Hello Designers and Design-Lovers,
One of the hottest new trends to hit the worlds of graphic, fashion and architectural design is the move toward looks that are “phygital” in nature. We explain what “phygital” means, what the benefits of this type of design are, and how you can incorporate the trend for yourself.
What ‘Phygital’ Means
‘Phygital’ is a term that’s been coined to describe the blending of the physical and digital worlds. In the context of design, a ‘phygital’ approach might involve using digital tools and techniques to create physical designs, or incorporating digital elements into physical designs. If you’ve been keeping up with the trends for the last couple of years, you will know that the interest in this phenomenon is increasingly on the rise!
‘Phygital’ Fashion Design
Designers exploring this trend come from many backgrounds and areas of expertise. For example, in fashion design, a ‘phygital’ approach might involve creating a digital model of a garment and then using 3D printing technology to produce a physical version of it. Alternatively, it might involve designing a garment with integrated digital elements such as LED lights or sensors that respond to movement. The idea with this type of design is that we blur the lines and barriers between what is real and what is virtual. This can be achieved, as you’ll see, in a number of interesting ways.
‘Phygital’ Graphic Design
In graphic design, for example, a phygital approach might involve creating a physical installation that incorporates digital projections or interactive elements. In architectural design, a phygital approach might involve using virtual reality to create a digital model of a building, which can then be used to create physical mockups or to test different design concepts. Whether it’s using cutting edge materials and construction techniques or manipulating existing design methods in surprising and unexpected ways, at its core “phygital” design is always going to be about pushing boundaries and embracing the unknown.
The phygital trend reflects our increasing interconnectedness between the physical and digital worlds, and the ways in which designers are end users are exploring new possibilities for creative expression by blending the two. This is a trend for the bold, the adventurous, and the lovers of technology and futurism. As design for Metaverse and AI-generated design concepts continue to evolve, we are likely to see many fascinating spaces designed to fit “phygital” design briefs. We’re here for it!
‘Phygital’ Architectural Design
While we ourselves are not especially enamored with the name “phygital”, and instead prefer terms like, “digireal”, phygital design as a term or idea is certainly not going away. The uses for this type of design have already been demonstrated in architecture, and can be applied in several ways:
- Virtual Reality: Using virtual reality technology, architects can create 3D digital models of their designs, allowing clients and other stakeholders to virtually experience and interact with the building before it’s constructed.
- Augmented Reality: Augmented reality technology can be used to overlay digital elements onto physical spaces, allowing architects to experiment with different design concepts and materials without making physical changes.
- Interactive Installations: Architects can create interactive installations that combine physical and digital elements. For example, an installation might use sensors and projections to create a responsive environment that changes in response to people’s movements.
- Smart Buildings: Smart building technology allows for the integration of digital systems into the physical structure of a building. This can include sensors that adjust lighting and temperature based on occupancy, or digital signage that provides information to visitors.
What phygital design offers architects is new possibilities for exploring design concepts and communicating their ideas to clients and stakeholders. By blending the physical and digital worlds, architects can create immersive, interactive environments that engage people in new and exciting ways. When it comes to inspiring innovation and even fostering optimism about the future, this is a design maxim that embodies many interesting possibilities.
‘Phygital’ Environmental Design
Moving on to interior and environmental design, phygital design can be even more applicable in an interior setting, since it relates to user experience and that way people interact with and experience the built environment on a personal level. Phygital concepts can be applied in several ways in interior design, including:
- Virtual and Augmented Reality: Similar to architecture, virtual and augmented reality technology can be used to create 3D digital models of interior spaces, allowing designers to virtually experience and interact with the space before it’s constructed. It can also be used to overlay digital elements onto physical spaces, allowing designers to experiment with different design concepts and materials without making physical changes.
- Interactive Installations: Designers can create interactive installations that combine physical and digital elements, creating immersive environments that engage people in new and exciting ways. For example, an installation might use sensors and projections to create a responsive environment that changes in response to people’s movements.
