Can you really convey luxury through digital product design?

Clients often ask for their digital products to look and feel luxurious. But when rendered on the same screens and downloaded from the same digital distribution services, is this really possible?

James Hanks
Nov 27, 2019 · 6 min read
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Image courtesy of Gleb Kuznetsov, a designer who creates very slick user interfaces.

Introduction

This thought arose a few months ago during my final year at university, when working on a live brief set by a large private bank. The project required us to ‘disrupt’ the sub-sector by proposing a new mobile app that high-net-worth individuals could use to monitor and control their wealth.

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A bespoke HSBC Private Bank lounge designed by the Campana Brothers back in 2008. Image courtesy of Dezeen.

The landscape is very different now

Over the past decade, regular mobile applications have essentially replaced many standard physical experiences (eg. booking a hotel room), but now these applications are even replacing experiences that companies used to invest enormous amounts of time and money on; luxury physical experiences.

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Airbnb’s UI is clean, elegant and evidently had a lot of time and money invested in it. A luxury interface, but made for the masses? Image courtesy of Airbnb Design.
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Most attempts at designing “luxury” digital experiences normally end up looking more like this. Image courtesy of (and no offence intended) Casino News Daily.
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The Google Play store (left), a general distribution centre for digital products and Harrods (right), an example of a luxury, traditional department store. Images courtesy of Google Developers Blog and Graff.

So, what can luxury brands do to keep up, and are they even trying?

Perhaps this is an area that immersive technologies could innovate, given the amount of skill and effort required to develop successful examples, as well as the resulting impact of the experience on the user.

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Dior even created their own VR headset back in 2015, perhaps anticipating that this would be what would give luxury brands their power back. I haven’t heard much about it since, have you? Image courtesy of LVMH.

Let’s think about what this shift might involve

Whilst the digital revolution has seemingly made good-quality design available to all at a very low cost; genuine, multidisciplinary craft still stands out above the rest, is rare and therefore valuable.

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The Google Cloud Infrastructure 3D experience. Image courtesy of Hello Monday.
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I think I know which one I’d go for. Image courtesy of the App Store.
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