Exploring the narrative of shopping

I try to shop locally, favouring smaller groceries, the butchers and fishmonger, fruit and veg markets, the independent bookstore and the few boutiques in my neighbourhood who support smaller designers. It involves a little more effort trekking from shop to shop and navigating crowded markets in the rain, but the experience is hugely rewarding. Each one of these establishments offers a very different experience, an unexpected find, fun conversation, a laugh, a cry… I come away with much more than a transaction of money for goods.

I’m not alone in actively wanting to return to the old culture of shopping – you know when you’d made a trip to the town market to buy the weekly groceries, did a little bartering, caught up with the politics of the day, learnt the latest gossip, married off your sons and daughters. Shopping was an event yet somewhere along the way we have lost that element of fun. Allowing for Amazon to decide on our reading list, Spotify to predict our listening and Ocado to deliver our food to me is soul destroying.

Earlier this week I caught up with the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, founder of the exciting practice OMA, who seems to share a similar belief. Recent political events, the ‘digital representations of reality’ as he rightfully says, should be a good wake-up call to pop the liberal bubble and make some fundamental changes. ‘There’s a lot of disruption going on in the world. These events demand that we have a rethink. Do we address consumption in the world?’

Koolhaas was talking at the Vision: Future Retail, a symposium in Amsterdam attended by various companies and creatives. In reality, it is time to reinvent the retail narrative not only from a nostalgic viewpoint, or political, but simply because the current model is no longer commercially working. We connect and consume products in a very different way than we used to. Access is replacing the physical – we are still buying products but for very different reasons. Experience is our new status symbol and it is having a profound impact on how we shop.

What this means is really rethinking the retail space to engage with the consumer, provide excitement, experiences, friendship and a sense of community, help share thoughts and ideology. This could involve experimental retail, spaces that are artistic, pop-ups and temporary structure in unusual locations purely for the purpose of brand awareness. Perhaps they don’t sell anything but brand experiences. It means more and more collaborations with artists and creatives who share a similar vision, and working with social and political causes that also identify with the company’s underlying principles. In the new age of retail, stores need to be become more glocal so the design of the shop floor is locally responsive even if the brand is global.

Although theoretically the digital age should have made shopping easier, more than ever consumers want to connect with the brand in order for a purchase to take place. They want to feel, smell, touch the object, but also bond with the brand itself be it ideologically or otherwise. The internet has become that last purchasing tool, the last click-and-pay.

Some brands are actively doing this. OMA’s Fondazione Prada in Milan is a cultural complex with huge gallery spaces replete with a cinema. More recently the firm has worked with KaDeWe in Berlin, Repossi and Boulevard Haussmann in Paris and the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice, a homage to the old market square. Collectively they are not only making strong architectural statements but are also expanding the customers’ retail experience into an urban architectural experience. They provide retail as part of your ‘city wonder’ says the firm.

Car companies are also reviewing how to sell cars going forward. On the one hand the collections are now so huge that no physical space, certainly none in congested city settings, can house the full range. Added to this the auto world is in a bit of a puzzle as the next generation refuses to connect emotionally with cars and even less with individual car ownership. Audi City in London, for instance, is a fully digital car salesroom built on the Apple model that hopes to connect with the millennials. In the same way, BMW says it will like to work closer with the likes of OMA to explore shopping as an experience.

Michele Fuhs, head of Premium Retail Experience believes that by 2020 the BMW Group will need to be the ‘point of experience. We cannot remain simply sales focused but address what is mobility in the future, what is car ownership. We are competing with the entertainment industry. For this we need partners. Our brand will be at the centre but it has to move forward.’

Koolhaas says we have been pampered and should be more ambitious and more interesting. ‘We are too placid and predictable’ and need to engage with choice, alternatives and reality and ‘discover pleasures outside the immediate comfort zone.’

In the future we will see more and more of a shift towards brands as media, ones that offer other services, that are inclusive, spaces that are more fluid and flexible in their delivery, and crucially companies need to offer a personal, bespoke experience. Perhaps the shop of the future will be a gallery of sorts, an interactive and exciting exhibition space, and maybe at the end of that experience, that city wonder, we click a button and make a purchase, much like we would a souvenir.

Nargess Banks

Design Talks | The Textile Building | 29a Chatham Place | London | E9 6FJ | UK
Design Talks is published by Spinach Design
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Pininfarina on material and colour trends in car design

Materials, and colour and trim will increasingly occupy a more central role in automotive design. We catch up with Fabio Filippini, chief creative officer at Pininfarina, who shares his thoughts on the growing trends in this area and explores how his team at the Italian design consultancy are navigating the future of the interior.

