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Published: 16 Mar 2018

Reinvigorating Femcare Products

Clockwise L-R: Callaly, Dame, Mcycle

The social stigma surrounding female menstruation is evolving as progressive start-ups, brands and designers dare to confront social taboos. We examine the brands stepping in with body-positive marketing campaigns and sustainable solutions to capitalise on an enthusiastic market of women seeking new alternatives.

UK start-up Dame has created a reusable applicator tampon made from a self-cleaning antimicrobial material. Combining medical-grade materials that naturally sterilise the device, the applicator remains safe and hygienic after multiple uses. Featuring a smooth semi-gloss finish and shaped to suit the contours of the body, Dame is designed to be comfortable and easy to control.

Similarly, new UK femcare brand Callaly has created the Tampliner. Offering the functions of both a tampon and a panty liner, the Tampliner promises greater absorbency to give users better peace of mind. Co-founded by gynaecologist Dr Alex Hooi, Callaly is the culmination of years of working with, and listening to, the frustration of women who don’t feel adequately protected with existing product.

Also from the UK, graduate Kaye Toland developed Mcycle, a tampon delivery service concept that transforms tampons into compost. Mcycle proposes a system where organic tampons are delivered to subscribers by bicycle. After use, the tampon’s packaging can be used as a bin that is later collected and composted in non-food soil.

Read Breaking Taboos in Packaging Futures: Diversity and Beauty Inspired by Menstrual Cycles for examples of body-positive brands tackling the topic of female menstruation. Also see Tackling Taboos for more on the brave marketing campaigns winning over consumers.

Published: 12 Mar 2018

Amager Resource Center: Urban Ski Slope on Waste Plant

Amager Resource Center

From autumn 2018, Copenhagen's waste-to-energy plant Amager Resource Center (ARC) will include a year-round artificial rooftop ski slope, a hiking hill and a climbing wall for local residents.

Originally opened in March 2017, the waste facility is considered the cleanest and most efficient incineration plant in the world. Usually, such waste-management plants are kept outside cities or well hidden. ARC, however, will become a destination in its own right. Designed by Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group, the building's new features will include a grove of 30 trees, the world's tallest climbing wall and a 600-metre ski slope on top of its slanted roof. The surrounding area will provide further recreational facilities, such as soccer fields, a go-kart track and water sports.

ARC brings Copenhagen one step closer to becoming a carbon-neutral city by 2025. It powers 62,500 homes and provides 160,000 households with hot water, while emitting 100,000 fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide than the city's previous plant.

As part of the new design additions, the plant will emit carbon dioxide smoke in the form of giant rings for each 250kg of the gas produced. The smoke rings will be visible from most of Copenhagen and are expected to raise awareness about the scale of air pollution that's produced, even in a plant with huge efficiency measures. It's an attempt to help people become more aware of the waste they produce in their daily lives.

For more on the innovative solutions for environmentally friendly city living, see Smart Cities: High-Octane Hubs.

Published: 9 Mar 2018

Packaging Innovations 2018

Sustainability was top of the agenda at Birmingham’s Packaging Innovations trade show (February 28 to March 1), with some of the UK’s leading retailers making emphatic pledges to become plastic-free and eliminate waste in as little as five years. Impressive start-ups showcased the latest in sustainable packaging solutions, while designers gave a lesson on tactility through e-commerce packaging.

  • Environmental Promise: The emphasis on sustainable packaging comes in the midst of Theresa May’s January unveiling of the British government’s 25-year environmental plan. The prime minister has committed to eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 – a problem she describes as “one of the biggest environmental scourges of our time”.

    Last month, in collaboration with British environmental action group A Plastic Planet, Dutch supermarket group Ekoplaza Lab launched the world’s first plastic-free aisle in Amsterdam. It features nearly 700 organic products across fresh fish and meat, fruit and vegetables and ambient offerings such as tea and cereals, packaged instead in compostable biomaterials.

    Supermarkets following suit include British frozen food chain Iceland. Drawing a crowd on the Packaging Innovations 2018 industry stage, Ian Schofield, the company’s own-label and packaging manager, shares its ambitious plans to make its own-label range of more than 1,000 product lines plastic-free by 2023. “We must attempt to turn down the tap of plastic production,” he said.

