The future of Products: an interview with Anouk Groen

Most of the time, you can find Anouk Groen at trade fairs for the automotive, motorcycle, textile, yacht, products or technology industries. As a trendwatcher and industrial designer, Groen is constantly connecting everything around us. From the bracelet worn by the interviewer to the tattoos of a passer-by, she absorbs everything like a sponge to turn this knowledge into lectures, like at MaterialDistrict Rotterdam, of which she is this year’s ambassador of the sector Products.

1. What will products look like in 100 years if it were up to you?
Socially, people will live longer so products that assist us will become more advanced and humanoid, like robots and A.I. Most of our digital devices will be integrated into our bodies.

Transportation will be autonomous for working and commuting purposes with less roads and more flight commuting (i.e. drone public transport). Many roads and highways will be removed and given back to nature or repurposed as leisure areas.

There will be less work travel with remote working, everyone will have an avatar that goes to meetings. Leisure transportation will grow immensely as we will have more free time with shorter working hours. Automation will take over many jobs and tasks and a universal basic income will have been implemented. Recreational biking, driving, flying and boating will grow as a hobby or sport to fill the leisure time. Space tourism will be the new ‘tropical holiday’.

Energy will be abundant and sustainable.

2. What do you think is the best invention ever and why?
Socially, that would have to be birth control (related to medicine and vaccinations). Birth control has made the world a better place by empowering women and giving them the control over their lives. More women in the workplace create a more creative and social society. Women empowerment is still one of the most import issues for the future in terms of Climate Change. According to former US vice-president and environmental activist Al Gore, one of the 6 drivers for global change is: “Population growth is straining the Earth’s resources to the breaking point, and educating girls is the single most important factor in stabilizing that. That, plus helping women gain political and economic power and safeguarding their reproductive rights.”

3. What do you think are the most important material innovations within your sector of products and why?
My industry is mainly consumer electronics and automotive so the future of battery power is most important. Especially for the motorcycle market, it is an aging market and quite conservative. If they want to catch the younger generations, electric mobility is very attractive. It is low maintenance and easy to use, and the design can be different from the classic styles.

4. With which other sector is your sector the most closely related, and is the most similarity or cross-pollination in material innovation?
I am working in motorcycles so the automotive and the car industries are very close. I go to all the car shows for design inspiration and get a lot of information about the future of transportation by studying concept cars. This way, I can see what the designers and brands are thinking of for the future.

5. Which theme is currently the most important in your sector?
For the consumer electronics market, it is important to create products that are easily disassembled so the parts can be reused or recycled. This is especially relevant to the phone industry because the average user changes phones every 2 years! One forward thinking phone would be the Puzzle Phone by the Finnish company Circular Devices. For the motorcycle, market as I mentioned before, moving toward electric will break open the market.

6. MaterialDistrict’s goal is to connect various parties. Which other party or person should the visitor get to know according to you, and why?
Designers are the shapers and planners of our future. I feel that companies should involve designers and creatives on all levels of the business process, from choosing the raw materials to the board of directors meetings. Designers have an open mind and are generally visionaries. They don’t think in figures, they think with emotion, style (brand), concept, and functionality. They approach the decision making process from another perspective. There should be a balance between business and creativity.

About the ambassador
Groen is a trend forecaster, specialised in colour, material and finish design (CMF). Her presentations are useful for any industry that creates products that need to be updated regularly. Read more about the ambassadors here.

MaterialDistrict Rotterdam
MaterialDistrict Rotterdam is the leading event for R&D and design professionals within six sectors: Architecture, Interiors, Urban & Landscapes, Products, Textiles & Fabrics and Print & Sign. The trade fair takes place from 12 to 14 March 2019 in Rotterdam Ahoy, the Netherlands. Want to visit? Click here for your free ticket!