- Smart Environments: Similar to smart buildings, smart environments use digital systems to enhance the functionality and aesthetics of a space. This can include sensors that adjust lighting and temperature based on occupancy, or digital signage that provides information to visitors.
- Digital Fabrication: Digital fabrication technologies such as 3D printing and CNC milling can be used to create custom furniture, fixtures, and other design elements that seamlessly integrate with the physical environment.
Overall, phygital design offers interior and environmental designers new possibilities for exploring design concepts, communicating their ideas to clients and stakeholders, and creating immersive, interactive environments that engage people in new and exciting ways. By blending the physical and digital worlds, designers can create spaces that are not only functional and aesthetically pleasing but also smart, responsive, and interactive.
Why Interest in ‘Phygital’ Design is Trending
As we’ve learned so far, the interest in ‘phygital’ design comes from the increasing interconnectedness of the physical and digital worlds. There are good reasons for this becoming more popular in recent times. In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards using digital technology to enhance physical experiences and vice versa. For example, the rise of smartphones and other mobile devices has made it possible for people to access digital content and information wherever they are, blurring the lines between physical and digital spaces.
At the same time, advances in technology such as virtual and augmented reality, 3D printing, and digital fabrication have opened up new possibilities for designers to create immersive, interactive experiences that blend the physical and digital worlds. This has led to a growing interest in ‘phygital’ design across a range of industries, including fashion, architecture, and interior design.
The Increasingly Digital World Post-2020
The COVID-19 pandemic inadvertently accelerated the adoption of digital technologies and created a greater demand for virtual and remote experiences. This has further fueled the interest in ‘phygital’ design as a way to create engaging and immersive experiences that can be accessed both physically and digitally.
Overall, the interest in ‘phygital’ design reflects a broader trend towards integrating digital technology into all aspects of our lives, and exploring new possibilities for creative expression by blending the physical and digital worlds.
The Major Benefits of ‘Phygital’ Interiors
You might be wondering what the benefits to interiors that blend interior and physical concepts might be. Here are some of hte most compelling reasons to designing interiors with a phygital concept:
- Enhanced Creativity: By integrating digital elements into physical spaces, designers have access to a wider range of design tools and techniques. This can enhance creativity and enable designers to create more complex and innovative designs.
- Improved User Experience: Phygital design can create immersive, interactive experiences that engage people in new and exciting ways. By integrating digital technology into physical spaces, designers can create experiences that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing, enhancing the overall user experience.
- Greater Flexibility: Phygital design allows designers to experiment with different design concepts and materials without making physical changes. This can save time and money, and enable designers to quickly iterate and refine their designs.
- Sustainability: Phygital design can also promote sustainability by reducing waste and energy consumption. For example, 3D printing and digital fabrication can enable designers to create custom furniture and fixtures that are perfectly tailored to the space, reducing the need for mass-produced items that may not fit as well.
In terms of applications, phygitall design can be beneficial in a variety of situations. For example, it can be particularly useful in retail and hospitality environments, where immersive, interactive experiences can help to attract and engage customers. It can also be beneficial in educational and cultural environments, where interactive installations and digital signage can enhance the overall learning and cultural experience.
Overall, ‘phygital’ design offers designers new possibilities for exploring design concepts and creating engaging, immersive, and sustainable environments. By blending the physical and digital worlds, designers can create spaces that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing, while also promoting creativity, flexibility, and sustainability.
Potential Drawbacks to ‘Phygital’ Interior Concepts
Phygital design concepts are new, and with new technology comes some considerations concerning whether the application is suitable for your particular project. While there are many benefits to phygital design for interiors, there are also some potential drawbacks designers should consider:
- Cost: Implementing phygital design can be expensive, as it often requires the use of advanced digital technology and specialized equipment. This can be a barrier to entry for smaller design firms or projects with limited budgets.
- Maintenance: Phygital design often involves the use of complex digital systems that require regular maintenance and updates. This can add to the ongoing costs of maintaining the space and may require specialized technical expertise.
