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27 March 2020

Author: The Future Laboratory

Image: Nike Digital Health

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This week: An interactive HQ for Black Girls Code, packaging waste as an art form, a VR world for future humans, carbon-negative hand sanitiser and Vans tackles sensory inclusivity.

Architect Danish Kurani and Black Girls Code, US

1. A technology hub for girls of colour

New York – Black Girls Code has opened an educational space for young girls of colour that aims to demystify technology.

The non-profit-making organisation worked with architect Danish Kurani to revamp 3,900 square feet of space at Google’s New York offices, using playful interior design to make technology and science less intimidating. Part of the space’s ceiling has been designed as a larger-than-life motherboard, while in the main classroom wall graphics illustrate the inner workings of everyday technology, such as mobile phones and digital cameras.

‘I designed the lab for kids to see how technology works inside,’ explains Danish Kurani. ‘The design takes us back to breaking things open and exploring how they’re made. When you remove the mysterious shell, girls see that tech is just parts and pieces, hardware and software they can tinker with and design themselves.’

In this way, architect Danish Kurani and Black Girls Code demonstrate the role of design and alternative education in empowering the next generation of women and tech leaders.

PAK-UH-JING by Daniel Emma at the Hugo Michell Gallery

2. Powerful packaging for modern life

Australia – A new exhibition at Hugo Michell Gallery in Australia is shedding light on existing views around packaging, and questioning the potential of waste products.

Designed by Adelaide-based industrial design duo Daniel Emma, the exhibition positions packaging as memorabilia and prompts new ways of thinking about often discarded objects. For example, a water bottle is re-invented in an oak, acrylic and aluminium structure, while a tennis ball is displayed with an adornment of sapphires.

Comprising 16 items – from a five dollar note pack to a resin envelope – the featured pieces also evoke a sense of nostalgia. The result is lighthearted and experimental, allowing viewers to question and reconsider the potential of everyday items, rather than acting as a way of challenging unsustainable practices. Reflecting on the exhibition, the duo says: ‘Packaging is quite often just a throwaway item. It is what is inside that is celebrated, which is such a shame!’

As brands continue to focus on eco-alternative packaging, they’re also taking the opportunity to upgrade their aesthetics and spark pleasure in everyday items. For more, read Refined Refillables.

'Artificial World' by Bas Jansen

3. VR film questions the role of humanity in an AI world

Amsterdam – Virtual reality artist Bas Jansen has released a futuristic film, Artificial World, to promote environmental awareness.

Drawing attention to the positive impact of technology on our lives, the speculative artwork depicts artificial intelligence (AI) as nature’s new creator; encouraging viewers to consider new perspectives. It explores how the role of technology could be fundamental to the future of sustainability and ecology, asking the question: ‘Are humans good for this planet, or is the planet better off without us?’

Presenting a society that is tech-positive and willing to embrace radical change, Jansen hopes his moral-driven world will provoke thought into the ways in which we can address environmental concerns. He says: ‘I like to create beautiful futuristic worlds that allow people to dream, but also worlds that make them think critically about their own existence and impact.’

To further explore how artists and designers are challenging existing communications by using their mediums to express new narratives, read our Programmable Realities macrotrend.

4. From carbon-negative vodka to hand sanitiser

New York – Alcohol start-up Air Co is repurposing its vodka to make eco-friendly hand sanitiser.

The Air Co brand was launched in 2019 with the world’s first carbon-negative vodka – made with captured CO2 instead of yeast. In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, in which hand sanitisers are in huge demand, the company has temporarily shifted its entire vodka production efforts to make a carbon-negative hand sanitiser.

Air Co is working with New York officials to donate the bottles to the institutions that are in need, such as hospitals. ‘Sanitiser is 70% ethanol, our technology’s main output, and we will produce as many bottles as we can during this crisis,’ reads a statement by the company.

While many brands – from LVMH to Diageo – are also shifting their production to focus on hand sanitiser in times of need, Air Co is ensuring its version helps both the healthcare sector and the environment. To find out how your business should navigate the Covid-19 outbreak, get in touch with The Future Laboratory team.

Air Co, New York
The Autism Awareness Collection by Vans

5. Vans designs shoes for sensory inclusivity

Global – The Autism Awareness Collection was created to alleviate the sight and touch sensitivities of people with autism.

Created with the aim of enhancing comfort, the skatewear brand’s new shoe collection is designed to empower autistic toddlers, children and adults who often have sensitivities with touch and sight. Alongside heel-pull tags to ensure ease of access, the line has been fitted with Vans’ ComfyCush soles, and many styles are slip-on or use Velcro fastenings.

With design informed by autism specialist IBCCSES and the experiences of those with the condition, the collection features a muted and calming colour palette alongside more sensory elements – from holographic patterns to visualise stimulate wearers, to tactile details such as ‘squishy’ velvet hearts. Developed for Autism Awareness Month, the line has been accredited as a Certified Autism Resource.

Fashion and retail brands are finally stepping up to offer their differently abled customers more inclusive and adaptive apparel. To find out why minimal, conscious design is key, read our Design Direction, Implicit Inclusivity.

To future-proof your world, visit The Future Laboratory's forecasting platform LS:N Global for daily news, opinions, trends, sector specific insights, and strategic toolkits.

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