    Schofield explained that after 40 years in the industry, the tide is turning and there’s now a need to move back to natural materials and explore plastic alternatives. The supermarket chain has already saved over 2,000 tonnes of materials by simply reverting back to pulp cartons instead of polystyrene on two of its egg lines.
Ekoplaza Lab
Ian Schofield at Packaging Innovations 2018
  • Innovation in Sustainability: The Packaging Innovations 2018 Ecopack Challenge – in association with UK retailer M&S – showcased the latest in cutting-edge sustainable packaging solutions, offering companies the chance to pitch their ideas.

    The panel of packaging experts crowned Finnish non-profit technical research centre VTT the winner for its 100% renewable and compostable bio-based food packaging solution for multi-layered plastics.

    The sustainable packaging application “looks like plastic, performs like plastic, but is made from nature’s very own raw material – cellulose”, explained VTT research scientist Anna Tenhunen. The layered mono-material design makes the product fully recyclable without impacting shelf-life. The solution – to be developed in partnership with M&S – will initially be targeted at long-shelf-life goods such as nuts, coffee, chocolates and pet food.

    Tackling hard-to-recycle coffee cups – 50 billion of which end up in landfills each year in the US alone – Californian runner-up ReCup has developed a mineral-based barrier coating that makes the entire cup easily recyclable. Meanwhile, London-based Cup Club showcased the world’s first reusable takeaway coffee-cup system which includes smart cups, drop off points and high-tech wash hubs.

    Other pitches included James Cropper’s Colourform – a renewable, recyclable moulded packaging made from natural wood fibre, launched with UK handmade cosmetics company Lush and British fragrance brand Floral Street. Finally, the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany presented BioOrmocer, a coating solution for multi-layered plastic. See Packaging Futures 17/18: Sustainability for more.
Cup Club
Lush Colourform Packaging
  • Luxury E-tail: There was an emphasis on the importance of replicating the in-store, full sensory experience through clever use of e-commerce packaging. “If you’re a digital business, it’s the only physical touchpoint,” reminded London-based luxury creative consultant Vincent Villeger.

    Villeger, designer of Burberry’s luxury e-commerce packaging, explains how the brand worked to emulate the precise texture of its iconic trench coat for its e-tail boxes. Textures, sounds – such as crispy tissue paper – and even smells can connect with the customer, giving them the full holistic experience. However, in a retail space where digital is racing to the top of the agenda, traditional brands are struggling to get it right. “You don’t have to do a lot at the moment to stand out,” Villeger said.

    Digital companies like UK start-up Packhelp are on hand to help new and small businesses create bespoke packaging to do just that – with an easy-to-use platform and augmented reality app. For more, see Packaging Futures 17/18: Luxury.
Published: 7 Mar 2018

Nostalgia Tech: Capitalising on Consumer Memory

L-R: Hyperkin, Nokia

Tech companies are responding to growing anxiety about digital saturation and gadget dependency by looking back to the exciting early years of high-tech goods and rebooting fan favourites. Tapping into consumer nostalgia in this way extends the mileage of established designs and secures sales.

US gaming console manufacturer Hyperkin announced plans to relaunch the Game Boy at this year’s CES. Named the Ultra Game Boy, the size and layout remain almost identical to the original in honour of the iconic gaming gadget. An internal battery enables the device to be charged with a USB-C port, while an aluminium case adds a sleek and modern finish. Hyperkin isn’t releasing any new games for the device, meaning it will only be able to play vintage cartridges.

Likewise, global tech company HMD – the manufacturer of Nokia phones – is rereleasing the 8110, also known affectionately as the ‘banana phone’. Its signature design has a slight curve and features a slider to answer calls and hang up. The device has been updated to suit contemporary use: the company has created a phone-specific app store to allow users to access Facebook. The move comes off the back of Nokia’s rerelease of the 3310 last year.

