Design Futurist AJ Paron Urges Designers to Explore the Senses at Virtual re:Source

A glimpse at the virtual meeting space for re:Source. 

Interior Design's third virtual re:Source event of the year kicked off September 15 with a keynote address by EVP and Design Futurist of SANDOW Design Group, AJ Paron, who spotlighted the importance of designing with the senses in mind—hint: there are far more than five to tap into

But first, Carol Cisco, publisher of Interior Design, offered a sincere thank you to event sponsors, including: Arte, Bover Barcelona Lights, Bryan Ashley, Cancos Tiles + Stone, Carl Hansen & SønCountry FloorsCraftmade Woodard, Expormim, Greenmood, JANUS et Cie, Ligne Roset, Lutron, New Leaf Performance Veneers, Nightingale Chairs, TURF, and XtremeInterior by Tamlyn. She also reminded designers to visit one of several lounge areas for any needed breaks between their 17-minute meetings with manufacturers. Then Paron took to the virtual stage. "Design cannot thrive in an echo chamber," she reminded the group, who came together to discuss the latest in product and material innovations in the simulated conference space.  

In acknowledging the range of pandemic responses, Paron (right) noted spaces now must offer a sense of comfort and safety across an increasingly diverse spectrum of needs. At the same time, the built environment must also provide an experience that cannot be replicated virtually. "How do we design such an incredible user experience that it outweighs the virtual experience?" said Paron. One approach is designing spaces with the senses at the forefront—an area where digital environments fall short. Designers cannot feel the hand of a carpet sample nor the warmth of a light-filled room over Zoom. 

In referencing work by Russell Jones, founder of the London-based agency Sensory Experiences, Paron explained that research points to up to 100 senses, giving designers significantly more input to work with than the commonly known five. Those less often discussed include: proprioception, perception of where the body is in space; balance, which in turn affects other sensory experiences; kinesthesia, awareness of the movement of the body; and magnetoreception, the ability to detect a magnetic field to perceive direction—essentially, a sense of direction. "As we think about design and we think about space, how do we trick our minds for good?" Paron said, noting that such techniques could help establish a sense of safety in public spaces. "How do we build different sensory cues that create the ultimate experience that we want for the user?" With that, she left designers and manufacturers to posit the way forward. 

Throughout the nearly three-hour event, attendees also had the opportunity to talk with Paron and the Interior Design team in one of the lounge areas before capping off the day with a much anticipated raffle drawing.

A big thank you to our re:Source partners: Arte, Bover Barcelona Lights, Bryan Ashley, Cancos Tiles + Stone, Carl Hansen & SønCountry FloorsCraftmade Woodard, Expormim, Greenmood, JANUS et Cie, Ligne Roset, Lutron, New Leaf Performance Veneers, Nightingale Chairs, TURF, and XtremeInterior by Tamlyn. 

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