Designers are drawing on patterns created by brain waves, movement tracking, and biometrics to create a visual lexicon for communicating emotions. The rise of a holistic approach to health has made consumers more attuned to the inner workings of the brain and body. Brands are catering to this increased awareness with innovative communications and products.
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The next-generation biometrics market is expected to reach $24.4 billion by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 17.9% between 2015 and 2020, according to a recent report by research firm MarketsandMarkets. And technology consulting firm Frost & Sullivan forecasts that 471 million people worldwide will be using a smartphone equipped with biometric technology in 2017, compared with 43 million in 2013.
This will have a significant impact on retail. In fact, 25% of U.K. retailers are using facial recognition technology to monitor customer activities in-store, according to a study by Computing magazine. The report also notes that 59% of fashion retailers are already deploying the technology, while 46% are using facial recognition for security purposes.
Designers are beginning to translate the patterns created by human brain waves, biometric measurements, and movement tracking into physical objects and environments. They’re combining science with intuitive mark-making to create a subtle and expressive aesthetic.
Rather than taking a literal approach, they are combining science with spontaneous mark-making to create a subtle and expressive aesthetic. “We need to push and stretch the visual language to capture the complexity of our emotions rather than constantly try to categorize and simplify it,” says Sophie Howarth, founder of Department Store for the Mind.
Designer Jessica Smarsh has used machines to create textiles that appear handmade. She recorded the intensity and pace of individuals’ muscle movements, translating them into patterns for industrial looms. The elasticity of muscle fiber and its ability to contract and relax is reflected in the warp and weft of the weave. “I was interested in the relationship between muscle fibers and textile fibers, and the result that movement had on the constriction of each,” explains Smarsh.
Garments worn by dancers in the theatrical work Gravity Fatigue also examine this relationship. Fashion designer Hussein Chalayan worked with choreographer Damien Jalet to create costumes that would direct the dancers’ moves. “I wanted the garments to become the grammar for the movement,” he says.
Students from the University of Art and Design Offenbach examined the potential for applying emotive haptics in the automotive industry through interactive surfaces designed in collaboration with BMW. The textured, responsive surfaces enable intuitive communication between car and driver.
Brazilian designer Guto Requena used emotional data to transform love stories into tangible objects. Participants of The Love Story wore sensors that tracked their voice, heartbeat, sweat, and brain waves as they recounted a personal love story. The algorithms were transformed into physical objects using parametric software and a 3D printer. The final pieces have fibrous, intricate surfaces reflecting the complexity of emotional data.
The #FeelWimbledon campaign by Jaguar measured the emotional response of spectators during a game via biometric cuffs. Readings presented on a digital platform showed the highs and lows felt by the crowd. And high-end gym chain Equinox uses gamified analytics to visualize the performance of people taking on its immersive cycling experience, The Pursuit. Individual biometric readings are translated into dynamic visuals that light up the dark, moody space.
Simple mark-making techniques were used for Human States of Mind, an artwork created for Department Store for the Mind. “I didn’t want to just illustrate the mood. I wanted to feel it,” says Howarth. “We started experimenting with lines to see how emotions could guide a pen on paper.” The result is a compelling visual typology that captures the complexity of human emotions.
Fashion brand Abstract_ uses an algorithm that analyzes the words and facial expressions of an individual to translate their emotions into a bespoke pattern.
Although the realm of neuroscience and biometrics may seem daunting, a few simple guidelines can help retailers capture the attention and imagination of consumers’ brains to enhance their journey with brands: