Digital gaming attracts a huge and powerful player base around the world, with e-sports battle arena game League of Legends enjoying a following of 100 million (Statista, 2017). With this number of engaged users, gaming needs to consider the diversity of its fans and use intelligent design to cater to different abilities and methods of play.
Xbox, Microsoft’s gaming division, has taken a step towards making gaming more accessible for users of mixed abilities with the Adaptive Controller. Designed in collaboration with charity organisations and gamers, the device is flat and rectangular – breaking from the curved palm grips of the traditional model – and sits easily on a table or on a gamer’s lap.
Two oversized A and B pads feature as a softer and larger update on the old model’s pointer finger buttons, while external input points allow users to connect additional joysticks, pedals and switches. The function of these can be programmed to suit the individual user.
“A gamer can game with one hand and one foot, or one hand and their shoulder, or even one foot and their chin,” says James Shields, Xbox product marketing manager. By offering adaptive controls and plug-ins, the controller is an example of how design can incite users to rethink conventional interactions and create products that are both imaginative and inclusive.
This push to serve mixed-ability consumers is gaining momentum across design categories, from graphics and lettering to wearables and ride-ons (see our blog posts on Inclusive Typography and Design for Disability). With 12.6% of the US population reporting to have a disability (Pew Research, 2017), there is a huge opportunity for brands to build on this inclusive mentality with accessible products that move beyond pure utility to excite and empower. For the latest gaming developments from this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, see Connected Play is Changing the Game at E3.
The Swedish manufacturer has acknowledged the huge influence of e-sports with a new collaboration tackling ergonomic seating design for a generation that sits playing computer games for up to 20 hours per day.
As revealed in Designing Amplified Experiences (part of our Active Lives Macro Trend), e-sports is big business, with revenue forecast to reach $1.5bn by 2020 (Newzoo, 2017). Ikea has long dedicated its creative focus to improving ergonomic design, and with gamers sitting down for up to 20 hours a day – sometimes resulting in sports injuries – the pairing is a logical fit.
The collaboration – announced at Ikea’s annual design conference Democratic Design Days last week – is with Swedish e-sports education platform Area Academy, and US medical wearable company Unyq. The latter creates custom prosthetics from digital body scans, which are used to create 3D-printed casts that are tailored to the user’s body. Ikea wants to bring this technology into its stores, demonstrating that customisation is possible within the mass market.
Unyq’s scanning technology will be located in Ikea stores next to its standard chair models. Users create a 3D map of their body, which can be saved and sent to Ikea with their product choice via an app. From these scans, Unyq prints cushions that fit onto the product and feature a lattice structure that guides the user into the correct posture.
The speedy and scalable production made possible with 3D technology is driving new commercial opportunities by creating custom-fitted product. This is a major theme within our A/W 19/20 Design Direction Burst, which explores how designs are being left open-ended to enable users to realise products that reflect their bodies, needs and creativity.
Microsoft's HoloLens – a headset containing a holographic computer – will soon be able to guide blind people through buildings, thanks to its ability to map spaces in real time and offer audio guidance via speakers.
The mixed-reality headset allows users to see, hear and interact with 3D holograms that are "pinned" in their field of vision. Unlike other augmented glasses, HoloLens holograms interact with the world while the user is moving, as multiple sensors can map the user's surrounding space in detail.
Researchers from the California Institute of Technology have designed an application that allows the HoloLens's features to act as a virtual guide, helping blind individuals navigate complex buildings by restoring vision at a cognitive level. The wearable computer captures images of the surrounding environment, and conveys this information via auditory augmented reality. Its speakers can make sound appear as if it's coming from different points within the space – enabling users to find their way just by following the voice, without the need for any physical aids.
"The combination of unprecedented computing power in wearable devices with augmented reality technology promises a new era of non-invasive prostheses", reads the abstract of the research. Considering that 253 million people in the world are blind or visually impaired (WHO, 2017), this technology could be life-changing for many in the future.
Expanding beyond his fashion label to enter the world of architecture, US musical artist Kanye West has announced Yeezy Home, a new creative branch of his brand that’s promising to develop affordable housing.
