The Metaverse is Changing Product Design

Get ready for new virtual clothes and more

Key Takeaways

  • Designers are rushing to make styles that fit into the Metaverse.
  • The most common products designed for the Metaverse are human avatars, holograms of people, and virtual clothing.
  • By 2026, 25 percent of people are expected to spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, and entertainment.
person in a hardhat interacting with a virtual screen

Krongkaew / Getty Images

The shoes you’re wearing might look very different when you’re an avatar.

As the idea of the Metaverse, or a shared online social space, takes hold, product designers are being freed from the constraints of the real world. With companies developing virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications, everything from houses to clothing could get a virtual makeover. 

"Changing designs will be as simple as changing what people see through AR headsets, making iterations faster and more efficient," Benny So, head of communications at METABRGE, a digital retail shop, told Lifewire in an email interview.

Faster Fashion

How you look in the Metaverse may be as important as in the real world. Currently, the most common products designed for the Metaverse are human avatars or holograms of people and virtual clothing to dress the avatars with, noted Evan Gappelberg, CEO of NexTech AR, in an email. 

"Dress X is doing really great wearables, with augmented reality filters that let users preview on the fly what it would look like to wear a hat, dress, etc., the same way an Instagram filter works," John Caldwell, NFT principal at Wave Financial Group, said in an email. "These metaverse wearables are scarce and have a provable provenance directly from the designers using the underlying NFT tech. No such thing as imitation handbags in the metaverse."

The Metaverse is changing product design by giving designers the autonomy to create products that have never existed before, Michael Scott Cohen, CEO of Harper+Scott, a creative agency that recently launched a division for the Metaverse, said in an email. As brands look to create products for the metaverse, the question is less about how to bring real-world products into the metaverse and more about creating products that have elevated value in the digital world. 

"Certain fashion brands, for example, have created products that consumers wouldn’t necessarily wear IRL if they were available, but that help them establish and curate their virtual identities," Cohen added. "The level of innovation is virtually limitless—creators have the opportunity to push the boundaries of design like never before."

Many designers have released limited edition products, such as clothing items and accessories, that are sold with NFTs to provide a virtual certification of ownership, Cohen said. For example, Balenciaga partnered with Fortnite to create digital outfits inspired by real-life Balenciaga pieces from the brand’s virtual boutique.

Virtual Future

The Metaverse is only in its infancy, but speculation in the concept is growing. The virtual real estate market is booming as investors bet millions of dollars on the idea that shops and land in the Metaverse might one day attract customers; buildings in the Metaverse could look like anything. 

"Take, for example, the American architect Frank Gehry, whose designs are inspired by his unique perspective," So said. "His deconstructivist style can only go so far in the real world, however, in the Metaverse, building designs are limitless."

person holding a tablet with one hand and interacting with an AR screen

Weiquan Lin / Getty Images

By 2026, 25 percent of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, and entertainment, according to a recent report by Gartner. 

"Vendors are already building ways for users to replicate their lives in digital worlds," Marty Resnick, research vice president at Gartner, said in the aforementioned report. "From attending virtual classrooms to buying digital land and constructing virtual homes, these activities are currently being conducted in separate environments. Eventually, they will take place in a single environment—the metaverse—with multiple destinations across technologies and experiences."

Virtually any product that exists in today’s world will eventually be designed for the metaverse, Ashley Crowder, CEO of 3D CMS company VNTANA, said in an email. And Metaverse users will be shopping in virtual malls and purchasing items for their avatars via immersive commerce.

"The younger generation doesn’t hang out at the mall," explained Crowder, "they meet their friends online and are willing to pay real money to look cool in the metaverse."

Correction 2/17/2022: Changed description of VNTANA from a "VR firm" to a "3D CMS company."

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