At Stickland Wright we work on both commercial and residential projects with Architectural and Interior Design disciplines. On the lead up to the Christmas season and the changes on our high street we have been thinking about our approach to designing the ‘play aspect’ of our lives.
In reality, there is an increasing cross over between commercial and domestic design where we live work and play are not exclusively found in separate spaces. Boundaries are blurred with people working from home, taking yoga classes in their co-working spaces and having cocktails in their favourite fashion store. Often our residential clients base their aspirations and desires for their home from experiences they have when travelling or dining out.
There are many aspects to how our designs are shaped and formed: the location / context of the project, the budget and the lifespan of the concept, sustainability but the most important defining aspect for us is the customer, the user.
If we are to talk about designing “play” for today’s world we need to go back to the point where it all changed, back to the 90’s. 30 years ago Shopping Centres were being built faster than you can say ‘Doc Martens’ and as designers, little thought was given to the impact the designs would have on the environment or the local businesses. The confidence in retail was at its peak with and with the internet in its infancy there was no immediate threat of change. There were of course rumblings of how the internet will change the way we shop but the reality felt so futuristic and untenable.
As designers it was a wonderful era, we were able to be creative and EXPERIENTIAL in order to keep customers visiting the high street. Debenhams commissioned the store of the future which took it lead from magazines: the focus was about engaging with the customer with in store events: fashion shows, make up workshops, Male creches! Really this was the beginnings of the POP UP type retail experience.
And then it happened. The future found us a lot faster than expected and ‘Boom’ social media started to infiltrate all aspects of play ……
Our interiors Director, Caroline remembers working on the launch of the first camera phone for Vodafone “myself and the design team were all sceptical as to whether it would prove popular, I mean, why would you want a camera on your phone? We have a camera for that! We obviously vastly underestimated the impact of selfies, image sharing and the growth of social media would have in the years to come!”
Stickland Wright always takes a consumer led approach to the design process. It is an approach which spans commercial and residential design. So how do we define what the consumer is looking for?
Consumer behaviour is changing rapidly – We used to define a target customer for a new project by demographics. For example, a fashion brand would aim it’s product at a hypothetical 30 year old lady and we would build a retail experience around her hypothetical income, lifestyle and what car she drives! Today it’s far less about demographics, although this still plays a part, and far more about something marketeers are calling TRIBAL MARKETING
This is when consumers start to identify as a group based more on collective behaviours. Their behaviours are defined by interests, activities and PASSIONS, NOT by demographics.
The speed at which the internet spreads global connectivity and information really helps to fuel the passion and beliefs of these ‘tribes’, and communities are born from this sharing of information.
So how does this influence Design? Well, we have to understand what the common passions and interests are and ensure we can design and communicate values and experiences which they positively respond to. In effect we are creating an experience which resonates with the tribe and one they will want to engage with.
Millennials are shaping their world, demanding that brands take a stand, that they are genuine and authentic and that they make the world a better place.
They are wanting to express more uniqueness and personality and they define this through a unique curation of brands. Brands they follow, and identify with.
As designers, we have to engage with these people long before they actually experience the environment via social media, and then ensure an intelligent, compelling and engaging experience is had during the visit and then keep the conversation going long after the visit. Their experience must be enjoyable, memorable but most of all ‘Shareable’!
So how we play has been on a 30 year change curve, the growing desire for ‘experiential’ play time requires a different approach to how we think about spaces. Environments that can flex and adapt will allow a curation of brands and experiences to inhabit spaces which will then also be able to respond quickly to changing trends.
Designs that can be re-purposed or re-located all help to keep the experiences fluid and fresh whilst minimising waste and help build a circular economy.
Places like BOX PARK which use re-purposed container units which bring together a curation of brands, music and food to previously under used sites, are perfect examples of how design can create a different type of play and this approach is something we are sure we will be experiencing a lot more of in the future.