Read our CMF Industry View for the latest detail trends in personal electronics. For more on how brands are employing nostalgia to connect with consumer memory, read Nowstalgia Marketing. To see how designer labels are using trends of yesteryear to ease consumer concerns about an uncertain future, read our A/W 18/19 Fashion Forecast.

Published: 2 Mar 2018

One Shared House: Co-Living in 2030

Danish design think-tank Space10Ikea’s exploratory concept lab – has co-ordinated an online survey that investigates the public’s perception of communal living spaces.

One Shared House 2030 supposes a future of augmented urban developments and housing shortages in 2030, to which co-living arrangements could be an effective response. The survey asks participants what type of people they would like to live with, what spaces and amenities they would be willing to share, and what they believe would be the positives of living in a communal settlement.

The findings show that overall, people would prefer to live in the city with individuals from all walks of life. Four to 10 is the ideal number of people in the community and ideally, all members would enjoy equal ownership of the house.

Participants are open to sharing, particularly regarding use of the internet, garden and workspaces. However, the boundaries between public and private spaces are important, with the majority wanting their private space to be unfurnished and off limits when they are not present. 

Despite a common concern about the potential lack of privacy, interviewees acknowledged the benefits of co-living environments, citing socialising and reduced living costs as the two greatest benefits. 

For more on how co-living environments are influencing interior and urban design, read Smarter Spaces: Optimising the Home and The Communal City in LDF 2017: Lifestyle Trends.

Published: 23 Feb 2018

Classroom Furniture Helps Kids Concentrate

Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts

Nine students from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts have designed and constructed a range of furniture pieces that aim to help schoolchildren stay focused in the classroom.

Presented as part of the Furniture and Light Fair at Stockholm Design Week 2018, the collection envisions a future where children are required to study for extended hours within densely filled classrooms. The resulting pieces encourage a more playful and active learning experience to help kids stay focused.

The designs acknowledge that children need a changing and transformable environment in order to stay engaged. Each piece encourages interaction: children can move and adjust the furniture to better suit their purposes, while also exercising their creativity.

Predominantly comprised of experimental seating designs, the furniture features adaptable elements and unusual materials to pique children’s interest and offer greater user control. The Shift chair, for instance, can be changed so that the backrest becomes the seat and the seat becomes the backrest, and can be sat on from any direction.

The Alert stool has a flat seat attached to a cone-shaped base via a moveable joint, allowing children to be active while seated. Meanwhile, the Log stool is made from a lightweight squishy foam, making it easy to be picked up and moved around by young children.

For more open-ended furniture designs giving kids creative control over their environment, see Toniture: Life-Sized Meccano for Kids. For more playful and flexible classroom furniture designs, read Designed for Fun: Home, Work & VR.

Published: 20 Feb 2018

2018 Olympics: Payment-Embedded Merchandise


Multinational corporation Visa has created a range of gloves, stickers and commemorative pins embedded with payment technology to enable fast, contactless transactions at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

At the event, Visa is showcasing the future trajectory of monetary exchange, whereby users pay for goods and services via embedded tech, leaving their credit or debit card at home. This is made possible through the continued development of near-field communication (NFC) chips, which enable any object to process payments when within a four-inch radius of a receiver.

Visa has released three different payment-embedded items suited to the conditions and culture of the Olympic Games. The commemorative pins are inspired by the custom of both spectators and athletes collecting pins as souvenirs of the event, while the stickers serve as flexible micro tags that can be attached to any surface for easy use. The gloves allow users to pay for transactions while keeping their hands warm in Pyeongchang’s cold climate.

Each device purchased is pre-loaded with a monetary value that the user wishes to spend, avoiding the need for the merchandise to be connected to their bank account. During the event, Visa’s merchandise is available to purchase from on-site stores as well as from vending machines located across the Olympic grounds.

Read NRF 2018: Tech-Driven Retail for examples of how emerging tech is shaking up the retail environment and creating seamless check-out experiences. For more on how digital innovations in packaging are transforming products into services, see Digital Packaging Futures.

Published: 16 Feb 2018

Furniture Made from Noise-Cancelling Acoustic Fabric


Swedish design studio Glimakra’s new Limbus furniture collection explores the use of noise-cancelling acoustic fabric for added functionality in home and office environments.

