McKayla Barber, Industrial Designer + Strategist, Beyond Design, Inc.
The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence or disease or infirmity.” This definition was adopted in 1948 but has not been amended since. A few things have happened in the 70 years since that definition was created, including:
The Civil Rights Act was signed
Men landed on the moon for the first time
We invented the internet
We elected the first African American president
The stock market crashed and sent the US into a financial crisis
Although the World Health Organization has not changed how they define health and for the most part our healthcare system has remained unchanged, we would be remiss not to acknowledge that the events of the past 70 years have changed us as a country and have had a generational impact on how we think about every part of our lives, including health. Millennials are often credited with changing how we think about most trends health. It’s not just about exercising and eating right, but more about the cross collaboration between physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual experiences. It’s about holistic health and wellness. This is an upward trend that’s not going away anytime soon. However, despite a prioritization of health and wellness, 47% of millennialS avoid the doctor due to high costs, lack of insurance, not seeing benefits, etc. They prefer personalized, at-home prevention and remedies. And regardless of how you feel about stereotypical millennials, they now make up the largest portion of the population and contribute trillions of dollars to consumer spending every year. The wellness market is now estimated to be valued at $42 trillion and has grown a whopping 12.8% in just 2 years, proving that designing for this new idea of wellness is not only popular, but profitable.
Our own Industrial Designer + Strategist, McKayla Barber, spoke on the health and wellness trends and changes at this years International Home + Housewares Show. Part of what McKayla does at Beyond is search for emerging trends and understand their impact on the variety of different industries our clients work in. At IHHS, she discussed some of those trends and how Beyond delves into how we design products to promote better health.
For McKayla’s full presentation, please watch her video below and continue reading the full transcript of the presentation.
How do we design products that promote better health when our idea of what it means to be healthy is evolving? The answer: looking at trends.
As I said, my job is to look at trends to understand different areas of opportunity that are emerging in different industries. One of the biggest things I noticed when I started to dig deeper into the idea of holistic health was that products are going way beyond physical fitness (like workout equipment or athletic gear). Trends are developing around other, more unusual areas of wellness, and migrating into the home.
Impact on Design
Although there are many trends contributing to the growing wellness industry, we’re going to focus on 4 opportunity areas I think are particularly relevant for the housewares industry: self-care, biophilia, home fitness, and mindful sleep.
By definition, self-care includes all decisions people make or activities they participate in to ensure health and wellness for themselves and their families. Many people have adopted self-care as a lifestyle rather than the occasional activity, and for millennials it involves everything from eating healthy to doing yoga to using alternative therapies, like acupuncture. Nearly 9 in 10 Americans practice self-care and 1/3 of consumers have increased their self-care during the past year.
Self-care has gained a significant amount of momentum recently, thanks in part to social media, but it’s not only become Instagram famous, many companies and startups are now beginning to target self-care enthusiasts and profit from the trend. One of the biggest things that has made self-care products so popular with millennials is companies are catering towards what millennials value: customization. One of most recent surges in the self-care industry is in customized beauty products. By entering information online, you can receive everything from shampoo to vitamins, specifically designed for your body. Tons of companies, ranging from startups, like Glossier, to brands your grandmother is loyal to, like Clinique, are harnessing the power of technology to create individualized beauty solutions. One company that’s taking advantage of technology to create custom skincare solutions is BareMinerals.
After downloading their app, you simply snap a few makeup free selfies which the company uses to create a custom foundation to match your skin tone and type. And the idea of custom beauty products is even extending into hair care products. Prose creates individualized shampoos and other hair care products for their customers using their zip code. Prose analyzes the type of pollution in your area and foods you eat in order to choose hair care ingredients just for you. You choose the fragrance you want and any specifics, like vegan or silicone free, and your custom pre-shampoo mask, shampoo, and conditioner are delivered straight to your door.
Not only are beauty products themselves on the rise, but at-home skin treatment is as well. As we’ve become more familiar with the effects light can have on your mood and your skin, products that were once only used by professional estheticians and dermatologists are now available at home.
One example of this is Skin Inc’s Tri-Light. It uses a range of light to help treat any skin related issue you may have. For example, blue is usually used to target the bacteria that causes acne while red promotes collagen production and reduces inflammation.
Besides beauty products, self-care is really just about understanding what you personally need and dedicating time specifically to that. One way of doing that is through beauty regimes, but another way that is increasingly growing in popularity is through meditation and mindfulness. Meditation, mindfulness, and yoga are not new concepts, they’ve been an active part of many people’s self-care routine for thousands of years. However, it is recently that these concepts have been Westernized and have become specifically popular with millennials. With information flying past us at an increasing rate, many are looking for ways to unplug, disconnect, and ground themselves in intention and purpose. And although some still think meditation is something done only by monks and hippies, millennials have actually turned the mindfulness movement into a billion dollar industry. Current Meditation is one company capitalizing on this growing industry. They’re a boutique fitness studio is just like many others, but what differentiates them is that they don’t offer yoga, Pilates, or other physical exercise classes; they only offer meditation for the purpose of mental fitness. What’s made this model successful for Current Meditation is not only catering to a very apparent trend, but also branding themselves as “providing a meditation experience for mindfulness and well-being.”