- Technical Challenges: The integration of digital technology into physical spaces can be challenging and requires careful planning and execution. Issues such as connectivity, power supply, and compatibility between different systems can all create technical challenges that need to be overcome.
- User Experience: While phygital design can enhance the user experience in many ways, it can also be overwhelming or distracting if not executed properly. For example, too many digital elements in a space can make it difficult for users to navigate or focus on specific tasks.
- Privacy and Security: The integration of digital technology into physical spaces can also raise privacy and security concerns. For example, the use of sensors or cameras to track user behavior can be seen as intrusive or violate user privacy.
As you can see, while ‘phygital’ design offers many benefits, it is still important for designers to carefully consider the potential drawbacks and challenges before implementing it in a space. By balancing the advantages and challenges of ‘phygital’ design, designers can create environments that are both innovative and functional.
Keep in mind that not everyone wants to feel as if they are inside a computer game. The degree to which you apply phygital concepts to your designs and especially how, all play a role in the success of the design outcome.
How to Create ‘Phygital’ Concepts for Commercial, Contract and Retail Interior Designers
What follows are sme practical tips for commercial, contract, and retail interior designers who want to get started with designing interiors that have more phygital characteristics. Remember you don’t have to use all of these, but rather consider what is appropriate and useful for your particular project.
- Understand Your Client’s Needs: Before incorporating phygitall design into your project, it’s important to understand your client’s needs and goals. Think about how digital technology can enhance the user experience and meet your client’s objectives.
- Incorporate Interactive Elements: Interactive elements can help engage users and create a memorable experience. Consider incorporating touch screens, interactive displays, or augmented reality experiences to bring digital elements into physical spaces.
- Prioritize User Experience: In commercial and retail settings, user experience is critical. Think about how users will interact with digital elements and ensure that they are intuitive and easy to use.
- Consider Sustainability: Sustainability is an important consideration for commercial and retail spaces. Look for ways to integrate digital technology to reduce waste and energy consumption, such as using digital displays instead of printed signs.
- Experiment with Digital Signage: Digital signage is a simple and effective way to incorporate phygital design into commercial and retail spaces. Experiment with different types of displays, such as LED screens, projection mapping, or interactive kiosks.
- Collaborate with Digital Experts: Integrating digital technology into physical spaces can be challenging, so it’s important to collaborate with experts in the field. Work with digital specialists who can help you integrate digital elements into your design and ensure that everything is working properly.
- Embrace Mobile Technology: Many users are already using mobile devices to interact with the physical world. Consider integrating mobile technology into your design, such as mobile apps that provide information or augmented reality experiences that enhance the physical environment.
Design is all about empathy and putting yourself in the shoes of the end user. By understanding your client’s needs, incorporating interactive elements, prioritizing user experience, considering sustainability, experimenting with digital signage, collaborating with digital experts, and embracing mobile technology, commercial, contract, and retail interior designers can begin to incorporate ‘phygital’ design elements into their work and create engaging and innovative spaces that blend the physical and digital worlds.
Materials and Construction Techniques for ‘Phygital’ Interiors
Next up we explore some promising materials and construction techniques that lend themselves well to ‘phygital’ design concepts. Our research shows that there are several key materials and construction techniques that lend themselves well to ‘phygital’ design concepts that you should know about. Here are a few of the most promising examples:
- Smart Glass: Smart glass is a dynamic material that can switch from opaque to transparent on command. This technology can be used to create walls and partitions that can be adjusted to suit the needs of the space, such as providing privacy or creating an open floor plan.
- 3D Printing: 3D printing technology has advanced significantly in recent years and can be used to create customized furniture, fixtures, and even building components. This allows for greater flexibility and customization in the design process.
- Conductive Materials: Conductive materials, such as conductive paint or ink, can be used to create touch-sensitive surfaces that respond to user input. This technology can be used to create interactive walls, floors, or furniture pieces that respond to touch or gesture.
- LED Lighting: LED lighting technology has become more advanced and versatile in recent years, allowing for greater control over color and intensity. This technology can be used to create dynamic lighting displays that can be programmed to respond to user input or environmental factors.
