Interior Design in the Metaverse

What does the metaverse mean for interior design?

First, what is the metaverse? If you’re thinking Second Life, think again. The avatar-populated SL existed mostly within an online environment – one we experienced through flat screens. In contrast, the metaverse spans both virtual and real-world physical settings, and it is three-dimensional. Speaking recently with ThinkLab, immersive strategist Adipat Virdi suggested we consider a metaverse where websites are “3D spatial entities” that we can traverse.

We don’t yet know what the metaverse will be because it is still evolving. In November 2021 Wired put it this way: “the term doesn’t really refer to any one specific type of technology, but rather a broad shift in how we interact with technology.”

Pink, yellow, and green walls and plants - Design at the intersection of the digital and physical
Figure 1 Design at the intersection of the digital and physical

Your experience wearing an Oculus VR (virtual reality) headset is a small step into the metaverse. So is your smartphone’s ability to augment reality (AR) by showing an IKEA couch in your living room. AR and VR are enabling the blending of our physical and digital worlds. In the metaverse, we will see increasing transferability of both goods and experiences across digital platforms. Interior designers, who use goods to create experiences, are working in and helping to create, the metaverse.

While the entertainment potential of the metaverse has garnered attention since late 2021, its professional and creative applications will be even more significant. Design is already working at the intersection of the digital and physical world. Advocates for Evidence-Based Design cite the metaverse’s ability to facilitate the kind of social-spatial analysis that will help design research deliver on its promise.

DESIGN PROTOTYPING

Designers are using virtual and augmented reality – VR and AR – to visualize spaces and to prototype design solutions. Hospitality settings and custom furniture design both call for resource-intensive mockups before construction and production. Mockups in the metaverse can use the designer’s time more profitably to test a greater number of ideas and ensure the best option is not overlooked. What’s more, clients and users can experience proposed designs in advance of construction and provide feedback to improve the result.

Prototype hotel guest room with grey shelves, glass table, and grey chairs on tan wood floor
Figure 2 Prototype hotel guest room
Custom banquette
Figure 3 Custom banquette

DIGITAL TWINS

Interior design giant Gensler has been using “digital twins” in their design and visualization process for a while; see their Matterport-driven Chicago student center for Columbia College. The software not only constructs three-dimensional models from laser-scanning technology, it draws on artificial intelligence – AI – to airbrush faces for privacy and insert digital notes or “tags” to enable the designer to include instructions to contractors and vendors who may share access to the models.

Three-dimensional model of an outside snowy area from a lidar camera scan
Figure 4 Three-dimensional model from a lidar camera scan
A black, yellow, and grey lidar camera
Figure 5 A lidar camera

THE NEW WORKPLACE

Interior designers are especially equipped to bring their skills to the creation of virtual environments for learning, collaboration and conferencing. Starting with immersive depth, color harmony and physical cues in the virtual environment, designers are bringing brand support and professional context to mobile as well as at-home virtual meeting participants. Interior designers’ special aptitude for the user experience, from sightlines, acoustic performance and personal distance preferences to ergonomics and spatial volume, contribute to environmental satisfaction in this blended physical/digital environment. Writing in Metropolis, the Perkins Eastman Design Strategy Team proposes that a more equitable workplace environment can be attained through metaverse applications.

New environments for collaboration
Figure 6 New environments for collaboration

SHOWROOM AND EXHIBIT DESIGN

While our 2022 interior design industry outlook shows many conferences returning in-person, the innovations the industry has seen since 2020 will be leveraged for more virtual showrooms and exhibit designs that can be experienced in the metaverse through augmented and virtual reality. Design of these experiences will be 3D from their inception. The interior designer’s skills in wayfinding, spatial awareness, and brand identity will be of critical importance in making these environments accessible and meaningful. The elements and principles of design, including contrast, balance, emphasis, movement, proportion, hierarchy, repetition, rhythm, pattern, unity, and variety apply to spaces in the metaverse just as surely as they do in physical settings. Interior designers are uniquely prepared to apply these design fundamentals in the creation of spaces that rely on sight, touch and hearing as well as haptic, proprioceptive and vestibular sensory modalities in the physical and digital worlds.

The virtual exhibit space will be designed for navigation from anywhere
Figure 7 The virtual exhibit space will be designed for navigation from anywhere

PORTALS IN THE METAVERSE

Taking advantage of designers’ new artistic freedom in the metaverse, architecture and design firm Space Popular creates mixed reality exhibitions that allow one to experience textiles, furniture and spatial overlaps in a physical/virtual environment aided by VR devices. Space Popular architects Lara Lesmes and Fredrik Hellberg emphasize the importance of tactile navigation of the coming three-dimensional internet and proposed to Dezeen 15 in November 2021 a fabric “portal” that would allow users to move from one virtual space to the next. Lesmes and Hellberg have designed a metaverse portal for London’s Sir John Soane Museum. This iconic house and collection, an inspiration for interior designers, will be accessible through a spatial film beginning in June 2022.

Sir John Soane Museum
Figure 8 Sir John Soane Museum

DESIGN INSTITUTE OF SAN DIEGO 

Design Institute of San Diego offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Interior Design Degree Program and a  Master of Interior Design (MID) in two and three-year tracks. You’ll learn design fundamentals as well as innovative applications from a faculty of practicing interior designers – and get to experience the profession first-hand as an “extern” at an interior design firm. With a degree from Design Institute of San Diego, you’ll be prepared for a rewarding career in interior design.  Learn more. 

IMAGE CREDITS

1 “Fir / Conifer Tree Room 180° Composite Panorama – Brian Eno Speaker Flowers Sound Installation at Marlborough House” by Dominic’s pics is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

2 “Plage Colección My Wall” by Plage Vinilos y Decoración is licensed under CC BY 2.0

3 “Whistler Olympic Athlete Village Bus Shelters” by Associated Fabrication is licensed under CC BY 2.0

4 “LSU College of Art and Design Quad” image is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

5 “File: Lidar P1270901.jpg” by David Monniaux is licensed under CC BY 2.0

6 “Panels at First Conference on Artificial General Intelligence (AGI-08)” by brewbooksis licensed under CC BY 2.0

7 “Virtual Exhibition by William Ismael” by WILLPOWER STUDIOS is licensed under CC BY 2.0

8 “Feb 23, 2011” by NezTez is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0