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Published: 15 Dec 2017

Christmas 2017 Confirmation: Kin

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Our 2017 Christmas Direction Kin caters to minimal-minded consumers, taking notes from the Shaker movement to create a stripped-back, material-focused offering for the festive season. We explore how this wholesome design trend is being realised in current Christmas collections.

  • Materials from the natural world are reframed as earthy decorations. Christmas trees are left bare to celebrate natural form and foliage, dehydrated apple and orange slices are repurposed as handmade ornaments, and sprigs of eucalyptus feature on table settings and in wrapping to add sculptural interest.
  • Designers opted for timber neutrals as a base colour to create a softer and more natural look, while Yellow Pigment, Burnt Sienna and Rose Tint are employed as warming accents. 
  • With minimal added ornamentation, texture is enhanced to create a more rustic appeal. Christmas tree decorations feature uncomplicated designs and expose the timber’s natural grain to exaggerate tactility.

For more 2017 Christmas Confirmations, read Curio, and stay tuned for upcoming confirmations of Refract. To learn about our projections for next year’s Christmas Directions, read Fantasia, Archive and Frost. See Christmas 2018: Colour for more detail on the palettes and visual influences guiding each 2018 Christmas Direction.

Published: 13 Dec 2017

Christmas 2017 Confirmation: Curio

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Our 2017 Christmas Direction Curio pays homage to the sculptural forms of brutalist architecture, employing heavy materials, strict forms and high-sheen metals to create sophisticated objects for the Christmas season. We highlight how this rich, bold trend is influencing home décor.

  • The rippled veins of marbled surfaces feature as a common decorative motif with festive wrapping, Christmas tree decorations and shop window displays all using this design to establish a luxurious look.
  • Classic emblems of the Christmas holiday – such as a tree and a star – are redesigned in strong, geometric lines to create impressive statuesque forms and establish a more modern and refined Christmas aesthetic.
  • The visual sense of weight and grandiosity that is established through the use of architectural materials is balanced with the inclusion of opaque coloured glass. Cherry red, Orange Oxide and Yellow Foil introduce a spectrum of rich colour that helps to marry the heavy, matte materials with the metallic sheen of polished gold and blue-silver.

Stay tuned for the upcoming confirmations of our 2017 Christmas Directions Kin and Refract. To learn about our projections for next year’s Christmas Directions, read Fantasia, Archive and Frost. See Christmas 2018: Colour for more detail on the palettes and visual influences guiding each 2018 Christmas Direction.

Published: 8 Dec 2017

Baidu Launches AI Accessories for Chinese Home

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Raven

China’s largest search engine Baidu has released its own voice-activated smart speaker – the first in an upcoming range of artificially intelligent (AI) home tech – called the Raven H. The device is better able to decipher and communicate in the region’s languages than its competitors.

A bright, multicoloured stack of square segments, the Raven H looks quite unlike other connected home products on offer, which are decidedly minimal in design.

The speaker will be welcomed by the Chinese market, which has not yet been firmly claimed by Western leaders in smart home tech such as Amazon and Google – partly due to Google services being restricted in the country. It also has access to Baidu’s extensive data bank of online resources to play music, report on the news and weather, and connect to local services – such as Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing

The Raven H marks Baidu’s entrance into AI home technology following its acquisition of Chinese appliance company Raven earlier this year. The device will be followed by the Raven R – a smart robot with six moveable joints to better express human-like emotion; and the Raven Q (still in development) – expected to be a home assistant robot with security-monitoring capabilities that responds to visuals and audio.

Read Internet of Home Comforts for more on tech integrating home environments to offer consumers unprecedented security and control. For more on emerging visual trends and digital enhancements in home entertainment technology, see CES 2017: Colour, Material & Finish.

Published: 5 Dec 2017

Partition Uses Colour Gradients to Influence Mood

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Nicolas Verschaeve and Juliette Le Goff

Belgian designer Nicolas Verschaeve has collaborated with French textile designer Juliette Le Goff to create Mirage, a spatial partition that employs shifting tonal strips of fabric to alter a space’s ambience and mood.

The Mirage partition can be used to segment open interiors or function as a moveable blind screen, placed in front of a window to create shade and filter coloured light into a space. It can either be suspended from the ceiling or stand on timber feet on the floor. The design features long strips of coloured polyester fabric wrapped around two top and bottom poles and two smaller internal rods that can be pulled up and down to adjust the pieces of textile.

