From restaurants to retail, physical spaces are getting dreamy, absurdist redesigns—transporting visitors to imaginary worlds and alternate realities.

The Taste of Dadong restaurant in Shanghai was conceived “to deliver an emotional, dream-like dining experience.” Sculptural partitions, dark surfaces illuminated by otherworldly blue and purple lighting, a "psychedelic" soundtrack, and mirrored panels covering the ceilings, showing warped and inverted reflections of diners and staff, all contribute “to the dreamy quality of the space.”

Balenciaga wrapped its London store entirely in pink faux fur in April—covering the walls, floors and shelves in the fluffy material and giving visitors the sense of stepping into a playfully absurd alternate world.

Selfridges: Corner shop

In May, fashion designer Simon Jacquemus launched a series of popup installations for Selfridges, which were designed as a "surrealist reimagining of Jacquemus founder Simon Jacquemus' very own bathroom," Selfridges said. “I wanted to create crazy and unrealistic installations, all related to water and bathroom imagery,” said Jacquemus, founder of the eponymous brand.

And Louis Vuitton created a life-size toy racetrack at the Louvre for the backdrop of their Spring Summer 2023 show in June. “A giant children's toy racetrack becomes a yellow-brick road for the imagination,” the brand said. “An evolutionary path for the mind where childlike fantasies come to life.”

Selfridges: Le vestiaire

The Intelligence take

We are on the cusp of a new golden age of creativity, catalyzed by the dawn of the metaverse. As digital design gets more sophisticated, it’s untethering creativity from the bounds of the physical world—opening the door to multiversal design, both on and off screens.

Artist and identity designer Alex Box explains that, as digital existence becomes more nuanced, it’s shifting how creators think about physical design. “We have a notion of the body and its accepted limitations experienced through our senses—where we believe we end and our environment begins defines our limited body logic and shapes our identity. Where we have seen the web 1 and 2 digital body as a mirror of the real world, we now expand into the idea of a multisensory self,” Box tells Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. But now, “as we spend more time in actualizing new types of embodiment, I predict the mirror model will reverse: the physical will mirror the digital.”

In other words, as digital environments and virtual worlds evolve, they’re ushering in a modern creative vernacular—one marked by a boundless creativity that surpasses the restraints of physical reality.

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