- Projection Mapping: Projection mapping technology allows designers to project images and video onto physical surfaces, creating immersive and interactive environments. This technology can be used to create digital art installations or enhance the storytelling aspect of a space.
- Soundscapes: Soundscapes are a combination of sound and physical space, creating an immersive audio experience. This technology can be used to create a sense of ambiance in a space, or to enhance the user experience through guided audio tours.
These are just a few examples of promising materials and construction techniques that can be used in ‘phygital’ design. Remember to research for your specific needs and don’t be afraid to experiment with new materials and technologies.
‘Phygital’ Design in User Experience Design and Interior Design
User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design has some insight to lend to physical and architectural design in the context of ‘phygital design’. In UX design designers emphasize the importance of creating a positive user experience for customers through intuitive and enjoyable interactions with both physical and digital elements of a product or service.
To plan a phygital project for yourself you need to create a customer journey map and form a ‘phygital’ team. The elements of phygital design include speed, user-centeredness, and positive emotions. The principles of ‘phygital’ design include treating the project as a single organism, prioritizing the physical part of the project, finding balance between physical and digital, and focusing on the process of interaction. Some great examples of ‘phygital’ UX/UI projects include Social Swipe, Hoylu, Pokemon Go, iButterfly, and Ikea Place.
Because designers who work with UX and UI work with phygital concepts as a matter of course, they are in good standing to advise on how use phygital thinking successfully. In fact, some of the ideas and principles that have been successfully used in UX and UI design can inform the process of interior and environmental design in an architectural and interior design setting. But how?
In fact, the ideas and principles used by successful UX and UI designers can help to inform the process of interior and environmental design in an architectural setting in several key ways that are worth paying attention to:
- User-Centered Design: The user-centered design approach can be applied to interior and environmental design to create spaces that meet the needs and preferences of the users. Architects can gather data about the users’ preferences, behaviors, and needs to create spaces that are functional, efficient, and visually appealing.
- Consistency: Consistency in design can create a sense of familiarity and comfort for users. Architects can create consistency in design by using similar materials, colors, and textures throughout a space.
- Simplicity: Simple design can improve usability and create a better user experience. In interior and environmental design, architects can simplify the layout and organization of a space to create a more intuitive user experience.
- Visual Hierarchy: Visual hierarchy can help guide users through a space and prioritize information. Architects can use visual hierarchy by using different colors, textures, and lighting to highlight important elements in a space.
- Feedback: Feedback can help architects understand how users are interacting with a space and identify areas for improvement. Architects can gather feedback from users through surveys, focus groups, and user testing to improve the design of a space.
By applying successful UX/UI design principles, architects and interior designers can create phygitally inspired spaces that are more functional, efficient, and visually appealing, and that provide a better user experience for the people who will be using them.
How ‘Phygital’ Concepts and Design Philosophy Align
As we’ve learned so far, ‘phygital’ design experiences combine physical and digital elements to create a seamless and immersive user experience. When it comes to interior and environmental design a ‘phygital’ context can help create more user-centered design, which takes into account the needs and desires and interactivity of the users. This aligns well with existing design philosophy which stresses human-centric, universal and ergonomic design.
In a ‘phygital’ design experience, interior and environmental designers should aim to think about how the increasing blend between physical and digital elements can be integrated to create a cohesive and meaningful user experience. This requires careful consideration of how technology can be used to enhance the physical environment, and how the physical environment can be designed to support and integrate with digital technology.
For example, a retail store may use digital displays to showcase products, while also providing physical product samples for customers to touch and feel. In this case, the interior designer would need to think about how the digital displays can be integrated into the physical space, and how they can be designed to complement and enhance the physical environment.
One thing is certain: physical design and safety should always be of paramount importance when blending digital features with physical space.
The Visual Components of ‘Phygital’ Designs
In case you were wondering, there is a visual aesthetic component to ‘phygital’ design, though this is not strictly necessary. In ‘phygital’ design, physical and digital elements are seamlessly integrated to create a unified and enhanced experience. This means that architects and interior designers working with ‘phygital’ design can expect to create spaces that incorporate both physical and digital components. How obvious the connection between digital and physical is in the design depends on the designer’s aesthetic preferences, but increasingly the digital is being brought further to the forefront and artfully integrated.