The fabric strips are tinted with alternating contrasting colours that increase in intensity from one end to the other. By pulling on the two interior rods, the user is able to manipulate the combination of tonal gradients to create interesting juxtapositions of pale to saturated, light to dark and warm to cold shades. Recognising the influence of colour – and combinations of colour – on human psychology, Verschaeve and Le Goff designed Mirage to invite users to interact with their surroundings and gain a sense of control over the mood and experience of their space.

Read Playful Optimism from Colour Spectrum A/W 19/20 for more on how luminescent brights are being applied to designs to create a youthful and joyous experience. And read the Light Play section of our Dutch Design Week 2017 report for more on the designers exploring the potential of blinds to create comfort and visual interest.

Published: 5 Dec 2017

Mitipi: Virtual Roommate Prevents Crime

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Mitipi

Zurich-based start-up Mitipi has created a smart device that prevents burglaries by simulating human presence in your home, even when you are away.

The device uses acoustics to give the impression that a place is never empty. It can copy everyday noises such as phone calls, barking dogs, conversations, showers and cooking sounds.

Mitipi features a lamp that projects moving shadows onto walls to further imitate human presence. It can also control light fixtures, turning them on and off to mirror the way people move through their homes.

Users can remotely control the device through an accompanying app. Although still a prototype, the device will go into production in 2018.

Burglaries are still a big issue: more than 400,000 burglaries took place in the UK in the past year (Office of National Statistics, 2017). However, consumers expect smart home technology to change that, with 73% of millennial women in the US seeing these smart devices as a way to protect their homes (TecHome Builder, 2016).

For more on smart home technology and the devices that cater to our everyday needs, see the Internet of Home Comforts.

Published: 30 Nov 2017

Smartphone Deletes Content After 24 Hours

Swiss manufacturer Zenum Technologies has created Breve, a mobile phone that erases its content within 24 hours to help online communications become more ephemeral.

The phone was created in response to increasing anxiety around the permanence of information shared on the internet. Reframing mobile content as fleeting and temporary enables users to be more impulsive in what and how they communicate online, and to embrace content that is imperfect and candid.

Users can choose whether images, messages or call histories self-destruct, and can customise the number of seconds, minutes or hours (within a 24-hour period) that they wish their content to exist. The user can be ‘full ephemeral’ – opting for all content to be deleted, or ‘half ephemeral’ – allowing some to remain, including contacts, agendas, alarms and maps. Breve can also access their social media accounts and is able to automatically delete images or posts shared online.

Further, the user is able to configure their Breve mobile device to create multiple ‘personas’, with different settings saved according to the user’s specific schedule and geographic location.

Breve is also aimed at commercial clients. Zenum Technologies suggests that by embracing ephemerality, brands can create a sense of exclusivity and timeliness – such as by sharing temporary coupons or discounts that inspire a feverish call to action among consumers.

Read Mindful Automation and Digital Disruption: Wired Live 2017 for more on brands using digital innovation to respond to shifting social and experiential landscapes. For more on integrated technologies that increase user focus and encourage wellbeing, see Circuit.

Published: 24 Nov 2017

Rubix: Device Detects Sound and Pollution

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Rubix

French start-up Rubix has created three smart sensing devices that interpret sound waves and air molecules to detect the presence of gas, mould and suspicious noises. 

The first, the Rubix Pod, is designed to be used in indoor spaces such as offices, hotels or restaurants. The Pod has in-built sensors to analyse the surrounding environment, comparing it to a bank of odour, particle and sound profiles. Detecting temperature, humidity, light, noise, air quality, particles and vibrations, it can alert office workers or restaurant-goers to allergens and toxins in their environment.

In conjunction with the Pod, Rubix has created two products for outdoor spaces – designed to be used in larger open settings such as an industrial site or urban centre. These outdoor products are also able to detect gas, with the capacity to warn companies in the event of a gas leak or of the presence of hazardous chemicals.

Rubix products have received interest from countries around the world, with Thailand’s capital Bangkok expected to install 50 sensors in its city centre to better monitor and manage pollution and air quality. Meanwhile, authorities in Los Angeles have expressed an interest in Rubix products due to their ability to accurately decipher the sounds of 67 different weapons. 

Rubix plans to expand the technology’s application by embedding its sensors into a wearable device, allowing users to monitor the freshness of the food they consume as well as local air quality.

Read Tomorrow’s Tech Aids for more on how digital innovation is aiding everyday activity, and Brizi: Protecting Babies from Pollution for an air-filtering cushion and sensor that alerts parents to the presence of harmful pollutants.