Minimal information has been released so far about this new project and how it will cater to low-income families. However, render images of a prototype dwelling reveal a modern and luxurious single-storey house, with rooms set around a central zen garden. The interior is spacious and minimal, featuring pre-cast concrete, metallic finishes and a skillion roof. The rapper’s preference for brutalist-inspired spaces is clear, with the images resembling Yeezy’s headquarters in California, which are similarly sparse and concrete-dominated.
West’s plan to move into architecture was revealed in early May, with a call-out on social media for architects and industrial designers wanting to collaborate and “make the world a better place”.
As explored in our A/W 19/20 Design Direction Burst, industry barriers are being broken down by an energetic generation unafraid to enter new domains, leading to inventive mash-ups of genres and aesthetics. West’s project looks set to inject a fresh perspective into architecture by combining his experience in both music and fashion, and invites a new audience to engage with an industry that’s often criticised for its lack of diversity.
For another example of a brand breaking free from expected product categories and exploring new ways to capitalise on established fans and branding, see Adventure Branding: Land Rover Creates Outdoor Phone. For more on how brands are colonising new product spaces and platforms to extend their influence, see Making Brands Indispensable.
The US is changing dramatically as its population ages and becomes more diverse. However, these changes are being felt in different ways across the country's urban, suburban and rural communities, according to a report released last month by US-based Pew Research Center. Key findings include:
For more on the widening divide between urban, suburban and rural consumers, see New Metropolitans.
Beyond anticipation for the millennium, 2020 is the milestone year that has always denoted ‘tomorrow’s world’. Now, our global colour specialists have forecast the trends that will land in real life for this once-futuristic year.
By looking across the creative industries and the worlds of art, technology and science, they’ve foreseen an exciting, vibrant and positive tomorrow – a tomorrow that’s coming fast.
Here are their three defining trends:
Our research this season has seen us jumping into the future whilst looking back at landmark highlights from the past. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, which not only signified a huge technological accomplishment, but also impacted design and aesthetics.
Half a century later, designers are revisiting the symbolism of the moon and celestial formations in a modern context. We’re seeing mysticism being captured aesthetically, through a redefined space-age palette, in augmented environments and products. Three shades from our Colour Spectrum S/S 2020 capture this trend: pale purple Cosmos; vivid, lunar-inspired Dark Windsor; and a particularly spectacular shade of Neon Peach that I want to surround myself with from this day forward.
We’ve been citing the importance of biophilic design within our everyday lives as part of a wider wellbeing trend. As we design sensitively for the future, we look for ways to convey nature’s fluid rhythms and irregularities through enriching patterns and finishes.
Lauren Chiu, our senior editor of Colour & Materials, says: “For Spring/Summer 2020, we imagine calming utopias where living colour nourishes our senses alongside materials that grow and evolve, nurturing our mind and body as they mature.” A botanical palette includes mineral Blue Shale, verdant Reseda Green, and chalky, soothing Rosaline.
In our wider consumer trend research, we’ve been questioning what it means to be human today – considering what unites and divides us, while acknowledging the crucial role of diversity in society’s wellbeing. For a bright, borderless future, we’re inspired by a rich and resourceful aesthetic that draws influence from a broad global audience.
An appreciation of cultural heritage and skills is leading an exploration of traditional craft, as we see time-honoured techniques being invigorated through contemporary construction. This is where colours that convey history and age-old character – like deep Indigo Ink, stripped-back Vanilla and energising Emberglow – come in.
Here, I’ve presented a sample of just nine of the 48 colours that make up our biannual Colour Spectrum, a glimpse at the colours we should prepare to embrace in 2020.
Alongside our global colour specialists, our advisory team can create bespoke colour forecasts with ideas for application. If you’re interested in finding out more, please do get in touch with our Advisory team.
Wishing you a colourful month,
Chief Creative Officer
US department store Nordstrom is upping its size-inclusive strategies – recognising the $22bn spending power of the plus-size market, as well as the need for inclusivity across the board.
US denim brand Good American (co-founded by Khloé Kardashian) acted as the catalyst for the department store. The size-inclusive brand demanded that the retailer picked up every size from US 00-24 (UK 2-28) in order to sell its collections.