The next trend we’re going to look at is biophilia. Biophilic design focuses on the aspects of the natural world that contribute to human health and productivity and makes an effort to incorporate those elements into built environments and products. As digital pioneers, millennials are continuously overwhelmed by technology and constantly facing screens. However, we’re starting to see a huge trend towards people rejecting technology, evidenced by the rise in “dumb phones” and reverting back to natural elements. People are even reverting back to analog technology, as seen at IHHS last year. As the desire for biophilic design goes up, we will continue to see a rise in businesses and products revolving around getting plants to people. Demand for indoor plants specifically has skyrocketed in the past few years.
Millennials accounted for 1/3 of houseplant sales in 2017 and some are saying “plant ladies are the new cat ladies.” Above, McKayla’s own plant filled apartment and cat.
Companies are now starting to position their plant products as a break from the anxiety young people face today. Studies have shown that plants are a form of self-care and wellness, while also having the ability to improve air quality, increase productivity, reduce stress, boost immunity, and so on. One example of the growing interest in plants in the wellness industry is an indoor garden project we worked at here at Beyond.
A California farmer saw the opportunity to design a product for people who wanted fresh fruits and vegetables but didn’t have enough space to have a garden, the problem a lot of millennials can relate to. Because this was going in a home, some of the most important considerations were that this product needed to have a small footprint, it needed to be aesthetically pleasing, and it needed to ship easily. We took a lot of inspiration from modern home furnishing trends to define the aesthetic. Together with our client, we determined that a hydroponics system, where the plants grow in water rather than soil, would be the best solution because they can grow more densely, take up less space, and there’s less concern for pests. These are some examples of hydroponic systems we saw on a visit to local high school Lane Tech in Chicago. The final design was this sleek and modern bookcase-style planter that can fit upwards of 35 plants with an extremely small footprint.
The finished hydroponics system in our studio.
Above, Lane Tech’s Hydroponics systems in their campus lab.
In addition, there’s a growing amount of companies quite literally delivering on 2 things millennials love: plants and convenience. The Sill is just one example of a brand that will deliver the indoor plants of your choice right to your doorstep. Not only are plants taking over decor, they’re also taking over millennial kitchens. We are currently in the middle of a global shift towards plant-based diets, with millennials at the center of the change and it’s predicted that plant-based foods will be the new organic, as the trend towards healthier food grows. Today plant-based proteins account for 20% of food and beverage dollars spent by Americans, with beef alternatives making up 44% of that. Startups like Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, and Good Catch are releasing meat alternatives for everything from hamburgers to tuna. As many people continue transitioning to a plant-based diets, how we look at kitchens and how we cook will also begin to change, making this trend particularly impactful on the housewares industry. The tools that are essential to a meat eater are different from those that are important to a plant-based kitchen. Tools that meat-based kitchens rarely use, like a dehydrator, food processor, spiralizer, and a tofu press, are, for lack of a better word, the meat and potatoes of a vegan chef. We predict there will be an increase in the purchasing of these types of products as mass amounts of kitchens continue to transition from meat based to plant based.
The next trend we’re going to look at is home fitness. Obviously fitness is an important aspect of wellness and healthy living, but one of the biggest trends for millennials in the fitness industry is home fitness equipment. A new report found that 54% of Americans who work out at least once a month are interested in buying an at-home fitness system. Home fitness is not a new concept though. People have had treadmills in their homes for decades. But what’s taking them from essentially a glorified clothes rack to something people actually use is: technology. In order to cater to the generation of tech pioneers, companies have created fitness products that fulfill what millennials crave: individuality, customization, and convenience.
One company that has capitalized on the home fitness trend is Peloton. Starting with stationary bikes but quickly expanding to treadmills, yoga, and even meditation equipment, Peloton has grown extremely rapidly thanks to streaming technology. Their machines come equipped with large touch screens that stream classes and instructors, giving the user the energy, connection, and competitiveness that come with the ever-popular workout classes, but from the comfort of your own home. Peloton’s key to success has been understanding that boutique fitness classes are successful because of the connection and variety of the classes, and providing that same product and service in the comfort of their own home. As their fan base continues to grow, Peloton is expanding their product line, to everything from a rowing machine to a smart mirror with numerous capabilities.
