Designing in Shifting Sands

We feel we are capable of creating perfect things. Many of us chase this idea our entire lives. Chasing this gives us a sense of satisfaction and lets us create long term goals for ourselves. Gauging ourself against the goal of creating the “perfect thing” shapes who we are.

Despite being the pursuit of perfection, we’ll never be able to meet this goal. None of us will ever be able to identify all imperfections.

As we design, we take into account evolving ideas and theories. We take into account shifting time and shifting spaces. We’re never able to truly identify what perfection is, but we come close. In digital spaces, I find this especially clear.

If we look back fifteen years, we see that websites were bound to desktops. These desktops were bound to certain environments like the home, or the library. We designed for these environments and interfaces while they were the primary medium. The website then moved to the mobile device. We then started designing for speed and hyper usability in a mobile environment.

At this point all environments were taken into account. We started studying the limits of the dexterity of the hands, eyes, and more.

The environments are constantly shifting. Designing for shifting environments means always identifying perfection and pursuing it. We find the people to read and the places to be. Once these are identified, they provide a driving force to take us to new places and ideas.

Old design methods can provide wisdom for new methods.

There are many imperfections we deal with, and we deal with them piece by piece. Imperfections help us to develop processes. These processes are never permanent. They’re simply suggested paths through the current noise of the multitude of imperfections that do exist.

The act of defining processes lets us embrace new imperfections at the rapid paces we encounter them. It lets us deal with them and adapt.

What new methods will we need to develop?

We have moved from desktop to mobile to the most recent stage: people.

We don’t leave applications at our homes anymore. We have the choice to bring them with us wherever we go. When an application travels with us and dictates what we do and how we perceive the world, design begins to change. We include psychology, science, biology, data science.

It’s now possible to design entire environments. With virtual reality and augmented reality, designers have ways of overlaying worlds on top of the world we inhabit. 3D interfaces require new methods. Graphic design and game design are beginning to fuse.

What will we be designing for?

  1. Emotional Design will evolve as people look for emotional meaning and acceptance within their interfaces. When spending long amounts of time in an interface, they’ll want to feel like they belong. If someone struggles within the interface, they’ll abandon it for another. Immediate and ongoing clarity will be required within these systems. I anticipate that conversation-based interfaces will be woven into many new visual interfaces.
  2. Interior Design will grow as VR and AR interfaces are built. As designs are overlaid on physical environments, they’ll need to complement and build on existing physical beauty and structures. Interface elements will need to replicate real-world colors and interactions. Aesthetics, color theory, and physics will become far more important than they currently are in web.
  3. Game Design will guide the paths of many new applications. As organizations are mapping out new interfaces, they’ll look toward game designers for inspiration. They’ll ask what features they can add to keep people engaged for longer amounts of time.

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