Of all the non-technology professions, architecture and interior design has the biggest opportunity in the metaverse. No other group of people are better placed to help design the real estate within virtual worlds. Although the metaverse is still in its infancy, it’s likely that it will breakthrough into mainstream usage within the next ten years (a similar timeline to internet and mobile phone mainstream adoption and impact). If you’re aiming to build or maintain success in the interior and architecture world within that timeframe, now is the time to start experimenting and learning. In this article, I’ll discuss how the development of metaverse is going to impact interior design and architecture – and the incredible opportunities it opens up.
An unprecedented opportunity for architects and interior designers
Metaverses are 3D massive virtual spaces which you can experience synchronously with large volumes of other people. They are communities, cities, worlds – and just like their real world equivalents they are comprised of real estate.
The metaverse already ranks amongst the largest and fastest real estate developments the world has ever seen. Just one metaverse, Decentraland, covers the same land area as Dubai – and all this new real estate is being filled with buildings, spaces and homes. Over $500m worth of real estate deals have already been made in the metaverse.
I think this creates an unprecedented opportunity for interior designers and architects: they are uniquely placed to build the next stage of the digital economy. Currently, most of the real estate is being designed and developed by people with a coding skill set: as the metaverse matures, and wealthy clients become more demanding of quality and not just novelty, it will be architects and interior designers who they will turn to.
The challenge of creating a new design language for the metaverse
The metaverse opens up a whole new canvas for architects and interior designers: imagine designing real estate for a world where the laws of physics don’t apply, where materials are unlimited and there are no building regulations. The conceptual creative opportunities are enormous. But there are challenges as well.
Firstly, a new design language for the metaverse needs to be created. Right now, much of the design of the metaverse is in the skeuomorphic stage, where virtual interfaces mimic their real world equivalents. Skeuomorphic design is a common shortcut when representing a new virtual experience – remember iPhones in 2007 with virtual leather stitching and binding in the calendars? That’s where we are now in metaverse design. The future design of the metaverse will move away from skeuomorphism: it will work to the laws of virtual worlds, rather than be influenced by irrelevant physical laws from the real world. I have good news for the next generation of architects: you won’t be forced to keep your most creative and ambitious projects in the concept stage. There’ll be a client base and space demanding more creativity and more imagination.
There will also be new skills for interior designers and architects to learn. If you’re a designer, you’ll be delighted to work without the physical and regulatory limitations of real world architecture: but you’ll have to learn a new set of technical specifications, which can differ from metaverse to metaverse. If you’re familiar with 3D modeling then these should be relatively simple to navigate: although designers will need to be fully aware of the graphical limitations and rendering speeds of metaverses populated by thousands of active participants
New business models and new ways to earn
Most excitingly, the metaverse creates completely new business models for interior designers and architects. Up until now, you’ve been able to use digital platforms to market your existing (real world) services. The metaverse means you’ll have the opportunity to become a content creator and owner, rather than just a user. It could open new revenue streams and business models: architects who make their money selling multiple editions of virtual buildings; interior designers who offer off-the-shelf virtual schemes to thousands of clients all around the world. For some professionals, it may become more profitable to work in the metaverse than in the real world.
I recommend keeping an eye out for the first case of digital reversal – like when Netflix led the Oscar nominations – where an architect firm started in the metaverse is commissioned to make real world buildings. I predict that will happen within five years – and at that point, you’ll know the metaverse is reaching the mainstream. How soon do you think the metaverse will reach mainstream adoption?
By Tom Puukko
Tom Puukko is a British entrepreneur who’s been working in digital business, marketing and innovation since 1998. He has co-founded London-based digital creative company Hyper, interiors marketplace Feathr.com and most recently, Metaverse Interior Design: the world’s first metaverse marketplace for architects and interior designers. He’s been awarded The Guardian Award for Digital Innovation for the hacking project Push.