I have grown up in a digital world where we have become so absorbed in the black mirrors of our phones that god forbid we make eye contact with anyone on the tube, where the love of our life could be found at the mere swipe of a finger, and where fake news is so easily perpetuated by the swirling sea of information that surrounds us. Have we forgotten what it means to be human? Have we disconnected from our ability to genuinely connect, to feel, to be truly conscious of our surroundings and what we see?

Take a walk down the high street and we are presented with hundreds of logos, window displays of varying degrees of appeal, and red sale signs screaming out for attention – pick me! they cry. Amidst this visual saturation, brands face the unprecedented challenge of not only being able to cut through that visual noise, but to ensure they capture the attention (and more importantly, the hearts and minds) of their customers, in that rather small window of opportunity.

As an illustration student, I am learning the fundamentals of how our visual culture works. How we, as humans, take things in, and interpret the world around us. And in our Western society, we have become somewhat ocular-centric – a society that privileges sight over all other senses, for those lucky enough to be able to see. Sight has become equal to knowledge; where seeing is believing, we exclaim:

  • “I see what you mean!”
  • “I’ll believe it when I see it”
  • “Wait and see!”

Have you ever noticed your attention span becoming worryingly short? You find yourself flitting from a news article, to an email, to oo! a Whatsapp message, before forgetting what you set out to do a whole half an hour ago. Or perhaps two pages into a new book and you’re instead thinking about whether you have the ingredients to rustle up that all-important Bolognese for dinner.

Well, there’s good reason for this. According to a study carried out by researchers at the Technical University of Denmark, the world’s attention span is shrinking at an alarming rate because of the sheer amount of information that is presented to us on a daily basis. With a colossal 3.2 billion images shared every single day, visual information is, quite literally, omnipresent. This volume of content and visual information exhausts our ability to focus on more than one thing, and so, somewhat out of our control, with distractions lurking round every corner, we find our attention span narrowing as we are continually pushed and pulled from sources begging for our attention.

“Content is increasing in volume, which exhausts our attention and our urge for ‘newness’ causes us to collectively switch between topics more regularly,” said Philipp Lorenz-Spreen of Max Planck Institute for Human Development who participated in the study.

And yet, where we have the instantaneous ability to find any image we like in the vast visual abyss that is the World Wide Web, I feel we have become desensitised to it. We scroll absentmindedly through Instagram or Pinterest, ever eager for more information, regardless of whether or not we actually pay attention to it. Ironically, I would argue that the higher the waves of visual information rise, the more we have become blind to it, desensitised to what is right before our very eyes.

Are we losing touch of being human? Losing touch of being present in our lives, favouring a WiFi connection over real-life connections?

Whilst retail design, by nature, requires an aesthetical appreciation of indeed what is before our eyes, brands and retailers have a real opportunity to appeal to their customers by offering heightened opportunities of mindful, human interaction. Creating moments of multi-sensory engagement that genuinely allows your customers to connect with your brand on an entirely new level; harnessing the often untapped senses of touch, sound, scent, smell, taste to deliver experiences that stay in their minds long after the initial interaction. (This is how we did it for Timberland.) In a world of distractions, short attentions spans and visual bombardment, give your customers the much-needed space to be present, inspiring engagement on a deeper, more emotional level.

Timberland Bread&&Butter showcase experience

So with that, I propose a regression – let’s take things back to basics and celebrate what it means to be human. At Green Room, this is our mission. We create insight-led, holistic experiences across interactions, products, and services that place people’s needs at the very heart. The result; multi-sensory experience design solutions that cultivate genuine relationships for brands at retail.

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