Design in 2021 – what will product design look like?

As part of our series of design in 2021, Matter design director Lottie King looks at what will happen in product design in the next 12 months.

What do you think 2021 will hold for product design?

As we enter 2021, one of the major shifts for product design will be just how willing consumers are to consume. Over the course of 2020, the collective mindset has shifted from, “I needed it yesterday” to “Do I really need it?” For some consumers, these changes may be temporary, but many others will experience long-term changes in lifestyle and consumption habits.

Owning less, owning ‘better’, or simply not owning it at all, will play out in 2021, driven by a significant rise in more mindful purchasing. Product designers must think holistically about every aspect of their propositions. From product, packaging, experience, service and sustainability, designers must strive to meet the demands of the increasingly discerning consumer.

Where consumers choose to own less, sensory and immersive experiences will fill the physical gap. Owning ‘better’ will see consumers making product choices that deliver against sustainability, transparency, quality and product longevity. Those who choose to reject ownership, will look to rental, subscription and community sharing, accelerating the already growing need for superior digital services.

Expect to see the continued rise of local and independent brands, offering consumers greater transparency, familiarity and trustworthiness. It’s likely we will see them knocking some of the big global brands off their pedestals or being quickly acquired by the ‘big boys’ in an effort to diversify their portfolios.


What is your favourite product design project from 2020 and why?

Launching a new product in the middle of a global pandemic is never going to be easy, but one product that grabbed my attention this year, was the Stykka STFH Desk. Firstly, the name, Stay the F*** at Home Desk, raised a little chuckle in the midst of general lockdown madness. The real beauty of this product – a flatpack cardboard desk – is the simplicity of the idea, the unmistakably Danish attention to detail and that the project is all wrapped up in a great sustainability story. They also launched the product at super-speed, with the ‘do good’ gesture of making all the design content open source.

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