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Six major trends, and the challenges they pose for
the profession (which AIGA will take on as its challenges), emerged from
our research. These 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, they 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 were, in the order of importance as
identified by designers:
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.
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
Design problems are nested within increasingly complex social,
technological and economic systems and address people who vary in their
cognitive, physical and cultural behaviors 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.
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
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.
Attention is the scarce resource in the information age, and the
attention economy involves communication design, information design,
experience design and service design.
The trend toward an “attention economy” encourages discussion of what
is currently 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”.
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-centered 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.
Designers must recognize that the pursuit of excellence involves
focusing clearly on human-centered design in an era of increasingly
limited resources, in which appropriateness is defined by careful and
necessary use of resources, simplicity, avoidance of the extraneous and
sensitivity to human conditions.
Popular, political and business forces are all coming to grips with
the challenges of working in a world of limited resources. Designers, as
those who use creativity to defeat habit in the solutions they propose,
must assume a leadership role in proposing responsible uses of
resources. This involves both the traditional concept of sustainability
and also an understanding of appropriate technology and resources for
the uses proposed. Responsible outcomes embody ethical issues, social
need, global imperatives and the unique contribution of design thinking.
Illustrations by Brian Rea
With insight from the profession's best thinkers, AIGA and Adobe outline the qualifications and expectations of future designers.
Section: Tools and Resources -
education, design educators, students
In order to fulfill 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.
AIGA will work with Adobe, educators and professionals to
develop tools, techniques, course work and best practices to meet
these trends and
challenges, as well as to develop the critical competencies.
To aid in defining the Designer of 2015 project, recognized and
diverse leaders in the design community were brought together to
serve as an advisory board, called the Visionary Design Council (VDC).
AIGA and Skillshare, an online learning community for creators, have partnered on a series of co-curated design classes
to help expand online learning options for AIGA members.
Section: Tools and Resources -
OpenIDEO.com is a web-based platform for innovation where creative
thinkers worldwide can design better, together.
Section: Why Design -
metrics of effectiveness, design educators, students
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