A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Product Design and Innovation conference in London with a selection of my colleagues from the user-centred design group. It was an opportunity to mingle with fellow industrial designers whilst soaking up the inspirational talks.
One of the presentations, by independent design consultant Paolo Lorini, caught the room’s attention in particular. The talk was titled Designers: From Inventors to Entrepreneurs.
Paolo began by explaining how designers have been able to elevate their role from “idea creators” to “value generators”. Today, they occupy decision-making positions in successful global corporations. The largest companies – such as Apple, General Motors, General Electric, Procter and Gamble, Johnson and Johnson, The Coca-Cola Company, Nike etc – increasingly have some form of designer as a director. In such positions they are the driving force behind products, services and experiences we all love. The importance of design in achieving commercial success was highlighted through a history of business acquisitions. For example, Google’s acquisition of Mike & Maaike in 2012 or, more recently, BlueFocus acquiring Fuseproject in 2014. The increasing presence of designers co-founding successful start-ups such as Fitbit and AirBnB was also highlighted as an emerging trend.
Once all the designers in the room felt suitably important, Paolo shared his predictions for the future – the seven traits of good designers for the next decade:
1 – Good designers will love the unknown
As technologies transform with increasing pace, designers will need to excel in understanding new emerging markets and their possibilities.
2 – Good designers will know that quality is nothing without speed
Time to market becomes ever more important. Designers will need to become more effective and quick without any compromise in quality or understanding.
3 – Good designers will give more to others than they will take
Open your doors. You may give more away than you receive but will ultimately reap the rewards of practising openness.
4 – Good designers will speak other languages
User-centred design is achieved with empathy and insight. The subtlety of someone’s emotional response to a product or service can’t afford to be lost in translation.
5 – Good designers will think holistically but control even the smallest detail
We obsessive compulsive designers will sweat the tiniest product detail but will need to do so in the context of an overarching marketing strategy.
6 – Good designers will still put beauty at the heart of value creation
Good designers should remember the single most important secret they have learned – beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is universal and designers must find a way to infuse it into new categories of products and services.
7 – Good designers will become irreplaceable
In today’s world, many companies find themselves competing on design. Design has evolved from the purely aesthetic to include every aspect of a consumer’s interaction with a brand, making it something not to be overlooked.
This was my first year at PD+I and I will be hoping to return in 2016 due to the high quality of the speakers and their insights. I especially enjoyed Paolo’s talk as it forecast a future where designers will have more influence than ever before. For designers, though, the hard work applying these principles lays ahead. We will need to evolve in order to capitalise on the opportunities of the next decade.