Usually, January is a month of looking forward to the year ahead and, in the design world, making some predictions about rising trends and the consumer behaviour and expectations driving them.

This year, however, things are different. 2020 was, of course, defined by the global coronavirus pandemic and the need for vast operational change has accelerated in almost every sector. The result? Lots of questions about when – and if – things will ever return to the normal we knew. 

So which of the changes weve seen are here to stay, and which will disappear as social distancing restrictions begin to ease? And how will designers balance changing consumer demands with supporting operational needs andcreating stylish, aesthetically pleasing spaces? Read on for our thoughts…



The F&B outlets which survived or even thrived in 2020 were those which recognised that flexibility is key, being open-minded and adaptive as restrictions and the weather changed.


We saw teepees and marquees erected outside of pubs and restaurants, outdoor spaces adapted for food markets, craft sales and street food offerings and the key role of technology in ensuring takeaway services involved minimal interactions and delays.


In 2021, we predict that even more restaurant and canteens will adapt to remote ordering, with ‘click and collect’ and grab and goservices becoming more popular – initially to resolve hygiene concerns, but becoing more about speed and convenience as time goes on.


And while the demand for versatility is nothing new, clients are more attuned than ever to the need for a bar, restaurant or other events venue to be commercial in other guises. We can therefore see that versatile design – flexible seating, movable screens, pop-up counters, demountable décor and so on – will form an even more critical part of clientsbriefs in 2021.


Image: Thor’s Tipis, York – adapting outdoor space.


Celebrating Local

With travel restrictions in the place and stories of small businesses on the brink, there was definitely a shift in the public consciousness towards giving something back to our local communities in 2020.


In 2021, we can predict this movement being reflected in the design choices of both bona fide small businesses and big brand names. Think authentic and unpretentious architectural aesthetics, open frameworks, exposed brickwork and transparency – literally, as in beer kegs on display behind see-through bar fronts and taps on the back bar wall facing clients.


We also think modular design will be a big hit in 2021, with enterprises of all sizes keen to establish a local, trustworthy feel – something which can be suggested by the use of modular units (look out for an upcoming blog post on this very topic!)



Image: The Counter, Glasgow (RDA Project).  Beer taps facing clients to create a local, ‘craft ale’ feel.



After a year like last year, we cant see our clientssustainability consciences going anywhere. If anything, we predict sustainability elements of briefs will become even more exacting, with demand rising for closed-loop materials, carbon neutral manufacture and transportation.


In 2021, we predict well finally see an end to so-called greenwash, with clients choosing materials and finishes for front and back of house which truly support their eco credentials and reflect their values.


Image: Smile Plastics, made from 100% recycled materials.




In the workplace, we can see lower-occupancy offices emerging which will look markedly different to the kinds of spaces were accustomed to.


Flexible or hybridworking is undoubtedly here to stay for many, and employers will be under pressure to create versatile and attractive office spaces to tempt workers away from home for team projects requiring more face-to-face contact.


Think exciting, innovative destination workplaces, with fewer individual desks and more meeting and collaborative rooms, coffee and snack bars, social spaces, shops and, aesthetically, an elevated home from homefeel.


In other words, a mixture of residential and commercial space: resimercial.



Image: Moodpboard by RDA’s Lucy Stewart, showcasing the ‘wow workplaces’ of the future.


Biophilic Details and Wellness

After a year where weve been encouraged to stay at home and our mental health has taken a big hit, its no surprise that designers have biophilic details high on their agendas for 2021.


Biophilic design focuses on bringing the outside in, and can be achieved through a range of different measures including nature-inspired colours, planting, access to natural light, and artwork. Already a big focus on 2020, we can see clients underpinning their commitment to employee and client wellbeing by taking even bolder steps in this direction in 2021.


Image: Living wall from RDA project from the B&I sector.



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