Insight: Defining the Studio of 2015

Today, the only constant in the practice of design is change.

Mid-century, graphic designers focused on form. By the 1980s, designers were responsible for both the form and content of messages they were designing; they became known as communication designers. Today, designers are designing to enhance understanding when form and content are conditioned by context and impact over time. This is a different practice—one that trends toward experience design.

This change in the nature of communication design has been accompanied by a different set of expectations of what makes an effective designer. In an earlier project, “Defining the Designer of 2015,” AIGA and Adobe sought the insights of influential design thought leaders in practice, in academia and among clients to define the necessary competencies for an effective designer, given the challenges designers expect to face in 2015 and beyond.

In contrast, “Defining the Studio of 2015” explores the team and workplace dimensions of the topic, revealing a different set of expectations for design practice as they pertain to the studio. When the velocity of change in the design field comes up, it is often linked to the speed of technological developments—both hardware and software. Yet just as dramatic has been the social movement toward co-creation, collaboration and multidisciplinary, integrative design work within a practice—whether a studio, a start-up or a corporate or institutional design department.

This initiative seeks the perspectives of those visionary design thought leaders from all disciplines who have organized their studios—physically, technologically and culturally—in order to glean the greatest value from their creative design teams, who find themselves challenged by new and often difficult-to-solve problems within our increasingly complex global environment. It looks to design studios and design leaders from all disciplines that are poised for 2015 and beyond.

For “Defining the Studio of 2015,” which will run over the course of 2013, leading-edge studios will share their insights on the topic, offering an inside look at their plans and aspirations for the future. The stories in this series will not be definitive; they will be anecdotal, representing models for responding to the challenges of tomorrow.

About the Author: Richard Grefé is the director emeritus of AIGA, the professional association for design, the oldest and largest professional association of designers in the United States representing the interests of 27,000 designers working in a variety of communication media and dimensions, ranging from type and book designers to new media and experience designers. AIGA, o ver twenty years under Ric’s aegis, has become a leading advocate for the value of designing, as a way of thinking and as a means of creating strategic value for business, the civic realm and social change. Currently he is teaching “Human-centered designn for social change” at Wesleyan University. Ric earned a BA from Dartmouth College in economics, worked in intelligence in Asia, reported from the Bronx County Courthouse for AP, wrote for Time magazine on business and the economy and then earned an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. Following an early career in urban design and public policy consulting, Ric managed the association responsible for strategic planning and legislative advocacy for public television and led a think tank on the future of public television and radio in Washington.