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Another certification scheme? Fitwel is the new kid on the block.

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Interviews, opinions and profiles from industry experts

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Key industry articles and insights looking at the latest news from the world of commercial interior design

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EGGER to launch new Decorative Collection

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Industry Events

A-Z of trends: W-Z

Letters W-Z in our annual A-Z of trends.

13/11/2019 5 min read

W – Workforce Isolation

Working for a large corporate company, I’ve witnessed the decade-long transformation from command and control working practices right though to the more recent agile design and delivery environments. Throughout this transformation, a culture that promotes and supports a choice-based style of working, that benefits individuals’ needs whilst ensuring a better work/life balance, has become much more prevalent.

Home working has exploded rapidly over a fairly short time period and the tech developed for it, which allows us to work securely anywhere we want, is improving all the time. The result for our strategists and asset managers has been a charge to offload office buildings, which are no longer deemed necessary. However, the result for colleagues is an increased long-term effect on wellbeing. With the number of student mental health problems rising, as they prepare to enter the workforce, they can find themselves bereft of human interaction, instead enrolling in a fully made up, pyjama-clad army, bonding ever closer with their pet or, more worryingly, their virtual friends. Creating buzzing, interactive destinations as spoke hubs all over the country, where people live and socialise, and aren’t just the local coffee shop, should be a focus and aspiration in the developing times. Why can’t the high street evolve to support in this way? (See X)

Sharyn Wheeler, Lead Design Manager, RBS Group

Sharyn Wheeler, Lead Design Manager, RBS Group

X – Xenogamy

If you were to splice workforce isolation (see W) with the death of the high street, what could you grow out of the ruins? This greenhouse experiment picks up two distinct design disciplines – retail and workplace – and plants them forcibly into the same plot: our great British high street. Long the domain of retail design, the time has come to reconsider its future use for society.

Let’s examine the high street losers at the sharp end of the technology slash and burn over the last decade: bank branches, travel agents, bookies, toy stores, music and DVD stores, plus some very famous brand department stores…the list is endless, and shows no sign of abating. In 2018, almost 4,500 retail units were added to an ever-increasing empty list. So what is to be done? What will fill the void being created across our towns and cities? Where will agitated landlords turn as they sift around the ever-increasing debris of their business models?

I’m hoping that, like me, you have had your fill of nail bars and chain restaurants, and agree that a new sense of social purpose should be injected back into these time-honoured locations, where people get together and cultivate communities.

Technology, of course, has been the disruptor for driving this change – but it is not to be regarded as the great evil here. It has, on many occasions, made peoples’ lives much easier and has delivered products and outcomes at a much more rapid pace. It can also play its part at the heart of the high street renaissance. This being the case, how do office designers of the future embrace this opportunity to play a part in leading the way and acting as a catalyst to bring working literally into the shopfront? How do they work with retail designers, planning authorities and clients to convince them that a movement of energy into the high street will pay dividends for all?

Creative co-operatives with a requirement for visibility and accessibility are already beginning to spring up around the UK as the potential of a truly creative gig economy takes off. Other industries will follow suit. It’s the beginning of a migration away from branded ivory towers dedicated to the sole purpose of a singular entity, towards a culture where the new office sits in a traditional retail space shared by workers from across the spectrum. Ask yourself this: would your client’s workforce rather travel to their office today or meet their friends in their local community, urban or rural, and use technology to get their job done in that location? What would that space be? Is it an office? Why not?

Barry Mackay, Innovation Design Lead, RBS Group

Barry Mackay, Innovation Design Lead, RBS Group

Y – Your Soft Technology

Technological devices are an intrinsic part of our everyday life. From daily social interactions to complex workflows, technology has become ubiquitous in both the home and work environment. As a society we have become used to the rigid and cold surfaces of the tech that permanently surrounds us, but in recent years there has been a shift in customers’ demands. As this digitised future becomes more apparent, society is seeking a less invasive and more personalised relationship with technology. Tech companies are exploring softer materials and warmer colour palettes to integrate technology into our everyday surroundings. By working with textiles and seamless interfaces, the technological devices of the future will encourage more intimate and smooth interactions with them.

From Microsoft’s Surface Line laptops to Ikea’s SYMFONISK collaboration with Sonos, tech companies around the world are promoting softer approaches to technology. Coined by trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort in her ‘Softwear’ exhibition for Google during Milan Design Week in 2018, the term ‘Softwear’ explores the transition between hardware devices to ‘softerwear’ devices. Through the use of softer design approaches, future devices will be seamlessly integrated into our surroundings and will feel like an extension of our home and life, rather than an intrusion.

Marta Giralt, Designer in Residence, Design Museum

Marta Giralt, Designer in Residence, Design Museum

Z – Zoning

Zoning is a fundamental building block in the way we benefit from space. Separating, segregating, simplifying, servicing, protecting, organising; the benefits of classifying space are many. But balancing these benefits against the rising cost of space has never been easy. In recent years, we have made huge strides in understanding how the use of space can benefit organisational performance, and this has heralded a renaissance in the topic. So, what are our clients interested in and what does the future hold for zoning?

Space is becoming specialised. We are seeing a move towards creating spaces that are highly effective at supporting specific activities, be it highly customisable co-collaboration spaces or calming quiet rooms for deep, uninterrupted focus. So what’s next? Some see a future where expensive city centre offices become collaboration hubs. In this scenario, individual focused work is undertaken at home or in local coworking spaces.

Space is more connected. Connecting staircases and strategic circulation are now zones in their own right, supporting unstructured collaboration. And why not take this concept a step further by designing connecting routes that could change, depending on which teams need to connect. Think the moving Grand Staircase in Harry Potter!

Steffan Williams, Director, Scott Brownrigg

Steffan Williams, Director, Scott Brownrigg

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