Design in Tech Report 2019 — post launch thoughts

The Design in Tech Report 2019 is now live

The fifth Design in Tech Report has officially launched and although the response has been positive, what I enjoy the most is reflecting upon what I probably should have put into the report. If you haven’t paged through it yet, I made an abridged version on the eve of the report for subscribers to my monthly briefing — it suffices as a “trailer” of what I cover in the report.

15-minute overview of the Design in Tech Report 2019

The report spans a total of six sections:

1) TBD = Tech × Business × Design

How do technology, business, and design interrelate in the startup and corporate ecosystems today?

Computational Design …

… works in a new Moore’s Law-fueled medium that is from an alien universe.

… makes big data. And that makes it need thick data to combat scaled biases.

… creates economic opportunity because it advances a valuable new kind of talent.

… needs to counterbalance itself with an emotional connection (i.e. art).

… is the most valuable kind of design right now in the technology industry.

Inclusive Design …

… works in an old-fashioned world that’s been excluding people for too long.

… fights big data (scaled biases) when making thick data — by going proximate.

… locates imbalances and opportunities to solve problems with those impacted.

… enrichens the critical depth of makers, pointing them to meaningful problems.

… is the most important kind of design right now in the technology industry.

2) About Design-___ Organizations

If design is in flux and it’s difficult for designers to understand, is that good for non-designers?

Designers generally excel at introverting together.

(👆 This makes them a little different than most devs. And a lot different from business folks.)

“The most successful design leaders are investing in personal growth, helping them scale themselves and their teams. They’re challenging assumptions about how organizations work and creating the way for more healthy, inclusive teams to thrive.” — Mia Blume
“Design Ops has become critical for medium and large product companies. But every kind of organization benefits from a horizontal role, specifically managing tools, workflows, processes, governance, critique and collaboration, end-to-end employee experience, cultural and inspirational activities, and much more. DesignOps is contextual work that improves aesthetic work, with the ultimate goal of making the business more efficient.” — Josh Silverman

We keep the “Four Planets” in mind at Automattic. It’s not easy.

3) Awesome Humans: Yes We Can

How do we move the conversation away from dystopia, and not to utopia, but to being present in the now most constructively?

There’s fear about AI’s future impact, but there’s creative hope too. A computational designer thinks critically about technology and its impact on people. Design makes what is hard, easier. And makes what is easier, memorable. So with all the dystopia and crises right now, I’d like to taste some signal instead of noise. I subscribe to Fred Kofman’s doctrine of Player versus Victim — so I’m not being a Polyanna. And I think I heard somewhere that, “Yes we can!”

Lyra / Symbol to speech app for children with autism.

Canvas / Indie film by Pixar animator Frank Abney III.

4) Three Tasty Trend Mixes

What do we sense is happening out there and how is it making us feel good (or bad) and more curious for the future?

Illustrations of the three trends are by artist Tony Ruth of popular BusinessTown Tumblr fame.

5) Yaaaaaaaaawn! Boring AI

When we consider how computation will enable everything and all things with us and without us, what’s left?

No action taken is the default defense

  1. Default DNS
  2. Default Network
  3. Default Browser
  4. Default Messaging
  5. Default Social Media
  6. Default Legislation
  7. Default Walled Gardens

Taking action requires an offense game

  1. Use a privacy-oriented DNS like Cloudflare
  2. Setup a VPN so your ISP can’t watch you.
  3. Surf with Brave or get Firefox extensions.
  4. Send secure messages via Telegram.
  5. Abstain from using social media.
  6. For all of its UX challenges, GDPR is cool.
  7. A few options:
“It’s not difficult to find examples of companies making questionable product decisions, especially when it comes to your data and privacy. There can be many reasons why the ethical design path is not chosen, but there is one common factor — there are people, such as managers, engineers, and/or designers, behind each choice.” — Holly Habstritt Gaal

6) Addressing Imbalance

Once we recognize exclusion from a historical perspective and a technological lens, what can we do about addressing it?

Illustrations of addressing imbalance are by artist Tony Ruth of popular BusinessTown Tumblr fame.

What I learned from this year’s report’s launch

My takeaways from this year is that next year’s report should cover a few things that I wasn’t able to cover — specifically stuff that spans a lot of non-AI topics. In that sense, I’m glad that I explicitly Marie Kondo’d my AI section and threw out 200 references I had intended to include. What will I cover next year? Stay tuned in eleven months from now! — JM

You can watch the entirety of the Design in Tech Report 2019 being delivered at SXSW on March 9, 2019 in Austin, Texas off of this YouTube link. Or you can browse the information quickly by starting here.