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Why the Unexpected can be Unforgettable

During these unprecedented times when we are staying home for the benefit of the greater good, many of us are turning to playful pastimes to entertain our families and find some joy in a dire situation.

For example, if you suddenly find yourself searching for the corner pieces, you’re not alone. CNBC recently reported that game maker Ravensburger has seen their North American jigsaw puzzle sales soar over 370% in the past few weeks, which means about 20 puzzles are sold every minute. Based on these colossal numbers, puzzles are filling a need to find comfort in a playful diversion that stirs up a sense of nostalgia.

Our attraction to being playful – at any age – is a deeply enduring quality that is prominent in the world of design for its ability to spark an emotional response. When we are delighted by a product that is unexpectedly playful, it creates a memorable, heartwarming connection.

In a recent trend analysis by the designers at the Architexture studio in Suzhou, China, several examples show how products can be infused with humour to increase their whimsical appeal. This inspired our team to create playful texture designs, including the familiar yet unexpected pattern of a jigsaw puzzle.

Advertising master, David Ogilvy: “It is the brand personality, not the commonality, that determines the market position. If you want others to see you, you have to be different.”

Moschino’s marketing strategy for their Fresh Couture perfume shatters our expectations for high-end packaging with a bottle that looks like it should be kept under the kitchen sink and not on our bathroom vanity.

It’s delightfully familiar, but in the most unexpected application.

This unconventional product design – that seems to have the potential to freshen up your windows instead of your beauty regime – creates a memorable and successful connection with the customer.

Alessi launched a set of circus-themed kitchen accessories and tableware using classic diamond, stripes and polka-dot shapes in saturated colours of bright yellow, red and black and white to achieve a perfect colour balance. This exciting series is full of vitality, evoking memories of watching a circus performance in a big tent as a child. You can almost smell the popcorn.

The strong man has a strained grimace as a nutcracker, the joker spins around as a corkscrew and the ringleader literally rings – serving as a bell. How appropriate is it that the clown dispenses candy? The elephant balancing on the music box is wearing a tutu. You can’t help but smile when looking at this playful set.

To appeal to the millennial generation, many brands are using bold and flamboyant elements to capture imaginations and satisfy a need for personalization within this particular market. Design elements that have a pop culture story, like Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe on a dress, handbag and boots; or this comic-book inspired Prada handbag offer fun, fresh ways to express one’s personality.

Playful Textures

To demonstrate that playful inspiration can be found everywhere, our design team translated the familiar shapes of alphabet cookies and jigsaw puzzle pieces into surface textures. The irregular shapes contrast with a linear arrangement for an overall feeling of playfulness with a sense of order. These tactile textures add a childlike sensibility to automotive interiors.

Fiat used this idea of being playful and unexpected in the surface texture design of the Panda, a small car produced for the Italian market.

Released in 2011 and designed by Standex Engraving Mold-Tech, the texture uses the letters in the name of the car to not only support the brand, but also to create a sense of surprise and freshness.

The driver and passengers take a second, closer look, and smile in appreciation for this thoughtfully-designed detail.

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