmented Space, we mention Vantablack – a pigment so dark that it alters our perception of form and dimension.

Look out for upcoming reports on how to future-proof design for challenging environmental conditions.