Creative Futures 2015 – 7 key takeaways for experience design

Creative Futures took over London’s No. 11 Cavendish Square for two days this week, bringing business leaders from retail, fashion, design, automotive, luxury and technology together to discuss the future of creativity. Topics ranged from delivery disruption to social media and wearable tech – and connecting every idea was the importance of experience. Read on for key takeaways from thought leaders including Caroline Issa, Jefferson Hack and Savile Row’s Patrick Grant.

The best experience design gives you goosebumps. How do you identify experience design? Simple. “For me, experience design is something that really changes your day. A great experience is a mood-changer,” said Lisa White, creative director of WGSN Lifestyle & Interiors. “It’s the goosebump factor that you’re looking for.”

Retail is all about experience. “The best retail has always been about fantastic experiences,” said Guy Smith, head of design at Arcadia Group. He framed experience as a five-stage process: first introducing customers to the brand; then helping them to navigate your product line in browsing mode; next, the validation stage, when they are considering a purchase; the pure purchase stage – which he sees as the part that will change most drastically in the near-future; and finally post-purchase, when a product is owned, enjoyed and shared with friends and family. Each one of these stages can be made or broken by experience design, and each one is critical to a brand’s success: any time a customer experiences something less than perfect, he said, “it takes away from your brand equity.”

Tech has got to be easy. Describing himself as “an anti-tech technologist,” Holition CEO Jonathan Chippindale critiqued the current state of retail technology – in particular, magic mirrors. “So much of it doesn’t look cool,” he said, “because it’s built by technologists rather than people who understand consumers.” In-store technology must look good, feel good, and be immediately easy to use, he stressed. If it isn’t, the shopper will walk away within moments. Chippindale is excited by the potential of wearables – “Most wearables we see are very selfish; there’s another angle” – but wary of over-reliance on screens. Walking into a Burberry store and immediately using screens to shop, he said, detracts from the beauty of that space. “How do we communicate with tomorrow’s consumer? Are we all going to be staring at a screen, or is it going to be more sensorial?”

If it can be imagined, it can be made. Jefferson Hack took to the stage with Liam Casey, CEO of PCH, to discuss their collaboration on AnOther’s Digital Limited Edition, which features a high-definition, moving cover starring Rihanna. The magazine is a first, offering a bold new experience for readers. “Did we do this to make noise? Of course,” said Hack. “I want the hype of being the first to have achieved this, but if you do it without substance, without a story to tell, then it’s bullshit.” While on-stage, he had the idea for a 3D hologram-projecting cover, with Rihanna cast as Star Wars’ Princess Leia. “This is a Pandora’s box,” he mused.

Experience drives value. Tank publisher Caroline Issa talked delegates through its scanning app, Fashion Scan, which brings magazines to life with added content, video and exclusive interviews. “We live in an age of melting boundaries,” Issa began, explaining that although digital culture is flourishing, there will always be a human appetite for the physical. Because magazine bridges the two worlds, offering a kind of “pop up book for grown-ups”, with ads and editorials that can be scanned for both extra features and shopping opportunities. This new dimension adds value to the magazine, she explained: analytics show that customers come back to reference and rescan it up to six weeks after buying it. The next step for Fashion Scan is to bring scanning to 3D objects, so that users can scan their friend’s dress (or a sofa in a particularly stylish Airbnb let) and buy it instantly.

Digital should also be emotional. Studio XO are on a mission to bring emotional intelligence to wearable technology. “Our interest is where technology meets the body” explained chief technology officer Benjamin Males, in an intimate hangout where delegates were able to test the studio’s electro dermal activity-sensing bracelets XOX for themselves. The smooth bands detect skin responses to excitement and anxiety, displaying real-time feedback in a colour language that begins at blue for relaxed, then moves through green, orange, red and finally magenta, which signifies the highest possible stimulation. “When you do reach magenta, that’s something quite special,” noted Males. Studio XO have deployed 2300 of these wristbands at concerts and nightclubs, measuring and recording mass emotional reactions. “We’re interested in drawing information out of the body,” explained co-founder Nancy Tilbury. “This will allow us to tailor-make experiences around emotion, which is compelling to brands and to consumers. Ultimately, with all of this data we’re building a sentiment map. And we want more sentiment from our technology.”

Face-to-face is a status symbol. True luxury still centres on the personal experience, said Patrick Grant, creative director of Norton & Sons of Savile Row. “What money buys is the opportunity to have an experience that is much more human.” In an age of purchase by Like and shipping by drone, in-person is taking on a more premium feel. The true luxury consumer, said Grant, doesn’t want to do all their communicating by smartphone; instead, the personal touch is becoming a new status symbol – one that says, ‘I have the money to interact with humans.’

WGSN Lifestyle & Interiors subscribers will be able to read the full report from Creative Futures 2015 early next week.

– Sarah Housley

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