Thursday, July 05, 2007

Riding the Flux: Design is changing in myriad ways. Are you?

The future of product design ...

"If design is a continent and its disciplines tectonic plates, we live in seismic times; as the ground shifts under our feet, we scramble for a clearer view of the emerging landscape. And as the world changes, design changes. How should designers best prepare for the inevitable new openings? Where is the unexplored territory? Where will the action be?

When it comes to imagining what the design industry might look like in 10 years' time, let's assume that competing on cost and sticking our heads in sand are non-starters. The two remaining options? Be very, very good, or be ahead of the curve in finding new work that employers and clients will pay for. Or preferably, be both.

The pace of change has not slowed in the noughties, but what makes it more head-spinning is that the changes are less tangible and more multidimensional. How do we make sense of the rise of design strategy, user-centred methods, celebrity designers, design-art, structural packaging and service design? How do we deal with the challenges of the sustainability agenda, off-shoring and the raised expectations of business and government?

When I asked author Virginia Postrel for her observations on the design industry, she reflected that she found designers, as a profession, to have "a peculiar combination of arrogance and insecurity. One minute, they're declaring that they have uniquely appropriate skills for every problem, and the next they're worried that people without the right credentials are using design. As a writer, I find the fear that too many people are practicing design pretty funny. Writers don't go around complaining that too many kids are getting taught to write and too many people are practicing writing without the proper degrees."

Just as a crack writer like Postrel is in demand, design supremos will always get good work. However, by definition there can only be a relatively small number of virtuosos in any field, so let's look at how designers can prepare themselves for a changing world.

... If we shed the blinkers and see the world differently there are many positive shifts, like the mainstreaming of design in business and the public sector, which offer glimpses of a chance to drastically expand the frontiers of design. A good place to start is by taking a wider view of our know-how.

The era of product design as practiced by a small band of gurus in Milan, London, Munich and New York is long gone. There are now thousands of competent product designers around the world able to 'give good form.' Design as 'styling' or 'form-giving' has become commoditized, and competing at this level is already a tough low-margin slog."    (Continued via Core77)    [Usability Resources]

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