welcoming the thousands of designers, architects and creative professionals in the city during milan design week 2018, 3M aims to inspire through an interactive, multi-sensory installation called ‘wonder beyond imagination’. visitors, who wonder through the space, witness highly advanced moments of digitalization and physical materiality – a true reflection of the brand’s focus on the union of science and design. at the heart of the interior, spanning from the walls to the furnishings, their new ‘3M™ DI-NOC™’ architectural finishes showcase the sustainable and flexible options available for creatives to transform and re-imagine design possibilities.
located at the triennale di milano, 3M enables visitors to ‘discover how to restyle with imagination, transform without limitations and enhance with elegancy’. a major part of this aim is to do with the vast application possibilities of their new ‘3M™ DI-NOC™’ material, but their process of innovation actually starts by creating dialogue with real people and developing solutions for real problems. as such, the space welcomes visitors to interact with a large digital screen. as well as presenting an inspiring video of how 3M innovations enable users across the globe, guests can interact with the animated patterns of the display, which is created through an algorithm of real-time digital feedback. the inputs can range from 3M’s themes of wonder, optimism and purpose, but thoughts from social media posts are also integrated.
as the installation changes to react to user interaction, the visual elements of the display plays with the ‘3M™ DI-NOC™’ that has, fittingly, been applied to the space’s walls. on the opposite side, one wall displays the over 1000 different colors, finishes and textures that are possible for the films. this highlights the extraordinary freedom that the material offers interior designers, architects and creatives alike. furthermore, the palettes are also applied to a variety of other surfaces, from 3D curves to building structure. and to explain more about the installation and the material itself, eric quint, chief design officer at 3M, offers insight in terms of both the science and design behind the two.
designboom (DB): what is the idea behind the ‘wonder beyond imagination’ installation?
eric quint (EQ): the whole idea about the installation is to discuss wonder and creativity as a kind of engine for design itself. in our company, this is heavily driven by technology and science. scientists are creative and they are also inspired by these themes, so we wanted to celebrate that as well as having a dialogue with the visitors of the milan design week. as soon as visitors with smartphones start to interact with the installation, we can upload a photograph and send it to them. we are also asking guests what curiosity and wonder means to them, and so all the digital rain you see in the display is actually their feedback. it is real time interaction from social media.
DB: is the digital display calculated in an automated algorithm or is it curated?
EQ: the system grabs elements from the interaction but it is also curated so that we can ensure that feedback stays within the themes. overall, it is all about the minds of people and to give them that experience of what curiosity and wonder is and how it links to design. also, everything we do as architects, designers and creators, it starts with the material we work with. 3M is a materials science brand and materials is how we connect the different worlds of science and design, and in fact, it is all to drive innovation. we have over 46 innovation platforms within the company and we build and use parts of all these technology platforms in all kinds of solutions. there is a great saying with 3M that is: ‘if you are in a radius of three meters in a developed country, you will always be in touch with a 3M product.’ to make this relatable, your smartphone has between 15 and 20 3M technologies within. the same can be said with all cars. just think about aeroplanes, health care products in hospitals, offices with our famous post-it notes, and in architectural buildings itself. we make a lot of architectural projects so just three meters makes our products very tangible.
DB: is it an important focus of the installation to show how engaged 3M is with all things creative?
EQ: it is, but it is to also engage with people as they are the source for good innovation. my definition for design is: ‘creativity with purpose’. we have a task as designers to make relevant and meaningful translations from technology into solutions. this relates back to our brand platform, which is science to life. if you think about science, we have several top R&D centers around the world, with our 55th innovation center just opening in washington D.C a few months ago, so we have lots of scientists that work on all these solutions. if you consider the life aspect, that is a way in which we engage with customers to start a dialogue and see how we can help solve real issues. then, if you think about the role of the designer in all of this, they can bring a meaningful and relevant translation from the technologies we have in our R&D to life and to people. the designers are representing the dreams, needs and desires of people in all of this and making sure what we do is relevant and has an appropriate positive impact.
eric quint, chief design officer at 3M
DB: so how does the interactive wall highlight 3M’s balance of science and design?