Published: 21 Nov 2017

The Kokon: Stress-Reducing Office Pod

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The Kokon

The Kokon is a suspended pod chair that employs soothing scents, sounds and vibrations to help workers relax and manage stress. Created by a US start-up of the same name, the seat was designed in response to increasing concern about the effects of stress on physical and mental wellbeing, and encourages users to enter a meditative state.

The pod hangs from a central exterior pole that allows the seat to bob slightly in the air, evoking a sense of weightlessness. The team collaborated with Canadian perfume design studio Parfums Jazmin Saraï to embed olfactory molecules within the chair’s felt frame – made from upcycled textile waste – to activate an emotional experience of safety and comfort. 

An audio soundscape is projected via over-ear headphones, using frequencies that disrupt anxious thoughts and focus listener attention. This is translated into a physical experience via vibrational feedback resonating throughout the chair’s material, as well as through two handheld ‘sound pebbles’ placed in each palm, directly relaying the pulses of the soundscape to the user.

As explored in our Macro Trend The Work/Life Revolution, companies are realising the impact of staff wellness on productivity, and investing in spaces that foster rejuvenation. For more on adopting mindful workspaces to nurture and inspire staff, see Scape x UnStudio’s Reset Pods in Materialising Modern Work, and Professional Play in Blueprint for a Better Workplace.

Published: 17 Nov 2017

Beijing Design Week 2017

Beijing Design Week (September 23 to October 7) has become a cultural highlight for China’s bustling capital city since launching in 2009. This year’s theme was Design+, with designers and tech companies collaborating to investigate the future of urban planning, transport and public activity.

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Studio HVN
  • Evoking the Natural World: Designers embraced the natural world’s association with ancient Chinese mythology, drawing on solar spectacles and natural phenomenon to create works with an embedded sense of wonder.

    The eclipse has been recorded by Chinese astrologers for more than 4,000 years, with ancient folklore describing a dragon eating the sun/moon. The astronomical event is celebrated in a rug collection by Dutch Beijing-based Studio Henny van Nistelrooy for Chinese manufacturer Tan.

    The rugs feature tessellating shapes in varying tonal shades, giving the impression of two different pieces of material layered on top of one another, mimicking the interaction of shadow and light in a solar and lunar eclipse.
  • New Thinking with Traditional Materials: The use of traditional and typically Chinese materials exuded a strong sense of national identity, with designers paying homage to local resources and techniques.

    Chinese designer Jeff Dayu Shi, founder of Dragonfly studio, presented his Yin Xian collection of bamboo timber furniture. It references traditional archetypes, with throne-like emperor seats realised in vertical and horizontal slats. This construction method creates interesting shadow play as a modern interpretation of the traditional Chinese screen.
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Studio HVN
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Dragonfly
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Dragonfly
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Dragonfly
  • Space-Saving Technology: The renovation of Hutongs – narrow alleyways of traditional Chinese courtyard homes – was a persistent theme. Designers used these historic dwellings as a platform to vividly contrast between old and contemporary China.

    Chinese studio Dot Architects was inspired by this theme, revealing the Baitasi House of the Future developed for Chinese tech company Whaley. The concept home integrates Internet of Things technology in movable wall and furniture modules that are controlled via a smart television, allowing for the interior to be reconfigured in multiple ways.

    Similarly, international creative project consultancy About Asia hosted one-day workshop The Best 50m2. Designers, artists and performers led a group of eight participants to transform a 50 sq m plot into a useful public space – resulting in a bamboo structure and children’s maze erected on-site.
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Dot Architects and Whaley Technology
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Dot Architects and Whaley Technology
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Dot Architects and Whaley Technology
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Dot Architects and Whaley Technology
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Dot Architects and Whaley Technology
  • Mapping Out an Urban Future: Designers harnessed advanced 3D printing technology to create realistic models and better anticipate the needs of growing urban centres.

    Chinese firm Mars Architects and Dutch-Chinese research institute the Dynamic City Foundation collaborated on The Node//Multimodal City – a detailed, 3D-printed model of a futuristic metropolitan landscape. The project helps visitors to visualise a hyper-dense urban environment and proposes a vertical infrastructure, whereby the city is segmented into varying strata layers for maximum public mobility.
  • Accessing Escapism: Concern for social and mental wellbeing in the face of large-scale urban development was manifested in projects that offered a rejuvenating mental and physical escape.

