June 21st, 2024

Design 4Retail

“As a species we are waking up to the simple fact that we are part of nature.
Human beings thrive in spaces that are in harmony with the natural elements and systems of our planet. As a result, we are starting to reimagine how our spaces can be designed with nature in mind, working with rather than against it, to create healthier more equitable environments to live in, now and into the future.”

– Oliver Heath, eminent designer

From pop-up experiences alive with nature, to brand identities that are inspired by the spirit of biophilic connection — this month we’re focussing on how the trend of biophilic design has grown across the creative sphere.

Biophilic design, the concept of incorporating elements of nature into built environments, is no longer a niche trend but a growing force across the creative landscape. From pop-up shops bursting with life thanks to biomimicry and natural materials to brand identities that evoke the essence of the outdoors, biophilia’s influence is being felt in retail design, graphics, branding, animation, and even architecture. Here, we delve deeper into six of the most inspiring examples of biophilic design that are exemplifying and shaping the future of biophilic creative expression across these diverse disciplines.


Lizzie shoes sign - Sustainable materials are something else

1) VANS – The Lizzie — ‘Somewhere Else Entirely’ Launch, Los Angeles.

Imagine a Hollywood parking lot transformed. Gone are the usual asphalt expanses, replaced by a vibrant, overgrown garden. This wasn’t just any landscaping; it was Vans’ ingenious creation, “Somewhere Else Entirely,” the launch event for Lizzie Armanto’s signature skate shoe, The Lizzie.

As a design agency, we were blown away by this immersive experience, particularly by its exceptional use of biophilic design principles. Here’s why:

A Biophilic Paradise: “Somewhere Else Entirely” wasn’t just about a shoe launch; it was a biophilic wonderland. By transforming a concrete space into a lush garden, Vans tapped into our innate human connection with nature. The greenhouse structure itself echoed biophilic design by blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors, inviting visitors to connect with the natural world.

A Narrative Woven with Nature: This biophilic haven wasn’t just for show. Vans brought together seemingly disparate elements – greenhouses, plantings, sustainable practices, and of course, skateboarding – to create a powerful narrative. It celebrated the joy of exploring the outdoors on a skateboard while subtly nudging towards a call for environmental change. The very presence of the thriving garden served as a constant reminder of the beauty and importance of the natural world we must protect.

A Journey Through Sustainability and Fun: The pop-up experience wasn’t just aesthetically pleasing; it was a biophilic journey. Visitors were taken on a path that showcased both the sustainable construction of The Lizzie and the long-lasting enjoyment it offered through skating and exploration. This wasn’t a trade-off; Vans seamlessly intertwined sustainability with pure fun, all within a biophilic environment that demonstrably improved well-being and fostered a connection with nature.

Beyond the Sale: A Celebration of Nature’s Spirit: What truly elevates “Somewhere Else Entirely” is its commitment to the biophilic concept. The retail experience wasn’t diluted; it fully embraced the message. The inclusion of seed packets as giveaways wasn’t just a marketing ploy; it was a gentle nudge towards eco-activism, perfectly capturing the “wavy-skate-hippy vibe” of sustainability and enjoyment. This launch campaign was refreshingly positive, focusing on the bigger picture rather than just pushing sales.

Vans’ “Somewhere Else Entirely” serves as a blueprint for design that goes beyond aesthetics. It’s a powerful example of how brands can use immersive, biophilic experiences to celebrate sustainability and connect with their audience on a deeper level.

2) Hyundai’s “Run Forever”: A Biophilic Journey Towards Sustainable Mobility

Hyundai Motor Studio’s “Run Forever” animation is more than just a captivating visual display; it’s a powerful message delivered through the language of nature. This campaign takes biophilic design – the concept of incorporating elements of the natural world into human-made spaces – and uses it to beautifully communicate Hyundai’s commitment to sustainable practices.

Nature’s Runner: A Biophilic Metamorphosis: The animation features a runner, a symbolic representation of clean energy, who transforms seamlessly through various natural states. The journey begins with water, the element that fuels the hydrogen production process. The runner then morphs into hydrogen and oxygen, the key components of clean hydrogen fuel. As the animation progresses, the runner transforms into pure energy, highlighting the power and efficiency of this clean fuel source. Finally, the runner finds its way back to nature, blossoming into vibrant plants, signifying the cyclical and renewable nature of hydrogen energy. By drawing on the water cycle, the animation makes the complex concept of clean hydrogen fuel production relatable and easy to understand.  The audience connects with the natural imagery, forging a link between environmental well-being and sustainable transportation.

A Multi-Channel Run: Social media platforms have become a launchpad for the animation, spreading its message of sustainability to a vast audience of consumers, but the campaign truly comes to life in the real world. Stopping people in their tracks, “Run Forever” has been activated in store windows, utilising the power of biophilic design to grab attention and spark conversations about clean mobility.  This multi-channel approach ensures that the message of sustainability finds its audience and enables onward sharing, with social and real-life scenarios warranting a like, photograph or reshare.

“Run Forever” is a prime example of how biophilic design can be a powerful tool for communicating complex ideas. By harnessing the beauty and interconnectedness of nature and humanity, Hyundai has created a campaign that resonates with audiences and leaves a lasting impression.

3) Innisfree — Walking Through Nature Exhibition

In April 2024, Innisfree, the beloved Korean beauty brand, took their commitment to nature a step further with an immersive exhibition called “Walk Through Nature.” This temporary space wasn’t just about showcasing products; it was a multi-sensory journey designed to celebrate the ecological and cultural significance of Eoseungsaeng Oreum, the second-largest dormant volcano on Jeju Island, South Korea’s largest island.

An ASMR Escape to Eoseungsaeng Oreum: The centerpiece of the exhibition was a captivating experience that tapped into the power of biophilic design. Visitors were invited into an enveloping room of screens and lighting, meticulously crafted to elicit an ASMR response. Here, they could lose themselves in the sights, sounds, scents, and textures of enjoying a refreshing cold coffee atop Eoseungsaeng Oreum. The floor, carpeted in wood chips, simulated the natural terrain of a Jeju hike, while the sounds of birdsong deepened the immersive experience.

More Than Just Beauty: A Celebration of Science and Community: Beyond the sensory escape, “Walk Through Nature” offered a discovery zone. Desks and study spaces, reminiscent of scientists’ workstations, housed compelling videos, research papers, and detailed illustrations. Funded by the Innisfree Moeum Foundation, this section showcased the dedication of experts who spent two years on Jeju Island to unveil the secrets of Eoseungsaeng Oreum. Visitors could delve into the island’s botanical wonders, unique fauna, and the humanistic connection to this geological marvel.

The exhibition wasn’t just a one-way street. Innisfree invited participants to share their own stories and experiences of Jeju and its captivating landscapes. An interactive map of the island’s topology served as a canvas for community voices and photography, transforming into a visually stunning and ever-growing testament to the island’s spirit.

Beyond Beauty, a Brand Rooted in Nature: “Walk Through Nature” was more than just a beauty brand exhibition; it was a powerful statement. By going above and beyond expectations, Innisfree solidified their position as a brand deeply engaged with local ecological causes. This immersive experience not only fostered brand affinity but also communicated a clear message: Innisfree is a brand worthy of consumer trust, built on a foundation of respect and appreciation for the natural world.

An apartment tower adorned with biophilic design

4) Bosco Verticale – Milan’s vertical forest

Within architecture, a standout biophilic execution is not of towering concrete and glass, but of vibrant greenery reaching towards the sky. This isn’t a utopian fantasy; it’s the very real Bosco Verticale, or “Vertical Forest,” in Milan, Italy. This architectural marvel is more than just a stunning sight; it’s a pioneering example of biophilic design that benefits both residents and the environment.

Biophilia in Action: Bringing Nature Home: Biophilia, the innate human connection with nature, is at the heart of Bosco Verticale’s design. Instead of traditional building materials, the towers’ facades are adorned with nearly 17,000 trees, shrubs, and plants. This translates to a staggering 20,000 square meters of forest and undergrowth condensed onto a vertical surface. It’s a testament to biophilic design principles, integrating nature directly into the urban environment.

