Trends and Innovations: Designing the Future
Designing the Future
Advances in design techniques and technologies are changing the design industry at an unprecedented pace. Here’s a look back at a few of the biggest innovations and trends of 2013.
The best design often is unexpected. As 2013 comes to a close, I find encouragement (and, admittedly, a bit of pressure to keep up) in the innovative and sometimes unanticipated contributions made to the interior design industry over the past year.
From digital fabrication and crowd-sourced design to pop-up showrooms and efforts to make building products safer, the design community is responding to consumers who expect more from the environments in which they live, work and play. Indeed, 2013 has been a big year for design, as evidenced by these trends and innovations.
Recent advances have put digital fabrication within the reach of many more designers, saving time, increasing accuracy and reducing costs. Take, for example, the 3-D architectural model: it is an essential tool that enables clients to see inside the design of a building, and more fully understand how the finished space will look and feel. Designers can now use 3-D printers to create these models in a matter of hours, as opposed to days or weeks.
The possibilities don’t end with models and prototypes, either. For instance, designers can now create custom products digitally and send them to vendors who will construct the pieces to their specifications. Who knows what designers will be doing with this exciting technology by the end of 2014?
Greater access to manufacturing technology has brought a rise in prototyping and the democratization of data. Today, designs for objects, furnishings, and even spaces and structures are easily shared via file sharing sites, blurring the concept of ownership more and more. Technology is also changing the ways in which designers solicit design direction and programmatic information.
A colleague of mine recently encountered a developer who uses online polling to generate ideas for transforming vacant buildings, as opposed to convening a much more limited group of individuals in a public meeting space, allowing him to find acceptable solutions for communities faster and with more input. But as users of the built environment become engaged with decisions beyond where to place walls and furniture, how will spaces (and the products we use to create them) change from static to dynamic? It’s a question that will become more clear in the years ahead as designers make more use of these techniques.
Speaking of dynamic, the pop-up trend has been a big one this year. From Target boutiques showcasing different designers throughout the year to vacant storefronts being used to test retail or dining concepts, pop-up experiences allow for “here today, gone tomorrow” flexibility, and serve as memorable ways to showcase design excellence in everyday places where cool design may not otherwise happen.
This rise of “pop-up” shops and other temporary spaces demonstrates that we still crave physical experiences in a highly digital world, but it also raises a number of important questions about the permanence of design. As our attention spans shorten, how do we differentiate between what is temporary and what is timeless? And what material implications arise from considering construction and deconstruction simultaneously? Guiding clients through such issues requires that designers stay current on rapidly changing trends and focused on the specific goals for the built environment.
In addition to the technological and process innovations we’ve seen this year, the industry also has progressed in terms of making design more transparent. As a sustainable designer, I’m encouraged by the gains the industry has made in providing designers with more detailed product information.
Upgrades to LEED v4, the Living Building Challenge and Architecture 2030 have been designed to encourage a more holistic approach to sustainability, especially with regard to the overall impact of the products we specify. Tools such as the 2030 Palette, Life Cycle Assessments (LCA), Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and Health Product Declarations (HPDs) will help us move beyond single-attribute considerations to an integrated systems approach that enables designers to better understand product impacts, and select materials that perform well and look great without doing harm to the environment or people.
As we look to the year ahead, how will these contributions allow for further progress and innovation in this industry? How will design impact us in unexpected ways? I, for one, am excited to find out. What I do know for certain is this: Globalization and resource demands will continue to drive us to rethink the design process and the ways we do business. Although I don’t know all the changes that lie ahead, these innovations will continue to propel our industry forward. As this happens, the continued impact of design on the human experience will become an undeniable, obvious fact of everyday life. And that will be beautiful.
By Rachelle Schoessler Lynn, FASID, CID, LEED Fellow, from Interiors & Sources Magazine