    Aranya is a coastal development in northern China, and a popular destination for the country’s politicians and social elite. Beijing architectural firm ReMix Studio designed BaitaSea as a spatial installation, employing morning-like mist, ambient wave audio, purple lighting (mapping the gradient of the shifting sky) and sand transported directly from Aranya’s beaches to create a soothing escape from the city.

Read Apac Mentality for more on how consumers in the Asia-Pacific region are returning to home-grown brands. For more on the changing values and perspectives of China’s emerging consumer tribes, see China’s Youth: Challenger Consumers.

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MARS Architects
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MARS Architects
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ReMix Studio
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ReMix Studio
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ReMix Studio
Published: 14 Nov 2017

Oak Packaging Ages Alcohol in the Bottle

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Brum

Designed for distilled alcoholic spirits such as rum and whiskey, Brum is a packaging concept that incorporates oak timber into the bottle, allowing the maturation process to continue at home. 

Brum was conceived by Bram van Oostenbruggen, a Dutch designer and recent graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven. Inspired by his experience of distilling spirits as a hobby, van Oostenbruggen sought to invent an alternative for storing and ageing alcohol that encourages the drinker to form a deeper appreciation of the maturation process. 

Brum’s design features a cut-glass bottle that’s attached to a panel of oak timber and secured with a silicone seal to prevent leakages. The inclusion of oak timber in the packaging allows the spirit to continue maturing after it has been transferred into its individual bottle, just as it would in an oak barrel.

The use of Brum packaging also speeds up the ageing process. With smaller batches, the alcohol comes into closer and more consistent contact with the oak timber. In just a few months, the spirit contained within is able to reach a level of maturation usually achieved after several years.

Alcohol stored in Brum packaging continues to mellow even after the bottle has been opened and while it is consumed. As a result, the drinker is able to experience the influence of the oak on the spirit’s colour, flavour and aroma – a process usually concealed within the distiller’s cellar. 

Read Packaging Futures and Luxury Packaging Trends: Luxe Pack Monaco 2017 for more brands using inventive packaging to enhance product.

Published: 10 Nov 2017

Glass Building Blocks Generate Solar Energy

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Build Solar

Solar Squared is a glass block with in-built solar cells that allow a building to generate electricity from within its own architecture.

Solar Squared was created initially at the University of Exeter in the UK as part of a research project looking into new applications for solar technology. However, recognising its potential for residential and commercial use, Dr. Hasan Baig – one of the university professors overseeing the project – decided to found start-up company Build Solar to further develop the product’s technology.

Solar Squared blocks feature intelligent optics that focus incoming solar radiation into multiple small cells, storing it before turning it into energy for the building. By integrating solar technology into the structural architecture, Solar Squared has the potential to transform an entire building or façade into a mechanism for generating solar energy. The blocks have the same dimensions as standard architectural glass blocks, allowing Solar Squared to easily replace existing building material in renovations as well as new projects.

According to research conducted by the Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative, part of the United Nations Environment Programme, buildings consume 40% of the total electricity produced worldwide. The use of Solar Squared blocks would enable a building to become self-sufficient by creating its own electricity on-site, separating itself from main power lines and reducing overall costs.

Read Luxury Design Recalibrated for more on how consumers are seeking self-supporting lifestyles and off-grid abodes to escape from an uncertain exterior. For more on the brands creating closed-loop office spaces to reduce consumption and attract eco-conscious employees, see Blueprint for a Better Workplace.

Published: 7 Nov 2017

Baby Blankets Mimic Parents’ Heartbeats

Hugsy’s tech-infused blankets mimic parents’ heartbeats to create a comforting environment and help babies and young children sleep.

The Dutch start-up was inspired by chief executive and co-founder Sylvie Claes’ experience of working in a local hospital. Claes wanted to create a means for young babies – particularly those on medical support – to avoid missing early physical contact with a parent, which research suggests helps to encourage early development.

Responding to this, Hugsy offers soft children’s accessories that retain parents’ scents and sounds to create a relaxing environment without the need for 24-hour care.

For babies aged zero to four months, the Hugsy Pouch swaddling blanket encourages skin-to-skin cuddle-like contact between the parent and child – widely known as ‘kangaroo care’. The blanket’s material absorbs the parent’s scent during this close contact, enabling the blanket to comfort the child when the adult is absent.

The blanket is used in conjunction with the Hugsy Heartbeat, a separate small electronic device that records the parent’s heartbeat via a fingertip sensor and continues to project its rhythm when placed beside the infant in its crib.

