5 important things that happened in design this week

From the launch of a new Airbnb design studio to a call for interest to create the Beijing 2022 Olympic logo, we round up the important design news from the last seven days.

Airbnb launched a new design studio

Yoshino Cedar House
Yoshino Cedar House

Airbnb opened Samara this week, an innovation and design studio which looks to bring together design and engineering experts.

Based within the company’s San Francisco headquarters, the space hopes to transform Airbnb from a design-focused company providing a service for consumers to a studio capable of designing and supporting other projects.

The first project to come out of Samara is the Yoshino Cedar House, a permanent house designed for an exhibition space in Tokyo, which looks to encourage a better relationship between hosts and guests.

Following the exhibition, the house will be installed in small Japanese village Yoshino and will be available to hire. Projects like this aim to increase services available to Airbnb’s community of users.

Instagram overhauled its app design with a new Stories feature

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Instagram has taken a turn towards fleeting photo and video reels, which disappear after 24 hours – a strikingly similar feature to rival social media app Snapchat.

Snapchat Stories also lets users personalise photos and videos with emojis and images and “draw” on them with text and paintbrushes.

The UX design update takes the social media platform away from static images and more towards a moving, living reel of action – perhaps a shift that complements Instagram’s rebrand earlier this year, which saw it drop its vintage-looking camera icon for a more modern, minimal look.

Many social media apps are turning to live media now, with Facebook – which owns Instagram – investing heavily in 360° video and silent/subtitled video for its mobile newsfeed advertising, and Snapchat of course kicking off the temporary video clip trend in 2011.

The National Theatre opened a virtual reality studio

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Theatre set design is increasingly becoming less restricted by a physical stage – this week, the National Theatre opened a virtual reality studio which showcases how shows are using advanced technology to captivate existing audiences, and entice new ones.

The studio will be a space where set and digital designers can work with directors, writers and actors to produce immersive experiences, and also use VR within the design process itself.

Currently the Immersive Storytelling Studio presents four very different pieces of work that the theatre has created using VR technology: a music video experience from last year’s Wonder.Land show; an educational story created in collaboration with the BBC about the 1916 Easter Rising; emotional insight into a Sudanese refugee’s journey through the Calais Jungle; and a look at a National Theatre cast rehearsal.

The studio is a signifier towards the future of set design, and will be a springboard for more advanced VR applications in the future.

The Beijing 2022 Olympics started looking for logo designers

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The Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games announced this week that it is looking for people to express interest in creating the games’ logos.

The brief is currently vague, but states that the visual identities would need to reference the Beijing event and broader Chinese culture, capture the spirit of the Olympics and Paralympics, and embody the culture and values of the host city.

The Beijing Organising Committee has not yet made clear whether only professional designers can apply, or whether anybody can.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games previously saw much controversy, when logos created by professional designer Kenjiro Sano were dropped and replaced following a plagiarism row and a subsequent competition open to the public.

Research showed design is the most highly employed creative sector in the UK

Close up of a designers working on a project

An extensive report from research charity Nesta and Creative England has shown that design is performing exceptionally well compared to other creative sectors.

Between 2007 and 2014, the research shows that design had the highest employment rates, and has the most number of businesses as well as the highest turnover, alongside the software and digital sector.

It also proves that the creative industries as a whole are growing faster than any other business sector in the UK, with its Gross Value Added (GVA) totalling £84.1 billion in 2014.

While London is the most thriving location for the creative sector, responsible for 40% of jobs, the report highlighted other nationwide hotspots, such as Glasgow, Brighton and Liverpool.

The makers of the report hope the research will act as sufficient evidence for government to invest more in creativity, and to focus on developing areas outside of London.

The report reads: “Over half of Local Enterprise Partnerships fail to mention the creative industries in their strategy plans. We hope that [this] evidence…will persuade some of them to…take action to boost the creative industries’ growth that is taking place on their doorsteps.

“We also believe that national and devolved governments can play a more active role to scale up creative clusters outside London and the South East.”

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