Mobility has always been central to the progress of humankind. Migrations across continents, discoveries of new lands, the advent of modern transportation as well as the invention of the moving image were all about moving forward – the wheels of progress in motion.
The 20th Century particularly was defined by the pursuit of ever faster, ever higher, ever bigger moving contraptions. It’s incredible to imagine that the Wright Brothers achieved flight in the same century that man left the solar system. But even more incredible to think that when we did leave it, we weren’t even physically present. At the apex of 20th century movement, when The Voyager went into space, it not only pushed our progress as far as possible, but also hinted at the genesis of our 21st century connectivity.
Our connectedness has grown exponentially over the past 20 years, but our complete evolution from mobility to connectivity would have probably taken us a few more decades if it were not for the arrival of a virus which has become the instant catalyst for what now appears to be sudden global change: A world where motion has stopped.
As we stand still – with our mobility restricted and our connectivity accelerated – where do we go from here?
As designers and creative thinkers, we find freedom from confinement through our imagination. I believe it’s the human instinct to do so, because when we push beyond our physical limits, we can become boundless in other ways. Now with an infinite universe of possibilities available at our fingertips, a new era of progress is ahead of us – one that should redefine the role of brands and the importance of design in shaping our experiences.
The new world we inhabit, heightened by our static state, is fast reconfiguring our relationship with brands. Whereas our old world was designed to be about 50% physical and 50% non-physical interactions, today our landscape is shaping to be more 95% non-physical and only 5% physical. A dramatic shift towards the ideological over the tangible.
Living in this new connective space, brands will now have to push the frontiers at both ends of the spectrum and they will have to be designed to play two fundamental roles in our lives.
Firstly, in the non-physical domain of ideas, they will have to build even deeper, broader imaginative worlds that take us to new places. And then equally importantly, in the physical delivery of their experiences, they will have to manifest fully in even the smallest and most insignificant touchpoints.
We have always thought in this way to define the powerful and authentic narratives that build brands in people’s minds and hearts. We have, for example, expressed the romance and energy of Cuba for Havana Club and evoked the spirit of the British countryside through the art of nature for Seedlip. Likewise, we have brought experiential brands such as Wagamama into the home, creating an entire take-away packaging system that encapsulates the restaurant experience on the dining room table.
But now, as our physical world shrinks, and the virtual one expands, the stakes of the game are going to have to raise for creativity. We will play an important role in setting people’s imagination free and removing distances to fulfill their desire for exploration. Equally, in bringing to them the wider world to satisfy their need for connection.
Through this lens, we may have only scratched the surface of what is possible. Now, using our mind’s eye and our connectivity, we will be able to conjure up new spaces, uncharted dimensions and even languages previously unimaginable. Stories that not only encapsulate the unique personalities of the brands but of the viewer as well, creating endless combinations and interactions that are authentic on both sides. And as we create new landscapes, we will have the renewed challenge of distilling, compressing and infusing the essence of these worlds into small packages that arrive through our front doors, confirming and completing our connection to something larger.
Like a tiny piece of space rock from the edge of the Solar System, that holds all of the potential of the Universe, landing down and inspiring us to imagine what lies beyond.
Look out for our series Design for Life in extraordinary times, published every two weeks.
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