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Blurred Lines: Designing Furniture for a Technology Driven Consumer

Something unexpected happened this year at Salone del Mobile 2019, the annual international furniture exhibition held in Milan. The works and exhibits of mainstream furniture brands were not the talk of the town. Instead, the limelight was taken by Google’s exhibition on neuro-aesthetics, A Space for Being. Queues to see the exhibit ran up to five hours long, an unprecedented wait for an event whose primary focus is on furniture.

In collaboration with Muuto, A Space for Being was a multi-room experience that used technology to measure how interiors impact our lives.  Visitors were fitted with specially-made bands which measured their physiological responses to each room within the exhibition. This was a new era in the furniture movement, one that I believe will have as much of an impact as the Scandinavian Movement has had since the 1950’s.


I have always been fascinated by the construction of spaces; how people relate to different spaces and their interactions within them.  My designs aim to optimise the functionality of the space they are in. This philosophy has never been more relevant than it is now.

Form following function is not a new idea in design. The only thing that has changed is the amount of information available to us. Today the opportunity and challenge to furniture brands lies in decoding the multiple layers of interaction between people and the furniture they come into contact with. That means asking “How does the furniture interact with the space it’s in and how will people use it? What is the most efficient way and what is the most convenient way of using the furniture?” 


These may be simple questions, but when you take into consideration culture, history, behavioural science, demographics and economics, the answers can be incredibly complicated.

Data is influencing the way we design. Having spent the last two years analysing how people interact with our furniture and optimising it to meet their functional requirements, we are seeing how it empowers more informed design practices.

With the exception of having limited space, the needs of someone in London are very different from those of a person in Milan or Dhaka. The average family dinner in Britain lasts just 21 minutes. In Milan it’s a more social affair, often lasting up to an hour. In Dhaka it can be twice that. This impacts how a family will use a space and the priority they will give to certain items of furniture. Clearly in Dhaka, the dinner table is focal, whereas in London breakfast bars and stools have become increasingly popular.


We live in a connected world where people want their spaces to be seamless and efficient. Furniture, interiors and even architecture are now on double duty to be convenient and technologically efficient while remaining to look regular and well designed. Creating products which provide seamless integration is essential. A table that charges your phone without wires, a bed that tracks your sleep pattern – these are the new norms.

Forward thinking design

It is fair to assume that cities will continue growing, rents will keep rising, the trend of people moving into smaller and smaller living spaces will increase, and IoT devices will be integrated into almost everything we interact with. The paradigm in how we define space will change.

Technology will play an ever more central role in the design of furniture that meets increasingly complex requirements.

We recently launched a dedicated design innovation lab to develop and test new technology and alternative sustainable materials for our furniture.

We are entering a new and exciting era in further design; one that will be shaped by technology and our ever growing obsession with its novelty.

Rayana Hossain is the Founder of furniture brand ISHO. Her mission from day one has been to reinvent the use of spaces and create unforgettable experiences for people in their daily lives.

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