On the other hand, because millennials are so concerned with having a holistic health mindset, we’re just as concerned about rest and recovery as we are about fitness. The increase of recovery therapy, like acupuncture, massage therapy, and cryotherapy, makes it clear that there is market for all aspects of physical fitness. And just like other types of fitness, this trend is making its way into the home as well, for similar reasons. One example of a product fitting this need is the Vinchay Roller we designed at Beyond. Our client came to us with the idea to design an innovative foam roller that could provide varying types of intensity for different users. The goal was to give the user complete control over their workout and maximize stamina, balance, and flexibility. The final design is a fully customizable foam roller that combines the elements of a foam roller with massage rings to provide medium and high intensity massages to loosen up muscles before or after a workout. What made this product so successful was our understanding who would use this product and what they needed: customization.
The last trend we’re going to look at today is mindful sleep. According to the CDC, more than 1/3 of Americans don’t get enough sleep regularly. This affects everything from our cognitive function to our metabolism and a lack of sleep can increase risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Although the shift towards a more equal work-life balance and devoting time to sleep are not new concepts, it’s becoming more and more prevalent in the millennial generation as we begin to understand the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. And as this becomes more and more popular for millennials, we are seeing a rise in the amount of products designed to help you be more mindful about your sleep habits. As a result, valuing sleep and understanding the importance of quality sleep is quickly becoming one of the most important trends in the wellness industry, as The New York Times has dubbed sleep “the new status symbol” and the most important part of your wellness routine.
With sleep optimization searches on the rise, people are looking for new ways to get better sleep by way of sleep surfaces, soundproofing, natural lighting, better pajamas, and so on. Tons of companies, like Parachute, are popping up to cater to the luxury bed linen market. And there are even nap bars opening up around the world to promote the benefits of a midday siesta. In response to the need to optimize our sleep habits, several new tech products have been released to help consumers track and solve some of the problems preventing them from getting a good night’s sleep. The first example we’re going to look at is the Eight Sleep smart bed.
Eight Sleep has built their brand on helping people track their sleep habits and adjust to get a better night’s rest. Now branding themselves as a sleep fitness company, Eight Sleep claims to create products for people who prioritize sleep and the quality of their sleep. Their original product, a mattress cover, transitioned to a smart mattress, the most recent version of which has smart thermal controls to adjust the temperature of your bed to your body as you sleep. Although that costs upwards of $2000, the first generation smart mattress will cost you about the same as a Casper or Tuft & Needle mattress, making the price and value justifiable for cash-strapped millennials who care about getting healthy sleep. However, despite the high cost, we know millennials are willing to spend money on quality products that will improve their overall health and happiness, so $2000 for a smart bed may not be all that out of the question.
And finally, one of the new products from sleep industry giant, Casper, is a great example of a successful mindful sleep product. As they continue to take over the sleep industry, Casper has developed Casper Glow, a bedtime light designed to sync with your circadian rhythm and help start your process of falling asleep. According to Casper’s chief product officer, light plays an important role in signaling to your brain that you need to sleep or wake up. Casper Glow was developed in part as a response to a big push to assert that sleep is an important pillar of wellness.
I hope some of these trends and products have begun to spark your imagination and get you thinking about the future of the wellness industry. But in looking towards the future, in order to design products that promote better health, we need to understand the future consumer of the wellness generation. This change in how we conceptualize health also changes how we have to design for it, and we cannot forget who our audience is. It’s not enough to simply identify trends and fill the gap, our products need to embody a variety of characteristics that specially resonate with millennials. And as we’ve spent some time looking at trends in the wellness industry, let’s take a step back to understand how to cater these products specifically to millennials. We’ve summarized designing for millennials into 4 tenants:
Millennials want to know where their products come from, how they’re made, and bonus points if you can even tell them who made it. With an abundance of technology at their fingertips, millennials value socially conscious brands who are open and honest with them, and with a growing concern for the state of the environment, giving millennials a peek behind the curtain at how your products are made and sourced will go a long way in earning their trust. Being transparent for millennials also means being honest about cost and value. Millennials are willing to spend money on quality products but only if they are clearly valuable and worth the investment.
Create an Individualized Experience
Self-expression is important to this generation and they gravitate towards products that feel like an extension of themselves. Whether a custom offering, or an off the shelf product, the design needs to feel like it was made just for them.
As digital and social media pioneers, millennials crave connectedness, and although social media itself does not always have a positive impact on wellness, connectedness at its core is actually a component of wellness. Connectedness is also a great way to encourage brand loyalty. Although a stark percentage of millennials claim not be to be brand loyalists, millennials stay true to brands which make an effort to connect with them personally.
Millennials value authenticity and want companies to connect with them in an honest and genuine way. They want to feel like like they are in a relationship with the brand and the brand supports what they care about: social responsibility, community, being true to oneself, and so on.
For more on designing holistically and/or for millenials, please drop us a note at email@example.com. Thank you for reading.