Nordstrom’s initiative will focus on size and shape diversity across all of its media, mannequins, marketing and signage, which brands with a limited size range will be excluded from. It’s also adding a size-equalising function to its website in a bid to eliminate vanity sizing. This means that customers who search for a size will be shown what closely resembles that measurement from other brands – even if that size is labelled as something else.
Recognising the need for a size-inclusive and fashion-forward product offering, Nordstrom has started asking brands to increase their sizing ranges. Topshop, Rag & Bone and Madewell have extended their denim sizes in line with the retailer’s request, while athletic brands like Nike, Beyond Yoga and Adidas have added XXL to their product offerings.
With brick-and-mortar stores being Nordstrom’s key draw, the strategy is a shrewd move. As size-diverse customers are often excluded from the in-store experience, stores would do well to lead from the front – tackling limited-size brands to ensure every customer is catered for.
Packaging trade show Luxe Pack New York returns on May 16 and 17 to reveal how brands can utilise new materials and manufacturing processes. Talks will explore the potential of marketing packaging on social media, the increasing demand for sustainable materials, and how to create designs that connect with consumers’ senses.
Ahead of the event, we highlight two brands that exhibit how sensory-focused packaging encourages personal and physical product experiences.
Virospack, a Spanish manufacturer of cosmetic and pharmaceutical dropper bottles, has created a finish called Tactile Print for the surface of cosmetic bottles. The 3D effect offers a visual sense of depth and encourages consumers to pause and touch the product.
The decoration can also be used to add braille typography to existing packaging, allowing consumers of mixed abilities to understand and engage with the product. See also Push for Inclusive Typography and Packaging Futures: Diversity.
Similarly, Taiwanese fragrance packaging company Glaspray’s new Hybrid Qex spray bottle features a machine-engraved surface design on the glass bottle’s outer “shell”. The design is available in three effects: Brushed, coarse Diamond, and smooth indented Carbon Fiber.
The shell fits around an inner liquid cartridge, allowing users to refill their fragrance and switch between exterior surfaces. The design is geared towards the high-end market and caters to luxury consumers seeking products with sustainable credentials. For more, see Luxury Design Recalibrated.
Dewi Pinatih, Stylus’ senior editor of Product Design, will be presenting our A/W 19/20 Design Directions at Luxe Pack New York. Look out for our full coverage of the event, publishing May 28.
Building on the success of her diversity-championing beauty range, Rihanna is launching a body-inclusive lingerie line dubbed Savage x Fenty. Ahead of the May 11 launch, the pop star has taken to social media to tease fans with campaign images and trailers that hint at the line’s focus on body positivity.
Starring plus-size models Audrey Ritchie, Lulu Bonfils and Stella Duval, the images are accompanied by affirmative captions like “Savages come in all shapes and sizes” and “X stands for all”. One video features Ritchie looking confidently at the camera while her voiceover talks positively about her stretchmarks, rolls and cellulite.
The brand’s site indicates that bra sizes will range from 32A to 44DDD, while underwear will be available in sizes XS to 3X.
Rihanna has already proven herself in the inclusivity space, with her cosmetics venture Fenty Beauty receiving a hugely positive reception when it launched in September 2017. Make-up fans and industry insiders alike praised its delivery of high-quality cosmetics for a wide range of skin tones, including foundation in 40 shades. See our blog post for more.
Taking into account her other non-musical endeavours, including her popular Fenty x Puma clothing line, Rihanna has established herself as a strong player across a number of industries. Her success is likely due in part to the amplifying effect of entering a lucrative space where entertainment, product and celebrity intersect.
California-based start-up Maverick has launched a social network that connects young female creators with adult female mentors. The network is designed to encourage young women to create more and practise their skills by taking inspiration from role models across a variety of fields.
Maverick can be accessed online or through a free app, where users can browse through challenges set by mentors, who are known as Catalysts. These innovators, artists and entrepreneurs are chosen by the company for being inspiring role models for the Gen Z (aged nine to 23) demographic the app is targeting.