Also available is the Hugsy Cuddle, which is suitable for children up to four years old. The bear-inspired blanket comprises a detachable scent cloth that can be worn in the bra or under the shirt of the parent to transfer the familiar smell onto the fabric. The cloth can then be reattached, while the Hugsy Heartbeat can be placed inside the bear’s head.

Read High-Speed Families: New Dynamics and our Trend Report The Modern Baby for brands responding to young, tech-friendly families.

Published: 3 Nov 2017

Toniture: Life-Sized Meccano Furniture for Kids

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Inspired by Meccano construction kits for kids, designers Sunghyeop Seo and Sujeong Han of South Korean studio G280 have created Toniture (a portmanteau of ‘toy’ and ‘furniture’). The industrial-looking components allow children to build their own life-sized toys, which double as desks, chairs or shelves. 

Combining plaything and functional home accessory, the set includes around 50 different modules of flat geometric shapes and brackets that are joined together with easy-to-use screws. Simple, Ikea-style assembly guides assist with more elaborate designs, such as a giraffe/high stool, dog/bench, rocking horse and wheelable cart. However, children can also pick and choose from the pieces to bring their own ideas to life.

Building on the inventive and educational quality of Meccano’s smaller-scale toys, kids are encouraged to experiment and invent physical forms – learning about design, spatial awareness and engineering by interacting with objects that are both playful and functional. 

For more on how designers are reinventing old favourites for adventurous learners, read Gen Alpha: Childhood Rebooted and Twists on Traditional Toys.

Published: 31 Oct 2017

Waterless Products Form Eco Packaging Concept

Dutch designer Mirjam de Bruijn has created Twenty – a packaging concept that reduces everyday cleaning products and toiletries into solids of chemical concentrate to increase efficiency and minimise pollution.

The average cream, shampoo or dishwashing liquid is around 80% water. By distilling these items to their solid form, De Bruijn is able to decrease their volume, reduce quantities of plastic packaging, and offer an equivalent product in a smaller size. Twenty’s packaging also creates efficiencies in transport – reducing shipments and the pollution they create – while promising to lower costs for producers, retailers and consumers. 

Shipping accounts for roughly 90% of global transport and an estimated 4% of all human-caused carbon emissions. That figure is predicted to rise, with a European Parliament report from 2015 forecasting that maritime shipments will account for 17% of global CO2 emissions by 2050.

De Bruijn, a graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, devised Twenty as part of her final thesis project. She has created three products so far – a dish detergent and shampoo in pellet form, and an all-purpose cleaner in powdered form, packaged in biodegradable cardboard. Consumers would portion up the pellets and powder in reusable plastic bottles before adding water, creating the chemical solutions themselves at home. 

Read Cleaning Reinvented: Spring-Cleaning Innovation for more on waste-reducing refill systems. To find out how environmentalism is building brand loyalty, see Tackling Plastic: Sustainable Packaging Solutions and Packaging Futures: Sustainability.

Published: 25 Oct 2017

Luna Transforms iPads into Interactive Computers

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Luna transforms an iPad into a secondary computer monitor

Luna, from US start-up Astro HQ, is a wireless connection solution that transforms iPads into touch-sensitive Mac computers. Syncing a desktop Mac or laptop with an iPad via a small red plug-in device, Luna allows users to pinch, swipe and zoom in on work that’s usually restricted to computer screens.

Luna turns iPads into an additional monitor that can work in tandem with the connected device in order to expand projects, as well as acting as a secondary computer that can work independently from the original Mac. Compatible with external tools such as a plug-in keyboard or Apple pencil, Luna transfers the full function of a computer onto an iPad. And by utilising the benefits of the iPad’s interactive screen, it enables users to touch and more physically engage with their digital work.

Luna is plugged directly into the iPad through either a USB-C or Mini DisplayPort, and paired with an accompanying app. With no leads or wires, Luna empowers users to work remotely or on the move, abandoning their computers for the slim and lightweight iPad – without needing to be near the original device.

Luna was created as a follow-up tool to the successful Astropad, which similarly extends the capabilities of a drawing tablet onto the user’s iPad. Astro HQ, founded by two ex-Apple engineers, aims to unleash the potential of existing technologies by offering increased functionality within one enhanced device.

See Blueprint for a Better Workplace from The Work/Life Revolution Macro Trend for more examples of products responding to fast-paced and flexible workplaces – including similar product Mountie.

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