The label’s Barn design, revealed at Stockholm Design Week 2018, is inspired by the architecture of Finland’s northern Lapland region. Repeating horizontal panels of sound-dampening material mimic timber logs and extend upwards and over to form a wall and ceiling, giving the piece the appearance of a rudimentary hut. The Barn is designed to be used in both a corporate or public setting as an intimate meeting and working area within a larger space.

The brand also exhibited its Greenframe plant holder and room divider. The refined rectangular frame, crafted from timber, features three raised circular platforms to hold potted plants. The top horizontal beam is embedded with lights to accentuate the foliage and imitate the look of a window, offering a soothing biophilic element to the indoors (for more on biophilic design, see Natural Relations in Materialising Modern Work). The frame is the exact length and height as Glimakra’s acoustic partitions, enabling users to interchange plant storage and acoustic panels for a unique and flexible interior landscape.

Glimakra was awarded the gold prize in both Furniture and Office Furniture at this year’s Ambiente consumer goods fair. Stay tuned for our upcoming coverage of the event, publishing on February 22.

For more on the changing perception of silence as a marker of luxury, read Basement Bourgeoisie. For further inspirational examples of noise-cancelling product reimagined in hand-crafted designs and biodegradable fibre, read Blueprint for a Better Workplace.

Published: 9 Feb 2018

Nissan Creates Guesthouse with Autonomous Furniture

Japanese carmaker Nissan is opening a pop-up ryokan – a traditional Japanese guesthouse – which features autonomous self-parking furniture and accessories.

The ProPILOT Park Ryokan concept is designed to promote the company’s ProPILOT autonomous parking system, first unveiled in its Nissan LEAF hatchback in October 2017. The ryokan demonstrates this technology through slippers, tables and tatami floor cushions that autonomously self-tidy and return to a set home position at the push of a button.

In vehicles, the ProPILOT Park technology uses four high-resolution cameras and 12 sonar sensors to anticipate surrounding obstructions. At the ryokan, each smart object moves to its designated home position by communicating with ceiling cameras using image-processing technology. The slippers have small wheels pushed into the base of the shoe that cannot be felt when worn.

Ryokans are an icon of traditional Japanese culture. By appropriating this setting, Nissan hopes to illustrate the symbiosis of new technology in historical and existing landscapes, and encourage the public to feel more comfortable about autonomous driving.

ProPILOT Park Ryokan, located southwest of Tokyo, will be open for one night only on March 24 2018. Guests are being selected through a social media contest, and must use Twitter hashtags to apply for the experience.

For more on how companies are using branded spaces to become hospitality hosts in work and leisure settings, read Tomorrow’s Wandering Workers. For another example in how Nissan is using concept campaigns to exhibit innovation and creativity, read our blog post about the company’s sweat-sensitive car.

Published: 7 Feb 2018

Toilets Get Humanitarian and Environmental Makeover

L-R: Leo Schlumberger, Nendo

Following devastating earthquakes in Japan over recent years, Japanese studio Nendo has designed a toilet that can be built and used by people living in disaster zones. The kit – called minimLET – consists of seven items: a carrying bag, aluminium pipes, a toilet seat, tissues, a nylon cloth tent, garbage bags and a coagulant to neutralise waste. 

Each component is multipurpose. The aluminium pipes can be used as supporting poles for the tent and as legs for the toilet seat, the nylon cloth tent doubles up as a poncho, and the kit’s bag can carry up to 16 litres of water.

MinimLET’s design even appropriates commonly found items. For example, an umbrella can be transformed into structural support for the tent, while full cans and bottles can be used as legs to raise the toilet seat.

Dutch designer Leo Schlumberger also explored the design and use of toilets for his graduation project at Design Academy Eindhoven, exhibited as part of Dutch Design Week 2017. He created a dry toilet for indoor use that kept European expectations of comfort in mind.

The toilet vessel is made from polyester, brass and steel, and it boasts a welcoming, tactile touch that reframes the household utility as a design feature. Being a dry toilet, Schlumberger’s design encourages users to be more mindful of their water usage and offers an alternative for off-grid living.

