Design in 2020 — what will interactive design look like?

As part of our series on design in 2020, George Gottl, chief creative officer at UXUS, explores what interactive design will look like in the coming year.

What do you think 2020 will hold for interactive design?

In 2020 interactive design will be about creating hyper-reality through real objects while using technology to create wonder. People are craving extraordinary moments in everyday spaces. It’s not enough to create a virtual world through AR anymore because people still need to come back to reality; the two must combine.

A challenge for 2020 will be for businesses not to commercialise interactive design to the point where it disengages people. I remember a few years ago, at LAX, there were these interactive panels in one of the terminals that would change image and sound depending on whether people were travelling east or west. It was fantastic. However, on a recent trip, they were just playing adverts which is a missed opportunity.

The trailblazers will continue to come from the art world, and I can see this in the current work of Dominic Harris (showing at the Halcyon Gallery in London). Through whimsical digital artworks he challenges his audience’s perception of the world around them. One piece even invites the viewer to touch the sun and move it around — playing at being God!

The Rain Room by Random International is another great example of interactive design and technology adapted to a physical environment. This work was extremely popular, and I expect to see more experiences like this in both the design and commercial worlds as they work harder to surprise their audiences.

The Shimano Experience Center

What was your favourite interactive design project in 2019 and why?

High-level retail experiences have gone analogue. People are looking for sensorial experiences, and a good example of this is the Shimano Experience Center in Limburg, the Netherlands. It’s essentially a sports showroom where people can explore the virtual and physical worlds in tandem. Potential buyers and those interested can put on a VR headset and ride a mountain bike or try out a rowing experience.

The store is for demonstration purposes only, there’s no selling involved. It’s like a playground – you jump in and experience both the imaginary and real. Visitors can also go fishing virtually and feel the sensation of a fish pulling on the rod, and then take the experience outside, physically, and fish in a small lake outside the center. It turns normal physical moments into magical moments.

Another project worth mentioning are those by Gentle Monster. They create highly interactive environments within their retail stores with pieces such as a planet at their store in Tokyo which has eyeballs following you as you walk around the room. Or another of their installations, a room filled with doorbells that you can press and interact with. Gentle Monster spaces are quirky and creative with a strong element of surprise. They keep people guessing, and coming back.

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