For example, in a retail store, phygital design could involve using digital screens to display product information or create immersive virtual experiences, while physical displays and product placements are juxtaposed in a way that is visually appealing and easy to navigate. Phygital visual design components can include LED lighting, strip lighting and backlighting techniques and the use of digital panels and screens. These work well when integrated with a clean, modern and almost futuristic design ethos, or one that evokes a feeling of being in a slightly dreamlike or surreal setting.
These days phygital design often involves the use of technology such as sensors, cameras, and interactive displays, which can add a dynamic and interactive visual component to a space. Architects and interior designers need to consider the placement and integration of these technological components into the overall design scheme to ensure a seamless and visually cohesive experience. Obviously to do this, designers need to be up to date on the latest techniques and technologies. This is especially true when it comes retail and commercial interior design projects.
Examples of ‘Phygital’ Designs
Examples of buildings and interiors that exemplify the phygital concept in interior design and architecture are becoming easier to reference these days. Look for examples in public buildings, in museums and galleries, reatil and contract interiors. Here are a few examples of interiors that fit the phygital brief to a “T”:
- Nike House of Innovation 000 in New York City – This flagship store for Nike uses technology to create a personalized shopping experience for customers, combining the physical and digital worlds. An important case study for future metaverse, phygital and retail designers alike.
- The Dubai Frame – This building in Dubai combines physical and digital elements to create an immersive experience for visitors, with a glass bridge that shows both the old and new parts of the city.
- The National Museum of Qatar – This museum uses technology to create an interactive experience for visitors, with immersive soundscapes and digital displays that showcase Qatar’s history and culture.
- The V&A Dundee – This museum in Scotland uses digital technology to enhance the visitor experience, with interactive displays and projections that bring exhibits to life.
These examples demonstrate how technology and digital experiences can be integrated into physical spaces to create unique and engaging environments. Pretty cool, no?
Augmented Reality (AR) and Phygital Interiors
You might have guessed that AR is an important medium for phygital interiors, and you’d be right. AR can be used to create immersive and interactive experiences that blend the physical and digital worlds, allowing users to engage with a space in new and unique ways. For example, AR can be used to overlay virtual furniture or decor onto a physical space, allowing users to see how different design elements would look in a room before making any physical changes. It can also be used to provide additional information about a space or object, such as displaying the history or function of a building or displaying the ingredients of a dish in a restaurant. AR is a great way to enhance the user experience and provide a more engaging and interactive design solution in phygital interiors.
The Future of ‘Phygital’ Interiors
Many experts believe that AR will become more integrated into everyday life in the next 5-10 years. While AR technology is already available, it’s still not widely adopted by the general public. However, as the technology improves and becomes more accessible, we can expect to see more widespread use of AR in various industries, including interior design and architecture. Additionally, advancements in wearable technology and the growing popularity of smart glasses could accelerate the adoption of AR in everyday life.
To make the best use of the newest technologies for phygital buildings and interiors, architects and interior designers can take the following steps:
- Stay up-to-date with the latest technology trends and advancements in the field of AR, VR, and MR, and how they can be integrated into design concepts.
- Collaborate with technology experts to leverage the latest hardware and software tools for creating phygital environments.
- Consider the user experience and how the phygital environment can enhance the interaction between the physical and digital space.
- Experiment with different materials and technologies to create innovative designs that push the boundaries of what is possible.
- Take a human-centric approach to design, keeping in mind the needs and preferences of the people who will be using the space.
By keeping these considerations in mind, architects and interior designers can create phygital environments that are not only visually stunning, but also highly functional and immersive.
If you are an architects or interior designers who is looking to create spaces with more blended digital and physical elements, or if you are simply curious about what the ‘phygital’ craze is all about we hope this has been helpful. Thank you for reading our start-up guide for creating phygital interiors. See you in the next one!