Finding value in the virtual: Daan Lucas talks strategy at Frame Awards 2020

They created a kinetic architecture installation for A/D/O by MINI, developed a store takeover for Chanel and designed a travelling exhibition for Louis Vuitton: these recent, interaction-led projects only scratch the surface of Random Studio’s 16-year portfolio. The Amsterdam-based experience-design team, comprised of strategists, designers and engineers, was founded in 2004 by Daan Lucas.

Random Studio’s self-stated mission to ‘use technology to spark new, unexpected connections between people and the space around them’ is one with understandably potent value as spatial design moves forward in the 21st century. Helping brands to spark genuine engagement and leave a lasting impression with buyers, Lucas and his team are forging a new path toward higher-consciousness consumerism. In fact, Random Studio’s work addresses a pressing question that our Frame Awards 2020 programme highlights: Rather than reducing us to mere consumer profiles, can spatial design provide a context in which technology and interaction can actually build more authentic relationships between brand and audience?

But, as is becoming clear in every sector, the orchestration of such ‘phygital’ experiences has implications far beyond retail. During this year’s Frame Awards, Lucas will underscore how building bridges between the virtual and physical worlds creates exponential possibilities for connection.

Random Studio has been commissioned by various luxury brands. Can you name some prominent shifts that you’ve seen in your clients’ priorities in recent years?

DAAN LUCAS: There seems to be more of a shift to experience design – to get closer to people and invite them to interact with the brand in a more open, playful way on a basis of mutual interest.

High-end fashion clients expect something new, so you have to be quite experimental and edgy; other clients tap into different markets and there it can be more playful. We are currently making an installation for Nike targeted at young athletes and there, it’s about playing together. What we create is quite brand and context related.

We aim to merge the rich digital culture into the physical world

Your talk will explain how bridging the virtual and physical worlds can create new possibilities for connection. What social applications do you think this ‘phygital’ design will be most useful for, and why?

I believe that people are more and more disconnected from each other and the world we live in. Politics are polarized, and our disconnect with nature is causing our current ecological crisis. Random is not going to solve these issues, but when working for our clients we want to create works that invite people away from their screen back into the real world: the real world where we can meet and relate to each other, the real world where we are born and live in. We hope that people then will re-connect with each other and the real world again. When people don’t see themselves as separate from each other there will be less fear of the other. When people understand that we are nature, we will not pollute it.

People so often associate the digital realm with isolation from reality. How do the experiences you design help disprove that notion?

Our focus is Interactive Space – we aim to merge the rich digital culture into the physical world. We want to create real-world spaces infused with tech that invite people to connect to each other and the world around them. So, for example, we are currently working on retail spaces that feel alive and that have a certain behaviour. These spaces are dynamic, interactive, and can thus start a dialogue with its visitors – this visitor becomes part of the space itself. This way, people are invited back into the real world without losing the immense possibilities of technology.

Humans create things, we believe things, we are irrational: we should celebrate these aspects of our nature

Retailers in particular are fast-adopting phygital strategies. Can other spatial-design sectors learn from retail?

Oh yes, of course. We are really interested in museums: there are tons of opportunities there for interactive space. We still need to learn a lot before we dive into this market, but we have plans to do so. I can also imagine that offices could be helped by adopting the idea of interactive space – not only to add efficiency and service, but also some poetry that invites reflection and inspires people to take life not too seriously, poetry that constantly refreshes itself.

Tech right now is often used to make life more efficient to cut out the inefficient human and inefficient behaviour. But humans are such interesting, ambiguous creatures. We create things, we believe things, we are irrational. We should celebrate these aspects of our nature.

random.studio

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