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DESIGNING 2015THE GRAPHIC DESIGNER OF TOMORROW The Visionary Design Council, AIGA


A DESIGN

ODYSSEY

Designers are gifted with a special ability to see and communicate with clarity what others may not even understand. Designers are the intermediaries between information and understanding. And yet, there is a vulnerability to this vision—they can react to what is asked of them, but they do not always anticipate their own future as clearly...

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he communications design profession and practice have evolved dramatically over the past 20 years. During that time, we have seen the most successful practitioners progress from being ‘makers of things,” trained within the dimensions of finite outcomes, toward becoming conceivers of strategies, communicating complex messages clearly and considering the many ways in which those messages are received by audiences over time. The designer of today is collaborative and multidisciplinary, and must become even more so in the years ahead. As the desired skill sets change, it is important to consider the shifting spheres of influence that designers have. But where designers have influence today may bear little in common with where we will be relevant tomorrow. This is more than asking who is likely to hire designers—although that does matter. It means that the design profession should define where it wants to have influence, assuming a proactive role, rather than a reactive one. If

we want the future of design to gain influence in areas where we currently have none, we have to create strategies and initiatives for demonstrating relevance. Not only do we need to consider changes within the profession, but we must look at larger global themes that will affect the future of design, too. We know that sustainability— cultural sustainability, as well as resource sustainability—is going to be an issue tomorrow, just as it has grown in urgency and importance today. Designers can address this theme and make a positive impact by giving thought to the long-term life span of the products and materials they design. Starting now, designers can make informed choices and be brave enough to ask questions such as, “Do we need it? Can we live without it?” Not only of themselves but of their clients too. Just think how much better positioned we will be to address challenges in just eight years if we start making smarter decisions today.

Exploring the Atmosphere “If we want the future of design to gain influence in areas where we currently have none, we have to create strategies and initiatives for demonstrating relevance.”


Marking Our Discovery This should always be the goal, to surpass expectation and make work that’s meaningful and responsible.

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he role of design is to make the complex clear and useful—but great design elevates the spirit too. This should always be the goal, to surpass expectation and make work that’s meaningful and responsible. For those who believe that design’s value is in beauty, they are right, so long as the beauty emerges from utility—usefulness and usability always come first. One of the critical skills designers bring to problem solving is empathy—the ability, through observation, experience and intuition to understand how real people experience information and interact with messages and objects. It is with this human-centred dimension that a designer can bring new

perspectives to the problem solving of others who use engineering, management or theoretical skills. By approaching each project individually and each audience empathically, designers make significant impacts. Calling questions into question, the agile practitioner develops a framework for adaptive thinking that generates well-rounded, positive solutions. In fact, the best designer is one who when asked to design a better lawn mower will begin by questioning why a lawn is needed.

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CLOSE ENCOUNTERS D

esigners need to know for whom they’ll be designing and what may be expected of them in the design process. Through ethnography, research and analysis, we have found that evaluation of the audience’s desires is a major trend that graphic design has been slow to accept, but we will cease to be relevant if we don’t integrate this way of thinking into our work. And the audience we imagine is becoming even more diverse and multicultural everyday.

This is about more than how to sell CocaCola in Kuwait or making sure there is racial diversity in annual report photographs. It has to do with really thinking about what we have in common and what is different and whether we should protect those differences. It unpacks the value systems that underpin design decisions and the role they play in the strategy of a global economy. There is also an opportunity to see globalization in policy terms as well as business terms—how we make the diversity of the world comprehensible through the design of information.

This is about more than how to sell Coca-Cola in Kuwait or making sure there is racial diversity in annual report photographs. It has to do with really thinking about what we have in common and what is different and whether we should protect those differences.

THE FINAL FRONTIER T

he future is not out there to be “discovered”—it has to be invented and designed. Education will have to respond to the changes that have already occurred in the professional field. Employers need a better understanding of the classroom environment, and academics need a better understanding of the workplace. Employers and academics should work together to make instruction meaningful and internships relevant to workplace needs. Business should research,

evaluate, and implement lifelong learning opportunities and collaborations that meet student needs and the changing knowledge and skills requirements in the workplace. Although we do not know what the future holds, we can anticipate who the desired designers of 2015 will be and what they will be capable of.


SIX MAJOR TRENDS OF THE DESIGNER 2015 06


Six major trends define design’s role in a much broader, strategic context than its roots: the making of things and beautiful things. Although that remains an important contribution, these trends will be a manifestation of a solution that may involve many different forms, including intangibles such as strategy and experiences. Among designers and educators, there has been an enthusiastic response to taking on these trends, although there is also anxiety about whether designers are adequately prepared to take on the broader context of the roles these trends imply for them. They are listed in importance as identified by contemporary designers:

WIDE AND DEEP:METADISCIPLINARY STUDY AND PRACTICE Designers must be able to draw on experience and knowledge from a broad range of disciplines, including the social sciences and humanities, in order to solve problems in a global, competitive market of products and ideas. As the contexts in which communication

occurs become more diverse, designers need to experience meta-disciplinary study as well as training deeply in specific disciplines. They must understand the social sciences and humanities in order to understand the content they are asked to communicate and they must understand how to work collaboratively with other knowledge and practice specialists.

