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Designing for the consumer of the future

The three-day Designscape virtual conference kicked off today bringing together those at the forefront of residential, hospitality and retail at a time when the industry is being challenged to think differently about design.

Today’s focus for the programme was retail, examining physical spaces becoming experience-driven, the intersection of retail and digital, the progression of the everyday kitchen and the shop window as the ultimate storyteller.

World Health Organisation predicts that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. As we adapt to living in smaller spaces, whilst attempting to keep costs down, how can clever design provide a much-needed lifeline? Alongside the new wave of urbanization and micro-living, the headline panel on Day 1 at the Designscape conference, organized by Informa Markets, convened to investigate the other macro trends across retail that will shape what the consumer of the future looks like

According to Yorgo Lykouria, who is the founder and creative director at Rainlight Studio, “although we are increasingly living in smaller dwellings, we still want the quality of life. Apartments should be thought of as a limited space where different objects open up and deploy different functions, as you need them.”

Founder of Ab Rogers Design, Ab Rogers agrees that it is important to look at how we can continue to have compact living but not distort the quality of life when working with small spaces, flexibility is really important. So is having breathing space because as soon as you can go high, you can look up and breathe, but also overlap activities such a sleeping and storage space, for example. Similarly, space needs to be absorbent with natural materials that absorb energy in a small space.

When it comes to owning material things, Lynn Wilson, founder of Circular Economy Wardrobe explains that it is about thinking of products not in terms of ownership, but in terms of access. We need to shift to a system that takes away from our current linear economy as our current cycle does not allow us to get the value back from the product we have purchased. A circular system would allow us to reuse or repurposing.

The conversation turned to consumerism in general, and whether “stuff” really makes us happy? Neuroscientist Dr. Ash Ranpura used the peri-personal space, which is the region of space immediately surrounding our bodies. In a small space, he said, clutter can invade your attention and you need an organizational system to de-clutter.

He also explained that consumerism, and the action of making a purchase, is associated with the release of Dopamine - an important chemical messenger involved in reward and pleasure. However, what he says is interesting is that Dopamine is never released in response to getting something, rather it is released in anticipation of the response. So, with consumption, the desire is only there in anticipation of buying the product.

In the move towards online shopping, Dr Ranpura feels that online shopping makes consumerism more complicated. As the number of choices goes up, we need to get more guidance on our choices. So, perhaps we are going to be buying less but buying better, and relying more on experts to guide us on this.

Photo Credit: Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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