For more on how design is being used to address social and environmental conflict, read Creativity for Crisis: Humanitarian Innovation.

Published: 5 Feb 2018

Papier Machine: Electronic Booklet

Papier Machine

Two French designers have created Papier Machine – a booklet of interactive electronic paper toys designed to help people understand the mysteries of electronics by revealing circuits and letting people play with them.

Papier Machine is printed with silver ink, which conducts electricity. These electric circuits can then be easily manipulated by drawing on the pages in pencil, as graphite is also conductive. Vol.0 – the first of a collection the designers intend to publish – is themed around sound.

People will be able to create paper electronic instruments or sound games using just the contents of the booklet. Six activities are included: Resistance, Gyroscope, Playing Track, Wind Sensor, Writing Track and Tilt Switch. These are brought to life by using the accompanying button cells, metallic marbles, piezoelectric sensors and sound components.

The project has received multiple awards, including the Red Dot Design Award and Audi Talent Award. Its Kickstarter campaign was launched in January 2018, with the first booklets expected to ship in July 2018. Prices start at €45 ($56).

For more on educational tech toys, see Gen Alpha: Childhood Rebooted and Kids & Family Tech Trends.

Published: 2 Feb 2018

Jewellery Made from E-Waste

Dell x Bayou With Love

US tech company Dell has co-released a limited-edition jewellery collection made of gold harvested from electronic waste. The precious metal used in the Circular range of bracelets, rings, cufflinks and earrings has been reclaimed from the circuit boards of discarded phones and laptops.

Dell has collected e-waste for over a decade as part of its commitment to sustainable production. However, the company has only recently developed a means of extracting the gold from old gadgets without using the destructive chemicals commonly used in the recycling process.

The recycled material is smelted into gold bars and delivered to partnering jewellery brands to shape into ornate, wearable designs. The Circular collection was devised to encourage the public to appreciate the value and potential use of electronic waste, as well as to promote active recycling.

The harvested gold will be primarily reused in new products, helping the company pursue a circular supply chain. Dell is currently developing a pilot line of around six million new circuit boards that feature this recycled gold, and aims to later use the material in other forthcoming devices.

Read our Design Direction Build for more on an emerging aesthetic that embraces waste materials as precious resources and pays homage to an inherited digital age. Also read Activate for more on how the natural world is informing closed-loop production, and guiding an active consumer market to regenerate pollutive materials into innovative product.

Published: 19 Jan 2018

Cooper Hewitt Showcases Innovative Accessible Design

LR: Wicab, DJCAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

The exhibition runs until September 3 2018.

Published: 12 Jan 2018

IMM Cologne 2018 Preview: Emotion-Focused Lighting

Das Haus 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Published: 10 Jan 2018

Future-proof Car Features Separating Body & Chassis

Swiss automaker Rinspeed’s Snap concept car features a detachable passenger cabin (pod) and chassis (skateboard) – allowing it to function as both a vehicle and living space. The self-driving concept will be revealed at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. 

The design aims to address concerns about the short lifespan of vehicles, as technological advancements quickly render existing models obsolete. By separating the fast-ageing hardware (stored in the skateboard) from the passenger pod, Rinspeed extends the life of the vehicle, allowing for the skateboard to be replaced over time while retaining the car’s body.

The Rinspeed Snap proposes a system of autonomous transport for a future sharing economy. The skateboard is designed to be publicly operated, while the pod can be personally owned, leased or shared. This enables greater user customisation, as the pod can be designed in any style – from low-lying sports car to family campervan.

The pod stands on four smaller wheels that raise and lower the passenger cabin on and off the skateboard, allowing the two sections to be used simultaneously for different purposes. For example, the Rinspeed Snap can travel to a destination where the body can remain, acting as a camping pod, storage space, office site or retail vendor, while the skateboard is used by others.

For more on the future of autonomous transport, see the Oli shuttle bus in Design for Disability, Eve Vision Car in Blueprint for a Better Workplace and Wheelys’ Moby Mart. Look out for our coverage of CES 2018, coming soon.