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Man & Interior

In short

Five fictional companies and their products and services were presented during the Biennale Interieur 2014 interior design trade fair in Kortrijk (Belgium). The companies were intended to provoke visitors and exhibitors to think about people’s evolving needs and the ways in which future businesses could offer new types of products and services in new ways to respond to those needs.

How can we push the interior design sector to innovate and thus prepare for future challenges? | What kind of systemic changes could arise in the way people relate to their home/office interiors? | What could that mean for consumers as well as the business ecosystem?

the project

The Biennale Interieur is the Belgian high mass of interior design, known for its curated, high-quality selection of interior design exhibitors. Every other year thousands of people flock to the town of Kortrijk to check out the latest the industry has to offer. But rather than just give the floor to exhibitors like any other trade fair, Interieur Foundation’s president Lowie Vermeersch expressed his wish for the foundation to be a key driver in stimulating the debate on the evolving meaning of interior design in people’s lives, the future societal, technological and economic changes ahead and their meaning for both producers and consumers.

In this light, Pantopicon was asked to create a series of thought provoking narratives, featuring both grounded and speculative content as a starting point for debate. 12 ‘what if?’ questions were elaborated.

Each question was accompanied by a text describing a cluster of linked emerging societal, technological and economic changes and raising further questions regarding the meaning of these changes for consumers as well as interior design businesses. Speculative yet plausible answers were illustrated textually as well as by means of accompanying sketches by Pantopicon. All twelve micro-essays were published in the event catalogue further illustrated by a selection of artist impressions/interpretations.

During the 10-day trade fair itself, a selection of insights inspired by these thought-provoking ‘what if?’ questions, was rendered tangible on the floor of the trade fair by translating them into five fictional startup companies. Each startup was presented under its own name, featuring its own logo and branding, showcasing its very own products and services anticipating the needs of a different future emerging.

Pedras and Sons®

presented their services as a legal studio assisting clients willing to temporarily share spaces or (parts of) their properties.

Quiescence®

presented a small device allowing people to retreat into the comfort of their own quiet, virtual bubble, keeping out and answering to distracting signals from social and other media calling for attention.

Nhomad®

provided an all-inclusive service allowing expats and neo-nomads to keep their different dwellings and associated service contracts (e.g. insurance, internet, furniture, food, etc.) in sync.

ThingStory®

proposed a smartphone-readable tagging system enabling second hand or vintage furniture to collect and recount memories as they would be passed from one owner to the next.

Quiescence®

presented a small device allowing people to retreat into the comfort of their own quiet, virtual bubble, keeping out and answering to distracting signals from social and other media calling for attention.

Throughout the duration of the fair, Pantopicon employees took visitors showing interest on a mini-tour of the startups, explaining them their products and services, while engaging in a discussion with them. The fictional nature of the startups was only revealed at the end of the tour. The hundreds of conversations held – with both visitors and fellow exhibitors – led to important insights regarding both consumer as well as the interior design business’ readiness for the proposed business and product/service concepts as well as the broader challenges they were designed to embody. Reactions ranged from expressions of enthusiasm, to questions as well as suggestions for improvements regarding the featured products and services, to straight business proposals.

[Photos by Marc Wallican]

Outcomes

Report
A thought provoking, illustrated study of 12 what if questions was published in the Biennial’s catalogue.
Booths
Five booths of fictional start-ups were placed amid the traditional exhibitors on the floor of the trade fair during 10 days.
Tours
Mini-guided tours and face-to-face discussions familiarised visitors with the companies and their services, eventually also lifting the veil on the trojan horse approach. this led to important insights regarding consumer readiness as well as suggested improvements for the featured future product and services, as well as entrepreneurial interest in further business development and collaboration.

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