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2016 Design Forecast LIVE: Co-Creating the Future

Gensler is focused on solving the key issues facing our clients today and tomorrow. And that’s why we sponsored DesignForecastLIVE—to bring our clients together, to hear their thoughts and to co-create the future with them.

Held in New York, the two-day event explored the idea that life today is the convergence of live, work and play. Technology is booming, demographics are shifting and people are gravitating to cities. The pace of change is accelerating! So what are the design implications as we seek to adapt to these new conditions?

In his introduction to the LIVE session, Gensler Co-CEO Andy Cohen laid out a forecast for cities as innovation engines, as hosts for livable mixed-use communities and as centers of rich experience for a wide range of users. Cities are being reinvented out of necessity, he said, elaborating on five important drivers of change: demographics, urbanization, technology, climate and global volatility.

By 2050, for example, world population will grow 32 percent, and 6.3 billion people will live in cities. By 2030, the millennial cohort will make up 75 percent of the workforce, reshaping cities in a more compact, car-free and connected form. Cities will play a huge part in delivering the COP21 pledge to temper climate change. And, at the same time, they’ll use apps and artificial intelligence to simplify navigation and be more time- and resource-efficient.

Image © Gensler

In her opener to the WORK session, Gensler Co-CEO Diane Hoskins asserted we are living in the age of innovation—a time when people, organizations and cities compete on the basis of creativity, knowledge creation and technological disruption. She previewed findings from Gensler’s 2016 U.S. Workplace Survey, the latest research looking at how offices drive innovation.

The survey’s 2016 data uncovers a statistical link between the quality and functional makeup of the workplace and the level of innovation that employees ascribe to their workplace. “Innovators report that they are five times more likely to have workplaces that prioritize both individual and group work,” Hoskins added.

Irwin Miller and Tom Ito launched the PLAY session with a preview of trends across the Lifestyle sector. They noted the coming together of play with the rest of life, the way live events are convening digital communities and the overarching importance of experience. This is why Gensler is developing an Experiential Design Index, whose goal is to understand how clients and consumers define experience, value it and measure its impact.

Other presenters added a diverse range of viewpoints. Dylan Hendricks of the Institute for the Future (IFTF), the event’s co-sponsor, reminded us that—like the transitions that take place in adolescence—a lot is changing in the world. Dan Doctoroff of Sidewalk Labs asserted that digital networks, the “4th Revolution in urban technology,” are reshaping our cities from the Internet up. And Alisa Tager of Laboratory Productions led the group on a journey of imagination, discussing how fictional thinking can impact not only imaginary worlds, but architectural design.

Image © Gensler

Even the venues selected for the forum underscored the diversity of work settings that our clients are creating today. Opening night took place at the new Gensler-designed headquarters of Condé Nast at One World Trade Center. The owner of magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair is investing in its future as a media company while bolstering Lower Manhattan’s revival. Day two was staged at Etsy’s new headquarters in Brooklyn’s DUMBO district, an emerging area for tech companies. The renovated warehouse is informal and quirky, furnished with locally-sourced tables and chairs, enhanced with rooftop decks, and designed to push the limits of sustainability.

Attendees actively contributed their ideas to the forum when they were prompted to answer: What keeps you up at night? Their responses touched on many issues, ranging from speed of delivery and rapid obsolescence to facilitating culture change and winning the war for talent.

The event concluded with our clients sharing their aspirational takeaways for the future: “to leap frog,” “to change every day” and “to challenge gravity.” As one quipped, “Having the tenacity to be disruptive—or die!” After two busy days of inspiring and thought-provoking exchange at DesignForecastLIVE, that was the spirit of the hour.