News 19.03.2024

Need to Know

Softer Digital Futures London recap, France’s legal fight against fast fashion and why Instagram and TikTok are Gen Z’s preferred search engines.

Softer Digital Futures London recap: glitching, girling and empathic algorithms

Softer Digital Futures London, UK
Softer Digital Futures London, UK
Softer Digital Futures London, UK
Softer Digital Futures London, UK

UK – Taking over Shoreditch’s colourful co-working space Second Home in London on 16 March 2024, the Softer Digital Futures tech conference advocated for a more inclusive internet. Founded by digital designer Nicole Jonasson and 3D artist Ida Lissner in 2020, the Softer network previously hosted gatherings in Copenhagen before landing in London for a first edition filled with talks, food and music.

Founder of web design inspiration platform loadmo.re Kim Lê Boutin embodied the event ethos (making technology softer) by introducing the audience to the concept of ‘glitching’. The glitch is commonly seen as a mistake, just something that went wrong with technology. But according to a new cohort of cyberfeminists, including Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto author Legacy Russell, it’s more than that. Within the flaws of gender, technology and the body lies a chance for freedom. The glitch lets us explore and change who we are in countless ways. In tech, embracing the glitch means it is no longer an error, but a protest against the standardised, frictionless interfaces we use daily because of tech giants such as Apple.

Lê Boutin was later joined on stage by theorist and artist Alex Quicho, Space10’s former head of research Helen Job and Ministry of Sound’s creative technologist Olivia Ema. The panel unpacked the importance of ‘the girl’ in shaping digital futures. But they were not talking about TikTok’s countless trends such as girl dinner, girl math or strawberry girl. Not restricted to gender binaries, the girl is an intangible energy that one can embody. Technology will help shape the girl as much as the girl is helping shape technology. Consider digital avatars, for example, and how these have enabled unrestricted self-expression. According to the experts, the girl is paving the way for softer, more fluid and inclusive digital futures.

Design collective Feminist Internet closed the event with its latest research project Tenderithms, which explores the intimacy of our relationship with technology. Members explained that the radical potential of the internet is that it connects us and is not separate from our lives but interwoven into our beings. Algorithms and avatars, for example, offer us the opportunity to structure our identity beyond the physical binaries. ‘As our physical and digital selves merge deeper, how could we add more tenderness to technology and what would an algorithm that looks after you look like?’ they asked the crowd.

Strategic opportunity

Explore the concept of intimacy in technology and its implications for product design and user experience. Consider how technologies can foster deeper connections, empathy and emotional wellbeing for users

Decathlon unveils new branding and campaign

Decathlon, Global Decathlon, Global
Decathlon, Global Decathlon, Global

France – Decathlon, the French sports giant founded in 1976, has undergone a significant brand transformation. Known for offering leading sports brands alongside its own labels, Decathlon is repositioning itself as a global sports brand with a fresh strategy and design system in a bid to change its image as a retail front for other brands.

Teaming up with brand consultancy Wolff Olins, Decathlon embarked on a two-year journey to align its 85 in-house brands with the overarching Decathlon branding. The result is a new visual identity, including a tweaked wordmark and a new L’Orbit logo.

The brand’s new positioning, Make Sport Yours, reflects a shift towards embracing participation and enjoyment over perfectionism and elitism. Alongside the visual overhaul, Decathlon has introduced Decathlon Sans, a customised typeface, and adopted a new tone of voice and motion design principles.

The revamped brand identity will be showcased across various touchpoints, signalling Decathlon’s commitment to a fresh approach emphasising inclusivity and pleasure in sport. Its commitment to being more people-centric echoes the findings of Mass Movement, our microtrend report that reveals the importance of human connection in fostering health and wellness.

Strategic opportunity

Evaluate the alignment of in-house brands with the overarching company brand. Consider repositioning or rebranding existing sub-brands to ensure consistency and coherence with the company's new strategic direction

France leads global effort against fast fashion excesses

Sustainability by Mackenzie Freemire, Los Angeles, US Sustainability by Mackenzie Freemire, Los Angeles, US

France – The French parliament has taken a ground-breaking step in curbing the allure of low-cost fast fashion, particularly from mass producers like China.

Under the new law, which still awaits a senate vote, France will ban advertisements for the cheapest textiles and impose an environmental charge on low-cost items. Christophe Bechu, Minister for the Ecological Transition, said this vote made France the first country in the world to ‘legislate to limit the excesses of ultra-fast fashion’, reports news agency AFP.

The law will introduce criteria to define fast fashion and mandate that producers disclose the environmental impact of their products. In addition, a surcharge linked to ecological footprints will be implemented, with proceeds aimed at supporting sustainable fashion producers.

The surcharge linked to fast fashion’s environmental footprint of £4.30 ($5.45, €5) per item is planned for 2025, rising to £8.50 ($11, €10) by 2030. The charge cannot, however, exceed 50% of an item’s price tag.

We unpacked a similar bold proposal, The New York Fashion Act, with Maxine Bédat, the founder of New Standard Institute, in our analysis of Regulating Clean Fashion Futures.

Strategic opportunity

Stay informed about evolving regulations related to sustainable practices in the fashion industry and adjust business operations to ensure compliance. Can you consider developing eco-friendly materials and manufacturing processes in advance to align with future legislation?

Stat: Instagram and TikTok are now Gen Z’s preferred search engines

Photography by Polina Tankilevitch Photography by Polina Tankilevitch

US – Gen Z are increasingly using social media platforms as tools for search, according to a new study by marketing technology vendor SOCi published in Forbes.

Surveying 1,002 18–24-year-olds in the US, SOCi found that 67% of Gen Z use Instagram to search, followed by 62% using TikTok and 61% using Google. Even Snapchat is used for local search by 45% of Gen Z.

This shift in search behaviour is beginning to emerge among other generations groups too. While Google Search and Maps are still most adults’ preferred search engine (79% of adults aged 55–64, 76% of 35–44-year-olds, and 74% of those aged 45–54 use Google Search), Facebook now ranks as third.

After decades of dominating search, Google now faces a struggle to retain its relevance for younger users, while simultaneously navigating generative AI’s disruption of search.

For more insights into younger people’s media habits, check out the Generation Z: From Vision to Contradiction part of our Generations: Now and Next 2024–2025 report.

Strategic opportunity

Invest in SEO training for your social media teams to ensure your content is optimised across each social media platform to reach the correct audiences

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