How would you define the current major material, and colour and trim trends?

The trend is in offering more variety and options, and I think the level of difference ambiances and specific personalisation [a company offers] is the biggest selling factor. This applies to hyper luxury cars for extreme tailoring, but is also true of say the Smart city car.

We’re also seeing bright colours, patterns and textures that give the feeling of being hand-made, the feeling of craftsmanship.

What has excited you recently with new materials, new manufacturing processes and technologies?

Textile optical fibre that transmits light, special finishing for carbon fibre, exposed exteriors and interiors – these are all ideas we have shared with our other departments. In terms of sustainability, the reuse of natural fibres and making composite substitutes out of natural fibre.

Any specific examples…

Graphene is a new frontier of entertainment material. This is a new composite made of carbon that is clean and can transmit electricity as well as being resistant, flexible and react to shape. It can be used on surfaces to be interactive and is good for screens. It can offer a high level of flexibility and react to stimulation so it is a big step for the interface system.

I’m excited about processes whereby you can mould and treat surfaces to create patterns and textures. For example, 3D printing and digital software, used in architecture and design, can create intricate patterns in unexpected ways. The boundaries are not so defined anymore.

How much do you share ideas with other design sectors from the world of furniture, interiors, product design and fashion?

We are privileged to have different departments working with other products – furniture, sailing boats, trains, airline… so there is a great deal of good contamination from the different disciplines of creativity. We also keep up with global creativity.

Would the treatment be very different when dealing with the emission free car of the future and does it require a stronger focus on exploring sustainable materials?

The evolution of electric vehicles and sustainable technology is very relevant and design has to represent this, take advantage of it. Yes, the expression and colour should reflect the advanced technology. When you work with EV you feel more motivated to break with the codes. The customer is also ready to accept it which is double the reason not to make them look like traditional cars.

Any examples…

Yes, our Cambiano concept of 2012 where we used quite a bit of traditional wood, but in a provocative way. This is a luxury electric car, therefore it has to be technological and innovative. Yet we used recycled wood in a crude yet refined way, and placed in unexpected areas. So even though the element of luxury feeling recalls the traditional code, it still broke with tradition.

Nargess Banks

Read our previous articles on Pininfarina here.

Design Talks | The Textile Building | 29a Chatham Place | London | E9 6FJ | UK
Design Talks is published by Spinach Design
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Ian Callum on Jaguar design

Jaguar design suffered under Ford. The giant American carmaker that owned the niche British firm from 1989 to 2008 replaced Jaguar’s quirky identity with a non-descript generic one. Thankfully under new owner India’s Tata we are progressively seeing a return of the lost magic that made Jaguar cars so evocative.

The current design, however, is very much down to Ian Callum’s vision that is drawing on the marque’s rich heritage to explore a very contemporary Jaguar aesthetic. Under his astute design direction the current family of cars have adopted a modern, confident design identity.

Design Talks has been busy driving the range that includes the XF, XK and XJ, as well as arguably one of the most evocative classic cars in history, the E-Type, which we tested on the eve of its 50th birthday at du Parc des Eaux Vives on the edge of Geneva, the very place where founder Sir William Lyons first unveiled the car half a century ago.

To complete our ‘Jaguar experience’ we caught up with Ian Callum over dinner to explore the thinking behind Jaguar design.

Ian Callum inside the Jaguar XKR-S at the Geneva Motor Show 2011 Photo© Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Design Talks The XKR-S, unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, is the fastest Jaguar production car and a pretty powerful looking machine. How do you marry this with your clean car ambitions as demonstrated in the CX-75 concept car?

Ian Callum The XKR-S is the cleanest car in its class. But you are right, we have to find a balance. We’re not going to sell many of these cars, but we are a performance car company so we have to have something saying we are capable of doing this. The challenge in the future is to have a car like this with extremely green credentials.

DT The CX-75 was a really interesting take on green, clean automobile design.

IC It was our attempt at an advanced car to demonstrate how you can have performance and style, an almost outrageous supercar design, but at the same time maintain proper green credentials. We’ve developed the technology for it and it would be a terrible shame not to build this car. In my view it is everything the brand stands for.

DT Does the CX-75 demonstrate your approach to sustainable design?

IC There is this idea that when you enter a green car it has to be bizarre, slightly in keeping with people who are not interested in the motorcar. I don’t believe that.

The irony is that once you get into an electrically driven powertrain your flexibility is much higher. You no longer have a great lump of metal at the front that drives everything in terms of package. And when you have four electric motors in each wheel then you are so free to design. As we enter this more conscientious world we have to take the performance with us. And it is hugely challenging.

