Stylus and substance – a summit of innovation

Enlightened brands often look to other industries and other parts of the world to identify consumer trends that might have a bearing on the future of their own business. This is the territory occupied by Stylus, a UK-based global research firm whose clients include Microsoft, Nissan and Reebok.

This Tuesday, Stylus held their annual innovation summit, Decoded Future – Empowering the Change Makers, at London’s Tobacco Dock. Speakers included Landis Smithers, Chief Creative Officer at The Standard International, Louise Troen, VP at Bumble, and fashion and makeover broadcaster Trinny Woodhall.

Over 30 different events packed the day, and exhibition stands showcased some of the latest innovations, such as the head-turning holograms of Hologrm. Talks covered a diverse range of subjects from Algorithms and Amazonification, Gender Blurring and Designing Agile Ecosystems for a Digital World. They all gave a glimpse into the future, none more so than the presentation by Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde.

Daan Roosegaarde on stage at Stylus summitDaan Roosegard takes the stage

Roosegaarde has the incredible knack of using naturally occurring phenomena (such as algae, light and heat) to create unique and captivating experiences. Most notable among his projects are his ingenious smog-free towers. These seven-metre pillars use static electricity to produce clean air in public spaces from Poland to China. But Roosegaarde’s smart thinking doesn’t stop there. By compressing the smog particles collected by the towers, he creates smog-free rings to add another productive function to the initiative. A symbol of environmental kindness, couples around the world are now using his smog-free jewellery as engagement rings – even Prince Charles can be seen sporting some very dapper smog-free cufflinks.

Also enlightening was Commercialising Cannabis, a talk by Stylus’s Kate Johnson. Following decrimalisation in a number of US states and Canada’s pending legalisation of the drug, the legal cannabis market has exploded. According to Forbes, “Spending on legal cannabis worldwide is expected to hit $57 billion by 2027.” No wonder it’s being called the Green Rush.

Johnson divided the types of cannabis consumer into three groups: those who take it recreationally, people who use it for health purposes and those looking for a spiritual experience. What’s astounding is the sheer diversity of weed-based products and services on offer. They range from cannabis boutiques and drive-throughs to two-hour Uber-like delivery services. There’s beer-based weed, vaporisers, drops and edibles, and the sophistication of some of these products’ branding and packaging could give Apple a run for its money. Most high-tech of all, with its bright pink UV lights, is the Seedo home-growing incubator. Controlled via an app, it boasts laboratory precision and ensures the plant gets whatever it needs, when it needs it.

These were just two highlights from a range of talks and analysis that offered an eye-opening perspective on everything from the potential growth of e-gaming to the use of plastics in fashion. And despite the subject of the talks I’ve focused on here, this was definitely not a case of smoke and mirrors. I can’t see myself donning a plastic hoodie any time soon, but the future certainly looks a little clearer.


  • Innovation
  • Stylus