EQ: when visitors step back from the interactive wall, the display changes in a similar amount. it does so by changing colors but also words, such as ‘one more purpose and optimism’. it is dedicated to wonder and relevancy and purpose and meaningfulness. optimism means positive impact and that is what we want to achieve as an innovation company. the installation also shows the theme wonder, which we use to engage with people on a different level of innovation. it then changes to a video, which is called ‘91,000 minds’. as a design team, we made this in a way that is not specifically about technology per say, as that is what we always do as a technology company. instead we wanted to talk subtly about the distinct impact of technology on people’s lives. it shows and creates an experience that connects straight to the heart of the viewers. this is a very inspirational way of talking about the company, before the video ends and goes back to the graphic of wonder, optimism and purpose again. in the film, there are a lot of hints at positive impacts that we have achieved.
DB: how is this wonder now linked to the new ‘3M™ DI-NOC™’ materials on display?
EQ: the wonder theme is linked to all of this because we wanted to show the wondrous world of our architectural films. these films, ‘3M™ DI-NOC™’, are all about a place where people can wonder beyond imagination so the stand itself is a space to discover how we restyle with imagination, transform without limitations and enhance with elegancy. the ‘3M™ DI-NOC™’ material is a very durable adhesive film that can be used for interiors – homes, restaurants, hotels and more – to re-style in a very thoughtful way. by doing this, we can be very considerate about our resources because, normally, when clients have to re-do their experience, they have to re-model and throw away all the old. if people can do it by using our films and give it a completely new experience, then that is a very good impact for the world as well. the theme of science to life is something I always refer to as humanizing technology – that is what 3M does.
DB: the architectural finishes are shown with a whole host of material options on one wall?
EQ: on the back wall of the space, we have over 1000 different ‘3M™ DI-NOC™’ films. we developed a range that has matte finishes as well, which give the materials a very natural feel when taking the appearance of different textures, such as wood. there are some timbers available that seem so natural that they do not appear any differently to the real thing. this means designers can change an interior wall immediately, whether that is on stone or any other type of structure. the collection is all about variety; many architects have no idea about the film solutions or the finishes that we can offer.
DB: what sizes are the films available as and how can they be applied to the spaces?
EQ: the sizes can be very big but only applied by an applicator. it is very durable, with an expected performance life of 12 years for indoor, vertical applications with no direct UV exposure. people can apply the film to 3D forms and objects. a lot of the materials we use, say the printable ones, can be customized and printed off with whatever pattern or message they desire. if someone wants to have a particular branded color scheme or communication, then it can be printed and applied to walls. this can be easily changed at anytime, say even a year later.
DB: can clients request specific materials for the finishes?
EQ: we have developed options into this in case someone has a good idea. we would always be interested in it. if we felt that it fits within the trends that we are studying, then we would be more than happy to add it into our collection. that is the creative collaboration that I have mentioned previously. it is always important to have a dialogue with any person; to listen to their stories and tap into desires, needs, and see how it makes sense for us. however, we can not make customized things because, when we put them on to the machines, there are hundreds of meters of foil so we have to have enough critical mass to actually make it.
DB: how do the material’s properties not only react to the different physical constructs of a space but also the different and multiple interactions of human behaviour?
EQ: if you think about the task of an interior designer or architect, they are trying to create an experience. they do so by making different compositions but also changing material properties. we know that if you make a space into marble, it has a complete different feel to one made of wood. the collection of our ‘3M™ DI-NOC™’ material is giving all of that variety of over a thousand materials, finishes and textures to give the interior architects a palette of creating whatever story they want to create. it is like a painting box almost. it is not without any limitations because you can use it also on 3D curved materials and products. it is pretty amazing that we can give objects a new life by adding the films. we have engineered these materials with properties so that it can be applied to 3D curved products and surfaces as well. that is where the whole palette, the color box reference, is the instrument and tool for the interior designers to tell their stories of brand experience for their customers.
DB: finally, what experience do you anticipate visitors to feel after walking through the project?
EQ: the wonder wall is all about exploring new, unexpected things. our design center is a bit like that in the sense that we want to have spontaneous dialogue going on between designers, technologists, and brand and fashion people. the wonder theme is exactly the same in this sense and we wanted to connect this theme to lead into innovation and the ‘3M™ DI-NOC™’ materials because there are many people that are totally not aware of the beautiful textures that we have available. we want to show the wonder of the collection and inspire them with all the options they have. hopefully, visitors will start to think about using that material and recreating brand experiences for their customers.
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