DT Jaguar has such a fantastically rich heritage and now that you’re celebrating the E-Type’s 50th anniversary, you can’t fail to fall in love with its evocative design.

IC I saw a picture of the E-Type in the back of Life magazine when I was six. I asked my dad what the car was and he told me it is the new Jaguar. It just looked so modern. I don’t think this made me want to become a car designer but I was so drawn by it.

You can’t overstate the impact the E-Type had back then. You have to remember the car was accessible and so much cheaper than the Mercedes’ of the time. It completely encapsulated the spirit of the revolutionary era it came to symbolise.

DT Why do you suppose the design is so evocative?

IC What’s fascinating about the car is that its creator Malcolm Sayer used mathematics for the shape the car  – it is geometrically shaped for perfect aerodynamics and the irony is that it didn’t have very good aerodynamics.

Sayer was a metric man, he was an engineer not a designer like us. Basically what he did was to wrap the metal around the structure and fit two people in it. The sculpture is almost by default.

DT You’ve hinted at a small entry-level Jaguar in the near future. How would you go about designing this?

IC I think it will be very difficult because a Jaguar will always need to have visual length, and the easiest way to achieve this is by lengthening the car. So in this case the trick will be to achieve visual length without adding length. This is what we’ve done in the XJ – giving the car as much visual length as we can.

The first thing I would do is to make sure we didn’t default into something that is very vertical with lots of curvaceous lines to look cute. It has to be sophisticated.

If you look at the E-Type it is a small car with visual length – it is all about this great big long bonnet. I suspect the long bonnet is probably referencing a woman – it is too voluptuous to be a man.

DT Do you believe the E-Type’s design will continue to impact on Jaguars of the future?

IC Yes. It is its spirit that I try to capture in our cars and I strongly believe the CX-75 has the expression of the E-Type.

DT Do you feel it is struggle to find a balance between the digital and the mechanical?

IC This is a very good question and we go through a little bit of a dilemma here. We will reach a balance of what the human spirit needs.

Sitting in the E-Type and playing with the switches, there is something wonderfully tactile about all the mechanical effort – the noises they make and that they give you a feedback.

I think it is very important to maintain that. There is so much you can put on a touch screen. In fact with the next generation of touch screen when you touch them a little pulse will give feedback. That tactility is so important to human expression.

With this car you are very much in control down to the rubber that touches the road. It is the same with the new XKR-S sports car but we have added so much in between so that you don’t screw it up! That’s why it’s sometimes nice to switch to old cars, as you are at one with it. There is no pretence and no forgiveness.

DT You have put a lot of emphasis on the interior design of the new family of cars. How far can you take this aspect of Jaguar design?

IC I think it is limitless, we have a lot to discover and a lot to learn and we’re just starting to scratch the surface. I started as an interior designer at Ford – I was a reluctant designer I wanted to do the emotional stuff. So when I broke away my whole focus was on exterior expression, the sculpture and the interior took second stage.

By the time we did the XF and the XJ my focus had returned to the interior because I was realising the opportunities are enormous. And you can have so much fun with the interior.

DT How do you see the future developing with interior design?

IC The smell side will be very important: wafting smells of cut grass or leather. It will become so impressive that I think architects will start learning from the car business because we have a wholly controlled environment.

The other thing I want to get into is the tactility of materials. Our leathers are very well protected to last a good 10 to 15 years. The car industry is so rigid with standards but I think there’s a huge opportunity to experiment with leathers, even create artificial ones to give that lovely soft creamy leather feel which you can only get in domestic furniture.

Oh and lighting as well – fun lighting. I think finding solutions in interior design is infinite.

Read how personal electronic devices are impacting on the interior design of Jaguar cars in Jaguar’s Quirky Cabin Design. Also, have a look at current car design trends from the Geneva Motor Show.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Video: Ian Callum discusses the interior of the latest XJ

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop www.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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Jaguar’s quirky cabin design

Jaguar is undergoing a design renaissance – its latest concept the C-X75 a clear indication of the quintessentially British marque’s confident design language that nods to its rich design history – think the iconic E-Type – whilst discovering what defines ‘Britishness’ in this century.

The interior has been the focal point of current Jaguar design where there is a clever juxtaposition of high technology, taken from the world of electronic device, and old-fashioned craftsmanship.

Design Talks caught up with interior designer Alister Whelan and experience design manager Mark Humphreys at their studio in Coventry, UK to find out how the design team fuse these two very different worlds yet manage to maintain the Jaguar identity.

Design Talks. Interiors are increasingly the selling point with cars. When did you start being influenced by electronic gadgets and devices?