Positive Impact for Residents and the City: The benefits of Bosco Verticale extend far beyond aesthetics. Residents enjoy private balconies transformed into verdant sanctuaries, offering a refreshing escape from the city bustle. But the impact goes deeper. This vertical forest helps:

  • Purify the Air: The trees act as natural filters, absorbing pollutants and releasing fresh oxygen, improving air quality for residents and the surrounding city.
  • Regulate Temperature: The greenery acts as a natural insulator, providing shade in the summer and reducing heat loss in the winter, leading to lower energy consumption for residents.
  • Enhance Biodiversity: Bosco Verticale becomes a haven for urban wildlife, attracting birds, insects, and pollinators, promoting a more diverse ecosystem in the heart of the city.
  • Reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect: By replacing traditional facades with vegetation, Bosco Verticale helps to cool the surrounding environment, mitigating the urban heat island effect, a common problem in densely populated areas.

A Beacon of Change: Inspiring the Future of Urban Living: Bosco Verticale is more than just a building; it’s a testament to the power of integrating nature into the urban landscape. It demonstrates how biophilic design can create a healthier, more sustainable living environment for residents while contributing to the overall well-being of the city. As Milan’s “Vertical Forest” continues to flourish, it serves as an inspiration for architects and urban planners around the world, paving the way for a future where humans and nature can thrive in harmony, even within the confines of bustling cityscapes.


5) Phyto – a Biophilic brand identity

Bioscience pioneers, Phyto, see nature not as a passive force, but as a powerful technology waiting to be unlocked. Their brand identity reflects this philosophy, beautifully blending the elegance of botanical drawings with the precision of scientific illustration.

Harnessing Nature’s Code: Data in Nature, Beauty in Data: Phyto’s approach is a fascinating dance between science and the natural world. They believe the key to environmental restoration lies in understanding and amplifying nature’s own healing processes. Through cutting-edge research, they translate the complex “data” within plants into effective solutions. The result? A triumph of scientific ingenuity and a renewed appreciation for the intricate beauty of the natural world.

A Visual Language of Harmony: Phyto’s captivating imagery combines stunning photographs with scientifically inspired illustrations. This unique blend visually articulates their core values: a commitment to both wellbeing and scientific rigor. Modern, clean typography complements the visuals, lending a sense of sophistication that reflects their dedication to delivering effective solutions without unnecessary embellishment.

More Than Restoration: A Symphony of Sustainability: Phyto’s mission goes beyond simply cleaning up the environment. They aim to restore biodiversity, creating a thriving symphony of life in rivers, lakes, parks, and cities everywhere. Their brand identity serves as an invitation to join them in this vital mission, to celebrate the power of science working in harmony with nature

Hand-carved Somerset stone plinths nodding towards sustainable design

6) Escape the Ordinary: A Multisensory Journey at Ffern, Beake Street, London

Step off the bustling streets of Soho and into a haven of nature-inspired calm. Ffern’s flagship store on Beak Street isn’t just a retail space; it’s a multisensory experience that celebrates the brand’s dedication to sustainable luxury and its deep connection to the Somerset landscape.

A Celebration of Senses and Heritage: The moment you enter, hand-carved Somerset stone plinths welcome you, a subtle nod to Ffern’s heritage. The air is filled with the delicate aromas of their natural fragrances, creating an olfactory journey that instantly transports you. Textures and materials play a key role, too. Think natural woven seagrass, breathable unfired clay, and innovative seaweed-based biomaterials – all carefully chosen to reflect Ffern’s commitment to sustainability.

More Than Just Shopping: Ffern’s vision goes beyond simply selling fragrances. It’s a space designed for exploration and connection. Sip a cup of their organic herbal tea, a perfect complement to the aromatic experience, immerse in the latest artwork from their community of Ffern Artists or settle in to watch the season’s film. The environment fosters a sense of community, hosting engaging workshops – from perfumery to candle-making – exclusively for ledger members. Shoppers are also invited to listen to live podcast recordings from “As the Seasons Turns”, and delve deeper into the world of natural ingredients and sustainable practices.

Sustainability at its Core: Everything within Ffern’s Beak Street store reflects the brand’s dedication to a healthy planet. The interior design is entirely plastic-free, with a focus on circularity and low ecological impact. From mycelium packaging to breathable, air-purifying clay, every element has been meticulously chosen to minimize environmental footprint.

Ffern’s Beak Street store isn’t just a shop; it’s a destination. It’s a place to escape the ordinary, reconnect with nature, and discover the beauty of sustainable luxury.

Inspired by Biophilia’s creative potential?

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