Challenges range from creating a dance routine to taking a picture that demonstrates your culture. App users respond to the challenges that interest them by sharing an image or a short video. They can then see other users' submissions and reward them by commenting on their work or giving them virtual badges – choosing between 'unique', 'creative', 'unstoppable' and 'daring' – instead of giving them a generic 'like'.
The app launched on April 27 and has already raised $2.7m in funding. Although it's mainly targeted at girls and young women, Maverick is an inclusive platform – both in terms of gender and age.
The founders are now taking the platform to the physical world through a series of MaverickLive events around the US. The first took place in Los Angeles on April 28 and featured young female influencers such as Laurie Hernandez, Chloe and Halle Bailey and Ruby Karp.
For more on how to remain relevant to Gen Z consumers, see SXSW 2018: Speaking Gen Z's Language.
Online social scrapbooking and discovery platform Pinterest has introduced a new search feature for its 200 million monthly users. It now promotes inclusive values by filtering beauty-related content by skin tone.
When users search for a beauty term, four colour wheels containing light, medium, tan or dark tones appear as filters. They can then select the closest combination of shades to their own complexion to reveal more personalised results. The tool uses artificial intelligence powered by Canadian augmented reality company ModiFace, which generates search results that reflect the digitally built “paint chips” representing each skin tone.
The tool taps into consumers’ enthusiasm for broader skin tone representation in the beauty industry. Cult colour cosmetics brands Fenty Beauty and Huda Beauty are good examples of companies that are getting it right. Both brands acknowledged the diversity of their consumer bases by launching foundation ranges with up to 40 shades. For more on how this key strategy is explored across different categories, see Inclusive Beauty: 5 Key Lessons, Diversity Rules and Culture Guardians.
In addition, the influence of social media should not be ignored – 89% of active Pinterest users claim the platform offers valuable product suggestions (Pinterest, 2017). We believe the development of this new feature reduces barriers for people of colour and diversifies their product choices. For more on this, see Social Media Beauty: Power to the People and Next-Gen Beauty Marketing.
Hispanics in the US are using social media more frequently than other ethnicities in the region, according to a new report by US insight agency ThinkNow in partnership with Mitú, a US media company targeting Latino audiences. Key findings include:
For more on how to engage with young social media users, see SXSW 2018: Speaking Gen Z's Language.
New York’s Cooper Hewitt museum is hosting The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, which explores how design impacts an individual’s ability to receive sensory information. Visitors can interact with more than 40 objects and 65 conceptual projects – many of which address conditions such as dementia and blindness.
Brands and designers are increasingly catering to consumers of mixed abilities, creating targeted products that both appeal and empower (see Design for Disability). We look at two graphic design projects that demonstrate this surge in inclusive design by encouraging everyone to understand, engage and express themselves.
Japanese designer Kosuke Takahashi’s typeface Braille Neue aligns Japanese and English characters with the braille alphabet, allowing for information in public spaces to be accessible to people with full and limited vision.
The typeface is simplistic and angular, resembling a dot-to-dot drawing, whereby braille impressions act as markers that guide the form of each letter while adhering to classic character shapes. Braille Neue’s continuity with standard characters allows for the typeface to be easily implemented into existing signage. Takahashi aims for the typeface to be adopted at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Similarly, in March this year, Apple created a series of 13 new emoji characters that represent people with mixed abilities – depicting wheelchairs, guide dogs and hearing aids.
The graphics have been submitted to the Unicode Consortium, a US non-profit organisation that develops text standards and chooses which emoji are added into messaging vocabulary. With an average of 60 million emoji used on Facebook and five billion on Messenger in any given day, the mass adoption of these images encourage greater public acceptance and offer candid ways to express individual experiences.
Read Packaging Futures: Diversity for how sensorial design is creating brand experiences that translate across consumers of mixed ability. Also, read Cooper Hewitt’s Accessible Design showcase for the latest innovations in disability product.
Brooklyn-based design incubator A/D/O hosted the panel Shared Living, Better Living? in New York on March 28 to discuss co-living's future. Moderated by Irene Pereyra of New York design firm Anton + Irene in partnership with Danish think-tank Space10, speakers reflected on findings from Ikea's project One Shared House 2030 (see blog post). We highlight key takeaways.