The pandemic catalysed massive behavioural change which in normal circumstances would’ve taken years. Almost overnight we embraced new ways of living and working in which design plays a leading role.

Of course, the majority of these ‘new’ concepts have been slowly creeping into our lives for years. Worldwide lockdowns accelerated them to the ‘tipping point’ which author Malcolm Gladwell describes so well in his influential book; that moment when resistance to change eases and an idea or practice becomes normalised.

“Ideas and products and messages spread like viruses do…they reach the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.”

Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point (Little, Brown. 2000)

So it was that platforms such as Zoom – which was founded back in 2011 – exploded into the collective consciousness in 2020. We all become broadcasting stars (although possibly in our pyjamas).

Climate change has also finally climbed to the top of the broader agenda, after decades of the alarm being sounded by a concerned minority. 

So, as the world gets back to business, let’s take a look at design concepts which are now being embraced by a significant majority.

Sustainability Has Gone Mainstream

Global incidents of scale such as the Australian and Amazonian bushfires just before the pandemic, the tireless work of activists and a growing consciousness were reinforced by the sheer volume of time that lockdown gave many of us to reflect. Environmentalism and sustainability have become a centrist rather than a fringe concern. 

Sustainable design has moved into the mainstream, as has conscious consumerism. It means buying less but buying well. Investing in ‘forever pieces’ made from sustainable materials or alternatively those that can be recycled. The circular economy doesn’t necessarily mean a cessation in purchasing. It means reducing, reusing or recycling; avoiding landfill and minimising the impact on the planet. It means taking what was once considered waste and incorporating it into something useful and beautiful. 

An example is the ‘Galene Sofa’ from Decor + Design exhibitor Kave Home Australia (formerly LaForma), which gives the planet a helping hand by using a stuffing made from PET – plastic waste recovered from the ocean and recycled. 

The ‘Galene’ Sofa. Image: Kave Home Australia

At the 19th edition of the Australian International Furniture Fair (AIFF) and Decor + Design in 2022, we’ll be putting sustainability centre stage at the exhibition, with a Sustainability Hub hosted by Design Matters and a zero-waste approach to event management. 

The Infrared Sauna and Meditation Room at ‘Club W’ Sydney

The Rise of ‘Wellness Working’ 

We’re also more aware of the impact that our home and working environments have on our mental health. This deeper awareness of how interior design and architecture change how we feel is revolutionising the way we work.

While reports of The Traditional Office’s demise are greatly exaggerated, the toxic culture of putting in ‘face time’ at the office has waned. However, many employers are calling for a return to the office to foster the exchange of ideas and greater productivity. The ever-growing ‘gig economy’ of freelancers are also returning to Coworking spaces to forge new creative connections after a long winter at home.

The solution? The rise of ‘Wellness Working’; an amalgamation of community, productivity and flexibility which can boost mental health. It’s the ability to work from home part of the week, plus the availability of communal spaces which drive creativity. 

Design plays a major part, with earthy palettes, soft lighting and greenery in offices replacing the utilitarian corporate interiors of old. There will also be an increasing fusion between wellness and working spaces, such as the new Club W in Sydney, which has wellness lounges and pods, immersive exercise studios and beauty treatments alongside desks and work spaces. 

Designing Balance

‘Dyadic Float’ by Sarah Tracton

Sophocles once wrote that “nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse”. We now have access to technology that only a mere few decades ago would have been unthinkable. That allows us to work from anywhere and be connected at all times. Yet just because we can do something, doesn’t always mean we should… 

Managing the negative impacts of technology and multi-functional homes has become a major focus of designers. The focus is on creating harmonious spaces which fuse technology with traditional craftsmanship. 

The pandemic has underscored that massive change can happen in an instant. Design needs to lead, balancing practicality and sustainability with a desirable aesthetic.

‘Shimmer Room Divider’ by Bolaji Teniola

It’s exciting to see these concerns addressed by the talented finalists in the VIVID Design Awards, which usually takes place at AIFF and Decor + Design but this year will be go on display at Showroom by Bowens in Port Melbourne from 23rd November – 6th December. 

A finalist in the category of ‘Concept Design’, emerging designer Sarah Tracton’s handcrafted porcelain light ‘Dyadic Float’ (above) is a fusion of traditional ceramic techniques, fine art and cordless design technology. As a back-to-back porcelain sheet light, it incorporates the Kintsugi golden joinery technique, a process of repair, recycle and reuse which combats the environmental impacts of wastage. 

‘Daylight’ by Dean Norton

Also in Concept Design, we love the ‘Shimmer Room Divider’ by Bolaji Teniola. Designed for the commercial office space and home office, it offers a rethink on sharing communal indoor areas. Shimmer provides a high level of privacy while maintaining connectedness via the transparency of the dichroic film and textural opaqueness of the Tyvek material.

Bringing the outdoors inside is also a major focus. Dean Norton is a finalist in both the Lighting and Colour categories. His design ‘Daylight’ is a sculptural, frosted glass therapy lamp with a floating (6500k) full spectrum globe that mimics the same natural light of the sun. Bringing the outside into our homes, this piece was designed to lift our well-being, and boost our creative energy during times such as lockdown.

You can view the stunning entries from the 2021 VIVID them in person at Showroom by Bowens in Port Melbourne from 23rd November – 6th December. The awards will be presented on Friday 26th November from 3pm – 6pm. 

Get Ahead of the Major Design Trends for 2022 

As we design a new world, be inspired by insights from one of the UK’s top design futurists, Victoria Redshaw from forecasting agency Scarlet Opus. Usually a drawcard at the physical event, in 2021 Victoria has prepared an exclusive virtual presentation which takes a deep dive into what the design industry can expect next year.

Drawing on a wealth of knowledge regarding interiors, fashion, sustainability, technology, history and politics, Victoria will analyse and interpret the global forces shaping interior design trends. Discover the colours, patterns, materials, finishes and styles which will dominate interior design and products in the coming year. The trends forecast is available on demand now for $66 inc. GST. 

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