For a change, let’s look back at the last decade. We find that it’s a surprisingly easy feat as opposed to envisaging the future. Technology has penetrated our everyday lives like never before. Social media, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, fortified food - why, even online entertainment made its way into our appliances. Our body could easily be an elaborate tapestry of passwords. All of these suddenly revealed a spiked-up world caught between tools of ease and consumerism.
The advent of the digital world threw up a host of new services in the realms of hospitality, cab rentals, food delivery, higher education, entertainment & healthcare. Even age-old businesses dove into enterprise solutions to streamline data, communication, productivity, payments, and service to customers. While technology was busy steam-rolling business and people’s lives, 2020 contained the misfortune of a global pandemic completely flipping the way we work, live, learn, behave and prioritize our lives. Digital tech shrunk the world and Covid-19 further compacted it into our screens as a result of limited mobility, access and contact less social behaviour.
Ex-CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs once remarked, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that somehow the dots will connect in your future.”
We stare down 2021, with the hope and belief that design can safeguard us from these technological hazards and show us a path of opportunities, growth and safer lives. Let me highlight 5 key trends changing the way we design and use design.
Rise Of The New Generation
Design works only when it is people-centric. So, what has changed with those for whom we design? The answer lies in the rise of the millennial generation and Gen-Y (Born between 1990-2010). This generation is the new consumer of all products, communication and the gamut of services to be designed. They are high on access, low on ownership, have different priorities and are socially connected. They are born digital natives who seek honesty, simplicity and smartness in design. This generation is looking for apparent simplicity overriding the complexity in design, say on an Apple i-watch or Microsoft Playstation 6 (PS6).
If you have used PowerPoint lately, you will notice a new feature driven by AI that that allows you to throw images, text etc. onto the slide. The software generates multiple options for layout. Welcome to the world of Generative design. Generative design is a design exploration process. Designers input design goals into generative
design software, along with parameters such as performance, spatial requirements, materials, manufacturing methods, and cost constraints. The software explores all the possible permutations of a solution, quickly generating design alternatives.
It learns from each iteration, intuitively understanding what works and what doesn’t. Companies like Autodesk have already launched beta versions of generative programs. Benefits of generative design go beyond simple forms and can configure complex shapes & geometries while considering optimized materials & functions. The Airbus Group already utilises generative design technology to create optimized structures that help reduce the weight of structural components while also maintaining aircraft safety requirements.
Design For Smarter Businesses
The internet has revolutionized everything around us. This is further augmented by nano-miniaturization of electronics and a spike in the use of optical technologies. A myriad of sensor-based developments have created a new world of smart & connected products based on the Internet of Things (IoT). This creates vast new opportunities for brand owners and product developers to learn about how people actually use their products in real time and adapts future designs accordingly.
Google Home, Amazon Alexa or Amazon Dash that ties up with P&G Tide are few such appliances from the connected generation. Not only do they entertain, manage your life and operate your technological home; they also help you book cabs, shop and track your orders. All of this showcases new smart business ideas at play. Design for smart has reimagined how we interact with our appliances, interfaces and how we manage our everyday needs for an elevated experience.
Designers and consumers are increasingly looking for solutions that are cradle to cradle, point towards a circular economy, and are driven by ethical causes
We have seen a seamless shift from the world of desktop publishing to desktop manufacturing. Kitchen robotics, automation and the need to have a flexible additive & subtractive manufacturing system have changed the way we design things. Desktop manufacturing has the potential as the ultimate maker culture, where commercial products are bought off through online stores and printed on a table, while enthusiastic hardware hackers play with design tools and open-source hardware systems to make entirely new products.
Conventional tooling-up and captive investments in large plants has made way for one-off, compact and flexible manufacturing. Volumes and restrictive production methods are no longer the holy grail for design. This has accelerated prototyping and testing for small batches where changes can be implemented based on feedback from customers. The Apple Macbook Pro series with their all all-aluminum casing is a great example of this phenomenon.
Act Of Goodness
There is an increased realization towards responsible design, spurred by an increase in consumer awareness. Designers and consumers are increasingly looking for solutions that are cradle to cradle, point towards a circular economy, and are driven by ethical causes. Given a choice between tow equivalent products, consumers are choosing the more eco-friendly options, or, alternatively, those that clearly align themselves to a cause.
ECOKAARI, RECHARKHA & Plastic Whale are great example of this design trend. Ethical & responsible sourcing, minimum waste and a back to cradle afterlife are driving the design of a generation of products from smartphones, bags, furniture and to E-vehicles.
This decade is already witnessing an accelerated change led by design, making us connect smarter, more efficiently and most importantly, hoping that the change happens responsibly.