The Digital Landscape: How It’s Changing for Designers

Digital and technology has undoubtably become a change-creating beast. What used to be considered designing tomorrow has become designing today, and the future is now.

Jason Gieng
Sep 29, 2015 · 4 min read

Labelled as a ‘new renaissance’ by Venture Capitalists (the ones pouring billions in to the industry), and criticised as a tech-bubble by those watching it happen — this has without a doubt become the most interesting space to watch in terms of trends, growth, and disruption.

It’s reach has become so expansive and all-encompassing that it has penetrated everything from an individual’s every day lifestyle to specialised and highly niche industries such as health or agriculture.

So what exactly are we talking about when we talk about technology, and how does design relate? Here are some of the biggest trends, and movements, and even crazy projections, and how User Experience (UX), User Interface (UI) and Interaction (IxD) designers will be getting their hands dirty.

User-centric, Experience Based and Digitally Native

One of the overarching movements that has changed and dictated the way entire industries approach and assess problems and challenges is the process — no longer is success based on product features and benefits, but it is now evaluated by user acceptance and experience.

Design has always been about communication and problem solving, and it has become more-so with companies shifting top-level strategies to focus on customers and users — especially through technology.

We have entered the age of the customer, where user-centric design methologies which consider the end-user in every stage of design and development have become king.

Direct correlations between brand success and the overall end-to-end experience they provide to users have become more than evident (look at Apple for example — from the product to the brick and mortar stores to the website and following post-purchase support).

Continued change in the ways users are now consuming information, and the value that they place on digital platforms, has highlighted the need for companies and designers to prioritise digital. It has become the best way to communicate to consumers, and so being digitally native has become an absolute necessity.

Overall, design is playing a more overarching role across business, and so designers must take a more holistic approach that highly value users, their experience, and their priorities.

Designing for the Internet of Things

If it is the age of the consumer, it has become so because we are in the Internet era. As digital platforms evolve, so must digital design to cater to the growing needs of consumers.

The concept and adoption of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) means that everything is now becoming digitally connected — from your watch to your fridge to your water bottle.

This in turn means that UX, UI and IxD design is no longer confined to the dimensions of a screen, but now has repercussions across more direct and tangible aspects of a user’s day-to day-life across a number of different but connected products and services.

No longer are websites and applications seen as a ‘supplementary product’, but rather they have become essential parts of a brand or product’s key offerings.

What this functionally means for designers is that experience, interface and interaction on a digital platform has become core to the user’s overall experience and evaluation of a product’s features and benefits.

It has become imperative in today’s age that designers consider how users will achieve tasks, find information and navigate interfaces in a variety of different real world contexts and on different digital platforms.

Design considerations have grown to include gestures that feel natural and intuitive, look appealing and consistent, and function seamlessly, contributing to a holistic user experience.

The Creation of Future Spaces

Another aspect of technology that has drastic repercussions on the future of digital design is the growing trend of ‘Future Spaces’ — defined here as Mixed Reality technologies, including Augmented Reality (AR), Augmented Virtuality (AV) and Virtual Reality (VR).

The development, commercialisation and introduction of these technologies to end- consumers, means that now almost any visual experience can become possible.

The business repercussions of these technologies means that organisations and brands can begin creating engaging, interactive spaces and entire worlds that combine a person’s reality with virtuality. This includes the ability to augment and alter realities of consumers in retail spaces, showrooms and demo spaces, and with promotional campaigns to create more involved brand experiences.

As designers, this means we are no longer confined to screens but now must design entire environments. Whilst the practices and core tenets of UI, UX and IxD design methologies still apply, they now do so in entirely more experiential settings.

Design considerations must also begin including the third and fourth dimensions, as the experience now exists on an XYZ plane and across time.

The introduction of these technologies also impacts designers across many industries, including interior design, architectural design and game design.

And even more…

While I touched on a couple of key approaches, developments and technologies and how they will impact and progress the future of digital design, the overall idea of technology is that the scope is all-encompassing, interconnected and ever changing and evolving.

From trends such as wearables to developments such as drone and robot technology, design will continue to play an increasing role in all fields as technology continues to value and prioritise users above all else.

Jason Gieng

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An open letter about my thoughts, learnings and life as a human-centred design thinker/user/maker. www.jsngng.io