EXPANDED SCOPE: SCALE AND COMPLEXITY OF DESIGN PROBLEMS Designers must address scale and complexity at the systems level, even when designing individual components, and meet the growing need for anticipation of problem and solution rather than solving known problems. Design problems are nested within increasingly complex social, technological and economic systems and address people who vary in their

cognitive, physical and cultural behaviours and experiences. The role of the designer is to manage this complexity, to construct clear messages that reveal to people the diverse relationships that make up information contexts and to deliver sustainable communication products and practices to clients.


TARGETED MESSAGES: A NARROW DEFINITION Messaging will shift from mass communication to more narrow definitions of audiences (special interest design), requiring designers to understand both differences and likenesses in audiences and the growing need for reconciliation of tension between globalization and cultural identity. The most effective means of communicating has shifted from broad messages for large

audiences to narrowly targeted messages for specific audiences. This is the result of both media capabilities (in terms of narrow-casting and mass customization of messages) and also global dynamics. This trend demands a better understanding of a variety of cultures, the value of ethnographic research, a sensitivity toward cultural perspectives, and empathy.

BREAK THROUGH: AN ATTENTION ECONOMY Attention is the scarce resource in the information age, and the attention economy involves communication design, information design, experience design and service design.

driving clients’ conception of form, the attraction of business to design and the problems of designing for a market that values the short term “grab”.

The trend toward an “attention economy” encourages discussion of what is currently

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SHARING EXPERIENCES: A CO-CREATION MODEL Designers must change their idea of customers/users to co-creators (mass customization) to coincide with the rise in transparency of personal and professional lives (social networking, blogging, etc.). This trend focuses on user-centred issues through a filter that identifies appropriate methods for understanding people (for

example, the current movement toward ethnographic research, rather than focus groups). It brings communication design closer to the work of product designers (who really have the attention of business) and the emerging area of service design. Social advocacy issues both emerge from this phenomenon and are empowered by it.

RESPONSIBLE OUTCOMES: FOCUSING ON SUSTAINABILITY Designers must recognize that the pursuit of use creativity to defeat habit in the solutions excellence involves focusing clearly on humanthey propose, must assume a leadership role centred design in an era of in proposing responsible increasingly limited resourcuses of resources. This “Designers must recognize es, in which appropriateness involves both the traditional is defined by careful and concept of sustainability that the pursuit of exellence necessary use of resources, and also an understanding involves focusing clearly on simplicity, avoidance of the of appropriate technology human centered design in an extraneous and sensitivity to and resources for the uses era of increasingly limited human conditions. proposed. Responsible outcomes embody ethical resources.� Popular, political and busiissues, social need, global ness forces are all coming to imperatives and the unique grips with the challenges of working in a world contribution of design thinking. of limited resources. Designers, as those who


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DESIGNER OF 2015 COMPETENCIES

In order to fulfil the expectations placed upon designers in the future, they will need to employ a set of skills that include some beyond today’s typical scope. No single designer is likely to have all the skills required, yet this research revealed the range of competencies that a studio or design department, among its full complement of staff, will need in order to meet the demands of the future. These competencies uncover the challenges for educational institutions, in developing curricula, and for studios, in recruiting their teams. The competencies are listed below in order of their ranked importance in the online survey:

1. Ability to create and develop visual

response to communication problems, including understanding of hierarchy, typography, aesthetics, composition and construction of meaningful images

2. Ability to solve communication problems

including identifying the problem, researching, analysis, solution generating, prototyping, user testing and outcome evaluation

3. Broad understanding of issues related to

the cognitive, social, cultural, technological and economic contexts for design

4. Ability to respond to audience contexts recognizing physical, cognitive, cultural and social human factors that shape design decisions

5. Understanding of and ability to utilize tools and technology

6. Ability to be flexible, nimble and dynamic in practice

7. Management and communication

skills necessary to function productively in large interdisciplinary teams and “flat� organisational structures

8. Understanding of how systems behave and aspects that contribute to sustainable products, strategies and practices

9. Ability to construct verbal arguments for

solutions that address diverse users/audiences; life span issues; and business/organisational operations

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AIGA| THE PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR DESIGNERS 164 FIFTH AVENUE NEW YORK NY 10010 212 807 1990


Designing 2015, The Graphic Designer of Tomorow