What’s Next for the Design World?

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Artist and designer Atang Tshikare, who is established in Cape Town, envisions a fourth industrial revolution, where technology simplifies manufacturing, and what was once considered genius or rare will become an everyday offering. In this world, he imagines “handmade and ancient methods of creating will become sought after. Artists will collaborate with tech specialists so that they can extend and amend their output, and artistic freedom will be relative because human rights are becoming more regulated. A prime example of this sort of design-meets-tech is the new Yeezy foam runner, where an artist is creating clothing that sells out within hours.”

3. More flexible furniture

As many of us shifted every aspect of our lives—work, school, the gym, leisure—into our homes, our furnishings have had to perform tasks we never imagined. As a result, L.A.-based designer Leah Ring says, “the importance of a comfortable and flexible home and working environment has become paramount.” She forecasts that more flexible furniture—indoor/outdoor furniture, a desk that converts into a dining table, modular seating that can be assembled to create a sofa and disassembled to allow for socially distanced seating, and so on—will continue to rise in popularity.

4. Nature takeover

After months confined to our own homes, we can’t overestimate the importance of green space. Designers predict that plants—whether a fire escape garden or a lush backyard—will factor more heavily into residential design. “Connection to the outdoors is an element of life that is shifting rapidly,” says New York landscape architect Sara Zewde, “from the small adaptations we’ve made in our homes and daily lives, to the large-scale retrofitting of parks, streets, and plazas to accommodate everything from field hospitals to outdoor dining. These shifts may signal an ongoing movement toward reorienting ourselves to the outside, and thus to each other, well into the future.”

But getting in touch with nature isn’t simply about having more plants around. New York–based architect Serban Ionescu elaborates: “Too many sustainable designs carry the same straight lines and boxes we see everywhere that are mediocre and disconnected from the free forms of nature. Nature does not express itself in straight lines. Nature is emotional and unpredictable. Green is wild, jagged, irregular, curved; it’s underground and mysterious. It has bugs and sometimes it’s scary and aesthetically unpleasing. I think the future holds a scary wild side for design.”

5. Objects as companions

“We may finally have arrived at the departure from the function obsession,” say Palaash and Utharaa of Soft-Geometry. “We are living through the most vivid connecting of dots between objects, spaces, and people. With limited connectivity to your friends and family, your relationship with your home takes a more prominent role than ever before and the objects around you become the carriers of stories, histories, culture, and feeling. The chaos of a studio or the chatter of an office offered exchanges and collaborations that made us more creative. In their absence, your collection of ceramic tiles might be more important than the dining table with extendable leaves. Serban agrees: “That lamp you just got out of necessity is your pet now. Maybe you wish you actually had a lamp that went beyond function, had more character, color, personality. After spending so much time with this lamp, you look at it differently now. You might even want to throw it out. Please do. Let us redesign our domestic landscapes. Collect for yourself only what you want and love because you might get stuck with it. Or it might become a friend.”

6. A focus on what’s essential

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