Al Whelan. When we started work on the XF, Motorola had just launched the original Razr mobile phone. With the Razr it was about the beautiful use of materials, used on the switch controls that would have normally been in black plastic. Motorola used a premium material and made a signature of the lighting – of how the lighting encapsulated the controls.

On the XF we created a halo light around the switches and continued this into the XJ and the concept car. On the first generation Razr phone you had an aluminium film running across the switches and we wanted to achieve this feeling of precision and the idea of night time illumination.

Mark Humphreys. The XF was definitely the car that really opened our eyes to the opportunities of using technology, and then executing it in a way that is intriguing and fun. Off course the lead-time with electronic gadgets is so different to cars so for us the idea is to understand the core values and to extract that.

DT. How do you make interior design more individual and quirky?

AW: We have a little bit more of a licence to do things that are more tongue-in-cheek. On the C-X75 we used wood in an honest and authentic way where we scorched the wood by a local sculptor to give it a silky finish. It’s about using traditional material in a contemporary way. (Design director) Ian Callum stresses we have to have fun with design – a bit like Paul Smith.

For this car we were inspired by aviation and aircraft cockpits where we tried to get the right balance between digital and analogue. For instance, we introduced a door design that is very organic and flowing but instead of crafting in the door handle in the door like conventional design, the ejector seat handle are placed between your legs on the seats. It’s beautifully polished aluminium sculpture with some illumination.

DT. How can you interpret something as high-tech as electronic devices for Jaguar?

MH. We visited BAE Systems and observed the work of some of the guys that worked on the design of the Eurofighter cockpit. They obviously come from a very different world but when you dig deeper the actual techniques are similar to us.

What’s interesting is that although in many ways their work is tougher; it is also easier in that they are designing for a specific person, who will be a certain age, height with perfect eyesight. The Eurofighter knows what is has to do so they reconfigure the instrumentation between each mode so they have a different set of displays according to the needed function.

From an automotive perspective, off course this is harder to do. In the CX75 we had the main display in front of the driver and then on the side we had a small touch screen we called the ‘co-pilot’ that is angled towards the driver. It is small and a very high definition screen like the iPhone 4. The co-pilot helps with information on where you need to be; it gives driving tips, and it appears only when you need it.

AW. This had a physical influence on the design of the cabin. Mark’s technology helped us clear away all the unnecessary switches – the ones the car can take care of through the co-pilot. With the primary driving stuff then we could apply real mechanical controls. The main elements of driving have to remain tactile and engaging – almost retaining their traditional feel.

DT. How do you get the perfect mix between the virtual and the physical?

AW. We have to mix authenticity with high-tech and this will set us apart from others in the industry. In your living room you may have a high tech TV but an old Barcelona chair.

On the CX-75 we tried to create this by getting the feel and the weight that is associated with craftsmanship. We tied up with British watchmaker Bremont who designed a beautiful analogue clock on the dashboard – a lovely physical stopwatch that comes out of the car and is powered by the momentum of the electric car, which contrasts, with the high-tech of the co-pilot section.

DT. How will all these ideas filter through to the upcoming production cars?

AW. The world is changing with people spending seven or so hours a day on their personal electronic devices. So let us give people more respect, design switches that are not so simple, are more engaging and give more feedback. Maybe in the future we can take some of these ideas and mix them with something that is beautifully handcrafted.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | www.d-talks.com | Bookshopwww.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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Herzog de Meuron’s Swiss adventure

Herzog de Meuron’s Vitra Haus is the perfect addition to Vitra’s celebrated campus in the sleepy town of Weil-am-Rhein. The town, known locally as Stuhl Stadt (Chair City), is most well known for its factories producing some of the world’s most celebrated furniture design from Charles & Ray Eames, Maarten van Severen and Verner Panton, among others.


Vitra Haus, which opened earlier this year to much critical acclaim, was built on the concept of a giant display case for all the beautiful interior design produced here. The structure itself is made of 12 individual buildings, sitting atop one another at jaunty angles, each shaped like an elongated Monopoly house.

Upon entering you are ushered straight to the top (fifth) floor, where you start to see just how well this building works its functions. The display rooms are ight and airy, giving ceiling to floor views of the surrounding countryside, and you are free to sit, bounce and play on the furniture. Vitra have really got the balance of museum and showroom right here.

Working your way down through the various levels and rooms is a joy, with every display window giving new vistas. You can even see out over the factory buildings, where the most famous is Zaha Hadid’s first structure – the fire station. Frank Gehry, Nicholas Grimshaw and SANAA have designed the rest, all warranting a visit in their own right.

Guest blogger Andrea Klettner

Read Andrea Klettner’s blog Love London Council Housing.


Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop www.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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