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2019: mindful, meaningful, millennial-friendly design

What do we know about the young? They like avocados. They can’t buy houses. They’re constantly online and they’re anxious about the future – or so the headlines of 2018 would have it. But how will this liberal, resourceful and community-minded bunch shape the world? And how do we design for them?


Working with trend forecasters Scarlet Opus, here at Space Zero we’ve been looking at the key themes likely to emerge in the design world for 2019. So many factors influence the trends emerging from the shifting design landscapes – climate change and political upheaval, along with fashion, culture, art, advances in science and technology.


Yet perhaps the most obvious catalyst for change is the developing influence of the next generation. We can already thank them for the student-accommodation-friendly succulents, space-saving wall features and a plummeting interest in the kind of beautiful old pieces that appear on the Antiques Roadshow. What good is an Edwardian writing desk if you can’t squeeze it into your share house or studio flat? And anyway, it doesn’t have any holes for chargers.


Credit: Reshot – millennials at work


Of course, in reality, there is far more to any demographic than a taste for high-lipid salad goods and a fondness for technology. But collectively, those aged between ten and 36 (Generation Z and Millenials) are going to shape the world in ways that those of us working as designers must try to anticipate, if our work is not to become obsolete within a few years.


Notoriously hard to recruit and retain, younger workers are less motivated by money than previous generations, craving recognition, freedom and support over large salaries. Constantly connected by technology, they are civic-minded, tolerant and, either by choice or circumstance, likely to delay the adult rites of passage set out in the twentieth century.  So how do we design offices, accommodation and education spaces that will truly help these people flourish?


Leimondo Nursery School, Nagahama, Japan


Designing with social purpose


Firstly, by designing with a social purpose. We talk so much about biophilic design, but the perfect building for the next generation would truly work sympathetically with its environment. A school or college built with low impact materials is great; one that allows students to learn together in an environment in harmony with the outside world is infinitely better. A workplace powered by solar panels would capture the imagination of prospective new employees, but one that offers a true sense of community empowerment will retain them.


Perhaps in recognition of these ideals, RIBA has now added ‘Architecture for social purpose’ to its core CPD curriculum. ‘Through this topic’, they say, ‘RIBA is seeking to support its members and encourage them, through their work, to: improve people’s lives, enhance social identity, enable and foster cohesion and wellbeing and make informed, fair, and ethical choices’.


For interior architects, that means putting user outcomes first at every stage of the design process.


Circle Line Interiors Office, Ukraine


Designing for digital nomads


While offices themselves may begin to look increasingly like your living room, what younger workers want is the opportunity to turn absolutely anywhere into an office. This impacts not only on workplace design, but on education spaces too – classrooms for every age group have to mirror the extreme flexibility needed in the world of work. Freedom of movement is highly valued; places designed for collaboration, sharing and exploration take precedence over locked rooms and fixed walls. Perhaps this explains the drop in demand for inflexible antique furniture – it certainly explains why designers are having to ensure they never drop the ball when it comes to technological advances.


Amazon HQ, Seattle

Designing a balance between calm and storm


And yet younger generations also recognise that switching off is important too. It seems counterintuitive that major tech firms would so vigorously embrace the biophilic workplace, but Amazon’s HQ in Seattle is a veritable jungle of cascading vegetation. Green walls have emerged from the closet of ‘tokenism’ to run riot in hospitals, schools and offices across the world. An emphasis on calm, restoration and mindfulness – a reaction against the ‘constant connection’ created by technology – is gaining strength, with designers recognising that the storm of endless communication requires an antidote of calm that can only be provided by nature.


At Space Zero, we’ve been lucky enough to work on some incredible projects throughout 2018 – putting into practice our commitment to improving patient, pupil or employee outcomes at every turn through innovative, effective design. We’re committed to ‘never stop learning’ – from our colleagues, our clients and our industry network – and we can’t wait to see where 2019 takes us.



Insight    Mon Jan 19

Written by: Space Zero

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