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Design Forecast: Like, Share, Repeat and the Power of Experiences

Image © Irwin Miller

Experiences lie at the heart of leisure. They attract customers, enhance brands and leave people wanting more. And as we take a look at the future trends shaping lifestyle, we’ve learned that experiences will continue to dictate the direction leisure takes for the foreseeable future.

For further proof of this, take a quick glimpse at social media. Experiences are what more and more people are talking about—on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even LinkedIn. Experiences dominate conversations on Monday mornings in the workplace. When I travel to different cities, job sites and offices around the world, I overhear people sharing their most memorable experiences. Experiences are more important than acquisitions—today’s lifestyle culture revolves less around what people have bought and more about what they are experiencing.

There’s been a recent uptick in sharing and bartering, and these trends have been enabled by the sharing economy. But most of my friends or the people I follow on social media aren’t discussing or sharing pictures of expensive or sought after items they have purchased. They focus on objects that were either made with intent or objects that do something. This can range from Etsy purchases—where the artist or creator is mentioned—to eBay purchases of a specialty item with a great history and a story to tell. Friends share the kind of gear they create themselves—3D printers, cameras, filmmaking equipment and rigs. The ethical nature of where things come from and the reason one chooses to have anything has risen to the forefront of the conversation in recent years—people are smarter and, most importantly, better informed. No one can risk making a decision without information about the source of what it is they are deciding to acquire.

Experience Through Food

The food connection is one of the most apparent lifestyle trends that seems to be ramping up in intensity—and morphing into a way of life in the manner we all seem to communicate daily about food in pictures, travel and storytelling. We have historically always been drawn to food as a point of gathering—either breaking bread around a fire with our own families and clans, or as a shared language to show our background, origins and individual locality. Those traditions continue to expand into the digital realm with the posting of great meals in artistic, yet highly filtered Instagram shots (that have become a bit of a joke in critiques lately of how we can’t start a meal without photographing the precise composition). I loved the short-lived, but on point social critique of Socalitybarbie, which poked fun at the food and coffee compositions that have overtaken social media—complete with the right hashtags like #liveauthentic #vsco #exploreeverything.

Beyond the imagery are the stories of where our friends and colleagues travel to—the story behind the foods they consume, the provenance and the terroir. With the rise of meal kits and services like Blue Apron, the documenting of one’s ability to be part of the food making process has shifted towards not just capturing the outcome, but revealing the process and craft. “The Joy of Cooking” cookbook that many of us purchased or were gifted when we went off to college has now been replaced by glossy one-sheet recipes. Following the step-by-step directions, complete with photos of the process, can make anyone feel like, they too, are a creative chef.

Image © Irwin Miller

Experience Through Travel

The rise of experience through travel has drastically shifted so that the occasional bi-yearly destination vacation has been replaced by more travel for most: from business travel to exciting locations and an increasingly empowered ability to customize everything about your travel experience. I can’t imagine what younger generations will think of the idea of a travel agent developing a trip for you, as many of us used to rely on this service before the rise of the Internet and customized travel tools. Now the complete travel experience starts while scrolling through your friends’ feeds, jotting down metatags of place you want to remember, then booking through dozens of discounted airfare sites for totally flexibility and choice. Next, you can book from a multitude of smaller boutique hotels in any part of an international city. Airbnb is the other hotel of choice for many to further instill the feeling of being at a home away from home.

What’s next?

Whatever it is that we are experiencing in the world of lifestyle it has to matter to us, it must be relevant and shareable; we need to have a say in all aspects of what those experiences are, but welcome the surprise and delight that comes from the unknown.

More and more companies and products are adjusting to capture our attention and support the need for experiences—business models are shifting, outdated services are being replaced and the consumer, the traveler, the fan and the creator are more empowered than they have ever been. What’s next is seeing what everyone does with all of this ability in the world.

This post is part of a series related to the 2016 Gensler Design Forecast, highlighting trends that will transform how we live, work and play in the next decade.

Irwin Miller
Irwin Miller is a lifestyle sector leader for Gensler's global practice, and a design principal in the Los Angeles office. Focused on brand integration and user experience in retail environments, Irwin is forever motivated by his own daily encounters with design—finding inspirations during his travels across the globe, while illustrating his children’s book and most of all interacting with his clients and teams. Contact him at irwin_miller@gensler.comInstagram: @irwinopolis.

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