We all need as much future vision as we can get. Mike Milley, the founder of The New Next, has been in the business of looking to the future for a long time, working with companies like Nike, BMW, and Samsung. With all the COVID-catalyzed changes swirling about, and all the endless predictions of where we may be headed, it seems like a good time to check in with a professional soothsayer about what some of that world will look like. This is the first of what we hope will be a series from Mike as he scans the horizons of change.
“The most forward-thinking designers are finding ways to deliver at-home wellness benefits in ways that are embedded and invisible”
What are the changes you are seeing now in terms of home design and wellness tech?
No one wants their home to look stuffed with technology, so the most forward-thinking designers are finding ways to deliver at-home wellness benefits in ways that are embedded and invisible. Italian lighting company Artemide has developed a way of turning beautiful light fixtures into room sanitizers that emit anti-viral ultraviolet light when people are not around. Sanitizing air systems have also become a new standard for home luxury. At 111 Murray Street in Manhattan, the two penthouses are designed to have closed-loop HVAC systems that filter fresh air directly from the rooftop as well as an electronic UV air filtration system to get rid of viral particles. The builder asserts that “the better your air, the better you perform as a person.”
Equinox famously called itself the 3rd space, as did WeWork. What does that look like going forward?
Our world has been fragmented in a way that has made us hyper-conscious of boundaries and spaces. More than ever, we are aware of the divisions between private (safe/controlled) spaces and public (unsafe/uncontrolled) spaces. An invisible, deadly virus makes people anxious and in need of conspicuous guidance and reassurances whenever they enter a public “third space.” Although cleaning has always been a behind-the-scenes process, smart brands are bringing it into the foreground as a way of reassuring guests. They are also providing clear guidance for how to navigate shared spaces responsibly via cues like now-ubiquitous social-distancing graphics on floors.
Digital and Virtual Shared Experiences
For people who are not ready to re-enter these physical third spaces, there is an ever-growing option: the Fourth Space, which includes digital and virtual shared experiences. Stuck at home, people have been relying on digital platforms in all areas of their personal and professional lives. Our growing reliance on the digital office, the remote classroom, the e-store, and the virtual stage has accelerated our capacity to connect in these Fourth Spaces and opened up new opportunities for coming together. This super interesting opportunity is being explored by people like Art Center College of Design professor Elaine Alderette, who has been a part of that institution’s experiments in pivoting to digital classrooms: “Maybe it’s not about just going back to what we did before. It’s about figuring out how this is going to be different and better than what we’ve done before.”
“This moment of disaster is also an opportunity: a chance to rewrite the rules and invent better lives for ourselves”
COVID-19 has caused a reset opportunity for a whole range of issues from climate, to politics to social equality. What are your hopes and expectations?
Disruption demands change. So this moment of disaster is also an opportunity: a chance to rewrite the rules and invent better lives for ourselves. I’m excited about the ways people are embracing this challenge and exploring countless ways to adapt to the craziness and uncertainty of 2020. We’re seeing people forced out of their old habits, with an unprecedented willingness to experiment, try new things, and be more intentional about their choices. And the idea of that happening at scale is super encouraging. Maybe we’ll all come out of this with a new capacity for embracing uncertainty as a catalyst for positive transformation. Or maybe we’ll be so exhausted by all this change that we’ll lean even harder on what’s easy and familiar once this is all over. My guess is that it’ll be a little bit of both, but I’m optimistic that the scales are tipping in favor of positive change.