What should the metaverse look like?

We look at how environments in the metaverse should be designed if they’re going to attract and maintain the interest of audiences – and who should get to design them

It was around this time last year that the term ‘metaverse’ came into orbit. Facebook plunged its flag into this new terrain when it rebranded as Meta in October, and just about every big multinational has scrambled – some more meaningfully than others – to get in on the action since.

But it’s hard to shake off the feeling that a lot of it is uninspired at best, and fairly ugly at worst. One brand that recently launched a new product in Decentraland’s metaverse recreated the drab stage presentation setup that sends audiences to sleep here in the 3D world. If we struggle to stay awake in those kinds of presentations when we’re physically in attendance, surely we’re going to pay even less attention if we’re tuning in on the sofa at home in a room full of distractions?

Max Vedel feels there’s little point in replicating real world spaces. Vedel runs hybrid creative studio Swipe Back with his co-founder Nikhil Roy, who after several years working in AR, 3D and gaming activations for clients, realised that they were “already playing with the building blocks of the metaverse”. Catalysed by Zuckerberg’s Meta rebrand, the pair decided to pivot fully to dealing with the metaverse, and the studio now helps brands like Nike, Gucci and Lego on their metaverse strategies.

“There’s a huge amount of experimentation going on in the metaverse, but I would say that builds and experiences trying to remodel our real world with all its limitations tend to feel annoying and bland. Waiting in a virtual line to attend a virtual conference? Doing your shopping with a virtual trolley? Why bother recreating the most mundane things in our normal worlds in the same way. What a waste,” Vedel says.