Written by By Maria Lisignoli, CNN
When it comes to looking toward the future, wearable technology usually tops the list of tech trends. But the design world’s next major party trend is more complex.
Developed with evolving social trends in mind, its vision for the future is a future wherein both design and technology come together to give the design of an object — not just the object itself — a new, high-tech presence.
Amanda Chan Wang, professor at the School of Architecture and Design at University of Delaware (UDel), said technology will transform the way we consume objects. “We are starting to see (high-tech) signs on everything from security guards, construction equipment, swimming pools, head rest and even doorknobs,” said Wang.
“These signs also do not need to be attached to an object. A person’s computer or phone can act as a personal remote or make-up on-demand to your door or apartment.”
As designers continue to evolve the way products are made, products will continue to be shaped by the technology used to create them. Here, Wang shares some her tips for reimagining future tech objects.
Art and minimalism
First and foremost, Wang recommended revisiting the age-old practice of adapting art and design as a means of remaking products.
“The idea of minimalism in art and design is helping us to visualize our surroundings and making these things more precise,” she said. “We can manipulate surfaces using these principles; paper becomes a metaphor for very small frames, while mirrors become very small pixels, and so on.”
Famed for bringing minimalism back into fashion, Wang’s signature techniques, which range from milling to software design, have changed the way garments are produced and merchandised. Wang’s first collection of wearable tech products, called Mad Genius: Visionaries of the Future , represented minimalism’s return to fashion, designed for a specific purpose: to help young people with vision loss understand how their surroundings work, as well as propose the idea of an app that would allow a person to visualize the objects within their environments.
The direct response movement
Not only does minimalism have the potential to shape the future of design, it can also influence how technology is designed, Wang said. If minimalism is the way of the future, Wang argues, then it behooves developers to follow the indirect response movement pioneered by Carl Albright and Ruth Ryon. In an effort to make objects invisible, part of Ryon’s design philosophy was to opt for a lower resolution on the reflective surface, which Wang describes as “using only invisible materials on the objects themselves.
“The Pixel vision provides another example: Pixel glasses with LEDs underneath and lenses that can be modified, allowing users to change their orientation or activity levels in real time.”
In her own work, Wang has taken this idea further by designing objects in three dimensions for the not-so-distant future.
“One of the projects I am working on now is 3D touchless project,” she said. “We are making interactivity that works better without moving your hand or looking at the product.
“We created this product in 3D, in the same way that you move objects in the 3D art, but I added sensors to the interface. Users see different pieces, you can press on different components, and various 3D objects can interact with each other.
“We are going to have to be more flexible and be able to modify the interface depending on the presence of the objects in the space.”
Not only does technology play a big role in future devices, Wang said there are no limitations in terms of how consumers will interact with them.
“We have observed that in an average home today, we have six and a half square feet of space to house various things. But how will we manage to fit our electronics and comfort into such a small space?
“Consumers can put electronics into the kitchen cabinets; in the bathroom or laundry room. Even using bathrooms as storage. One can imagine — some of the products we are already in contact with can be used for projectors, painting, packaging, and so on.”