If there is one narrative that has been consistently marketed to designers and consumers alike, it’s that “a home is a reflection of the self.” It’s a statement that encourages us to buy products and express ourselves via the things we collect and display in our houses, on our bodies, and through our online profiles. There’s some truth to it—the stuff we surround ourselves with holds histories, tells stories, and even serves as a metaphor for our identities, lives, and dreams.
This quest for creative individuality has only been magnified by digital platforms and social media, from Pinterest and Instagram to TikTok and Fortnite. Like everyone else, designers—hoping to broadcast their voices and challenge the monotonous, fickle dictates of good design—find potential for greater embodiment and self-expression in the digital. Enter the metaverse to make things even more complex.
While it’s not a new concept, the recent buzz around both the metaverse (largely thanks to Facebook’s recent rebrand to Meta) and the rise of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has led to an influx of interactive digital design objects and interiors, whether they’re online exhibitions, virtual showrooms, or even gatherings hosted in simulated environments.
In theory, the metaverse is a location or series of locations where one can enter a digitally rendered space, move around as an avatar, and interact with objects, all through virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. Facebook (now Meta) founder Mark Zuckerberg describes it as a more “embodied internet.” But in a world where there is no longer a distinction between “real” and “digital,” the metaverse can elicit feelings of both freedom and fear, excitement and apprehension. For decades, scholars and designers alike have questioned what prolonged enmeshment in virtual reality does to both our mental and physical health.