In our home and communities, we are accustomed to being inundated with digital screens - large computer monitors and TVs and smaller phones and tablets. However, the future is about integrating that digital technology into the environment, as shown by this leading global ad agency.

In 2015, Huge did a funny thing. The design firm—best known for digital experiences like websites—opened a coffee shop.

A "modern, simple, clean" coffee shop, one Yelper puts it, with bare wood finishes and Japanese small plates that could placate any aging hipster.

But soon its customers will see that it’s not just any coffee shop. The shop will eventually enable a customer’s phone to auto-order her coffee on the way to the store, thanks to GPS, which can order for her when she's nearby. And the cups will have sensors that can see when a customer is low on crude so employees could bring them a refill. "Digital is imbued through the entire system . . . but it’s not like there are giant flat-panel screens all around," says Huge CEO Aaron Shapiro. Huge is building a coffee shop of the future that will actually feel a lot like the coffee shop of today. And that's only possible because Huge will be able to control the entire experience—the digital back end and the analog front end.

Which brings us to the real news of today, that Huge—the digital agency with 1,500 employees worldwide and clients including Nike, Audi, Pfizer, Target, MoMA, and, in full disclosure, Fast Company—is opening a physical design practice. Out of its Toronto office, Huge is building a small senior team, led by Matt Hexemer from Jacknife Design, to both create physical products and build physical experiences, each complemented by Huge’s existing digital practice. Jacknife is known for designing diverse projects including the Kobo e-reader and a pair of Salomon snowboard boots.

Read More