Hannover. Starting in 2018, DOMOTEX – the world's leading trade fair for carpets and floor coverings – will feature an annual keynote theme around which exhibitors and other industry stakeholders can design creative showcases and installations. The resulting creations and innovations will be concentrated in Hall 9 in a new, highly immersive showcase called "Framing Trends". The lead theme for DOMOTEX 2018 – and hence the soul of the "Framing Trends" area – is "UNIQUE YOUNIVERSE", which encapsulates the growing trend towards product and service individualization. The "Framing Trends" area comprises four display zones, of which two – "NuThinkers" and "Art & Interaction" – are designed and produced by students and artists. Young creatives and next-generation designers and will use these two zones to bring the "UNIQUE YOUNIVERSE" theme to life with an array of innovative, multi-sensory installations.

"NuThinkers" and their inventive, creative ideas

For several months now, various groups of students from the Hannover and Mainz universities of applied sciences and Saarland University of Art and Design have been running research projects for the upcoming DOMOTEX show. Their mission is to uncover emerging trends in flooring individualization and to come up with exciting, out-of-the box concepts for the future of the floor coverings industry. There are over 20 of these "NuThinker" projects. Following is a sneak preview of three of them.

"Blindsight", by Nina Düwel, HS Hannover
What if floors could communicate with people and help them find their way around buildings? That's the kind of innovative thinking that lead this young student to develop a new type of tactile guidance system for blind people. Conventional tactile flooring systems – such as corduroy and blister tiles – are limited in that they are really only useful for delineating routes and identifying hazards. Furthermore, the groove and blister patterns used are often too fine to be readily distinguishable from the surrounding floor covering using today's commonly available cane tips. The "Blindsight" system, on the other hand, uses unmistakable, standardized tactile floor symbols to clearly identify specific facilities, e.g. toilets and lifts, and provide other information. This gives the blind and vision-impaired new freedom and unfettered independence in their "UNIQUE YOUNIVERSE."

"Fairkorkt", by Sarah Gerner and Johanna Kolb, HS Hannover
"Fairkorkt" is a vegan, organic carpet made of tiny cork shingles. In the example developed by these two students, the panels are lozenge-shaped, and each lozenge is backed with pastel orange felt to create a pleasing foot-feel. Each lozenge is attached to the underlay material by a single stitch and so is able to flip freely when touched. Walking on the carpet causes the lozenges to flip sides, thereby altering the color and texture of the carpet. Each footstep leaves behind a unique footprint that totally transforms – or individualizes – the floor's appearance.

"Fuss-Arbeit" ("Footwork"), by Raphael Sommer, HBK Saar
Take some leaves, pine or spruce needless, heat them until the resins and fibers are released, and then bond them all together using heat and pressure, and you've got the ultimate eco-friendly, recyclable floor covering. This young student's aim was to come up with a floor covering using natural material that is available in abundance. He hit upon the idea of using "nature's waste" – leaves – and, following a certain amount of experimentation, succeeded in creating five different natural floor coverings. "Spruce Needles" and "Pine and Spruce Needle Blend" both turn the natural material's soft autumnal tones and variegated patterns to pleasing aesthetic effect. "Fallen Leaf" and "Japanese Knotweed with Wax" preserve the fine detail of the original leaf structure for a truly sublime look. The fifth covering, "Needlework", can be produced in various formats and sanded – just like particleboard. Its surface can also be sealed using various liquid coatings and hard waxes. The uniqueness and creativity of these floor coverings is limited only by the rich variety of the natural world that inspires them and the individuality of the people that use them.

"Art & Interaction" makes "UNIQUE YOUNIVERSE" a multifaceted sensory experience with exhibits from the worlds of art and design. Here is what some of the participating artists say about their installations:

"Bauhaus", by Thomas J. Biswanger, creative director, and Hansjörg Schneider, artist
"This is Bauhaus revisited! Our installation is a very understated play of the famous Master Houses in Dessau and their pine wood setting. The window cut-outs go right through the drawing and expose the wall behind. A fine-mesh grille structure leans against the adjacent wall. If you look at it the right way, you can make out not only the arrangement of the windows, but the building structure as well. In this way, the exterior space becomes an interior space. That's not an act of domestication. The material resists the process, and the space is fluid and unconstrained... Each idea needs a suitable material. That's not a simple process, because a material is more than the sum of its properties; it can surprise by bringing opposites together. In this installation, for example, the hardness of a wall is juxtaposed with the flexibility of paper and the softness of textiles."

"Meanwhile in the Universe", by Michael Acapulco, visual artist
"I'm presenting an installation called ‘Meanwhile in the Universe' that explores concepts of space. The central component is an actual recycled window, complete with shutters. The window functions as the frame for a video screen showing a live feed of outer space from NASA. The installation initially gives you the impression that you're standing outside the house looking in. But you're also looking out - into outer space. So, the concepts of outside and inside start to become fluid and lose meaning, as does your concept of your own physical position. With your notion of perspective subverted, you are forced to make a decision: whether to run away or stand your ground."

"flugs", by Jette Hampe, artist
"A piece of textile hangs in space, suspended from the overhead surface. The underside of the hanging piece of textile is made of silk. The top side comprises countless cut-up and reconstituted black-and-white photos depicting forest glades and shadows of trees at sunset interspersed with faces of people of various nationalities.
The material looks exotic. The installation has a magical, fairytale quality to it, evocative of self-contained, unalloyed happiness. At the same time, the viewer's idyllic musings are disrupted by uneasy thoughts about the labor that went into making the textile and whether the makers were properly paid. In this way, the viewer has a sense of a paradise lost, but without being able to pin it down to anything definite."

"Raumskizzen" ("3D Sketches"), by Florian Lechner, sculptor
"This exhibition is a three-dimensional walk-through installation. Graphical elements in gradients running from light to dark create a space that is both analog and virtual. Volumes of light and abstract shadows overlay digital renderings, break apart at intersections between planes, fade into darkness and settle into a state that is quasi-baroque yet minimalist. What awaits visitors is an installation that blurs the distinctions between real and notional space."