How Design Will Continue to Evolve in 2016 and Beyond

As we head into a new year, there are a few patterns that I’ve seen within the design world as a whole. In general, it’s a good time to be a designer. It’s a skillset that is highly in demand, and the level of design fluency among the general public continues to rise. The field is increasingly becoming visible and valuable, which can only mean good things.

Things Keep Getting Better

It may be some of my own personal bias, but the design of the world is getting better. Not to say that there isn’t room for improvement, but having well designed things and experiences is increasingly more common. The primary reason for this is the success that valuing design can bring to businesses across all sectors. As long as design continues to improve the bottom line, the quality of design will continue to improve.

Designers Can — and Should — Be Business Leaders

For years designers have been vying for a seat at the business table. With the success of designer-led startups like airbnb and Pinterest, as well as the presence of designers at VC firms, we are achieving some of these goals. It would be wonderful if this was more common, but the successes that we’ve seen thus far will continue to compound.

Back to Our Roots

The digital designers of today can learn a lot from designers in other disciplines. The best brand designers think in terms of holistic strategy and concentrate on touch points. Successful retail designers think about the customer’s entire experience that begins outside the store, and continues well after they’ve left. Designers that focus on user experience are seeing that the walls of the physical and digital are starting to blur further, and they need to consider experiences outside of the screen. Digital designers have a lot to learn from these disciplines, and we can decrease our learning curve by researching how other designers have tackled problems before us.

Experimental Interfaces

With the major launches of several VR products this year, the growth of wearables, and the very nascent world of IoT, not to mention the increasing digital interaction of existing products (e.g. cars), it’s clear that designers will be tasked with learning the nuances of more and more interfaces that are further removed from the PC or smartphone models that they are used to. The possibilities are both frightening and exciting, but whatever your feeling, it’s impossible to deny the amount of potential for designers to shape the world around us. With that potential comes a great deal of responsibility to design for safety and accessibility, but designers are up to the task.

Nearing Peak Prototype™

This one is pretty close to home, but 2015 was fantastic for digital prototyping software. Existing software matured dramatically, a bunch of new players came onto the scene, and we got some previews of what’s around the corner. In 2016, there are at least two major product launches that will doubtless have an impact on the landscape of available tools, which brings us close to the point of saturation. No tool is perfect, and technology is changing quickly, so there is certainly room for multiple options, but in the next 12–18 months we’re going to reach Peak Prototype™ where some of the smaller players aren’t sustainable. The field of competition will narrow and designers will arrive at a selection of tools that are able to create efficient, effective workflows. We’re not there yet though, and it’s going to be an exciting year for prototype software.

All of these trends and developments signify both growth and maturation of design as a discipline. It’s never been more exciting to be a designer than it is now. The practice has the potential to operate in every industry and to impact people all over the globe. It’s going to be a wild ride, but doubtless quite a fun one.


This is an entry in my writing project series. For more detail about that, see here. The header image is created by me, and part of my recent experiments with Processing.

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