How the sharing economy is democratising design

There’s no doubt that the sharing economy has transformed modern life. From the Uberisation of food, to the consumption of clothes, accommodation and transport.

It’s a tough economic model to pin down, and even a decade after its birth, many still struggle to define what the sharing economy actually is.

In its simplest form, the sharing economy allows for the sharing of idle assets, usually through tech platforms. It pioneered an asset-lite social movement, challenging how we think of ownership by offering cheaper, more convenient renting alternatives.

The sharing economy has impacted almost every aspect of our lives, but one element often missed off the list is design. More specifically, office design.

From cave painting and animal hides, to Baroque and Rococo, interior design has helped shape and mold civilisation. But in recent years, we’re seeing another shift.

The modern workplace has become our design canvas – and with good reason. Many of us are spending more hours at the office than with their family, and the commercial real estate industry saw its ninth straight year of exponential growth in 2018.

So how is the sharing economy democratising design?

Well-designed spaces, especially in a commercial context, signal success.  Previously, big brands would outsource reputable architects and interior designers to remodel their HQ: attracting a lot of media attention and publicity while doing so. This still happens of course, but thanks to the sharing economy, striking commercial design is now available to smaller startups without the heavy price tag.

Peer to peer shared spaces and the emergence of co-working facilities have enabled smaller businesses with tighter budgets to also enjoy the benefits of great interior design. The access over ownership economic model means incredible spaces, which are too expensive to buy outright, can be rented at a fraction of the price.

Many of these spaces live or die by their instagram account – it’s no secret how heavily social media is influencing commercial design – and in order to stay ahead of the competition, these spaces are forced to remain reasonably priced. And voilà! Design, for the humble startup, has been democratised.

But why is design so important?

Office design affects both employees and customers significantly. It’s a crucial component to creating both a vibrant company culture and strong brand identity. For customer-facing companies, a well-designed space looks organised and professional, evoking confidence, trust, and even emotional investment from it’s consumers.

For employees, the office is a home away from home. A space that fuses functionality with stimulation will maximise employee engagement, productivity and job satisfaction.

But don’t just take our word for it. This year at Milan Design Week, Google’s Design Studio partnered with designers Reddymade and Muuto, as well as John Hopkins University, to illustrate the tangible impact design has on our psyche. Each visitor received a custom wristband made by Google Hardware which empirically measured the physiological responses to different designs.

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