Intelligence: The Analogue Experience | WGSN
Tactile and understandable tech products are providing an alternative for consumers who feel overwhelmed by an increasingly digital future. We explore the enduring appeal of analogue and outline key product opportunities
Sarah Housley, Lisa Yong & Caitlin Monahan
10.11.21 · 5 minutes
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Executive summary

A reliance on tech during the pandemic, coupled with digital fatigue, has reinforced consumer demand for analogue experiences.

From analogue music formats to physical productivity tools, analogue tech is perceived as calmer, more intentional and potentially more secure.

Here are the key themes to track:

  • Low-tech lifestyles: consumers are looking to stripped-back devices to rebalance their relationship with tech
  • Analogue memory-making: media including vinyl, cassette tapes, analogue photography and crafting devices are enjoying a boom
  • Tactile interfaces: buttons, switches and dials offer a sensorial alternative to increasingly invisible, ambient controls for tech products
  • Retro gaming: from old-fashioned consoles to new arcade experiences, gamers are going old-school
  • Screen-free kids: screen-free formats include audio players, books and cameras
  • Analogue AI: on the horizon for machine learning, analogue chips could offer greater efficiency and lower energy use

Sources: Australian National Network (2020), Ofcom (2020), App Annie (2021), Ernst & Young (2021)

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Analysis

Analogue experiences offer familiarity, reassurance, control, agency and a sense of purpose, all of which are increasingly attractive in a world experiencing compound collective trauma.

For some people, analogue tech provides a necessary antidote to increased screen time, while for others it enables them to live in the moment, using devices with purpose and then putting them down. This approach taps into digital minimalism – a term coined by computer science professor Cal Newport, it involves defining not only what technologies you allow in your life, but how you use them.

As tech interfaces become ambient, tactile controls such as buttons, switches and dials feel appealingly tangible. The sensorial experience of analogue media – like crackling vinyl or unspooling cassettes – restores senses dulled by digital overload. This will continue to be key as the metaverse grows and even more time is spent online, for work and for leisure.

What does this mean for you?
There are several key product categories to explore, including music, photography and productivity, but the appeal of analogue tech extends can be applied to product design and CMF strategy to add value for all tech products. It has cross-demographic and cross-generational appeal and is key among nostalgia-seeking Millennials and Gen Z. As tech-enabled lifestyles become more digital-first, expect this mindset to become increasingly important as a counterweight.

Hernan Gregorio and Julia Stabio

Hernan Gregorio and Julia Stabio's desktop organiser emulates a screen, taking  skeuomorphic UI (digital interfaces that mimic the physical world) in the opposite direction

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“We are analogue beings living in a digital world facing a quantum future.”

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Thank you for reading this sample report.

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