2017 Design in Tech Report

The 3rd “Design in Tech” report was published Saturday morning, in conjunction with John Maeda’s presentation at SxSW. While still in my pajamas in Ohio, I pulled up the slides to get to the good stuff, opened a #DesignInTech stream to see what the audience was saying, and did some on-the-fly tweets of thoughts that jumped out at me. I read Ken Yeung’s advance article and watched the live interview. My idea of a great Saturday morning.

Jackie Xu and John Maeda, being interviewed about the Design in Tech report

Now that it is Sunday, I have a chance to go over the report in more detail (zooming into the PDF version, for example), and provide a few comments. Get your own copy!

First, if you are not familiar with the Design in Tech report:

Disclaimer: I have no involvement in the report, I am just a fan. Their research has confirmed things I have been seeing over my career. I enjoy poring over the report, relating trends to my experiences, and digging into the references to get a deeper understanding.

Three perspectives on design

I like the framing of design from 3 different perspectives. There are a lot of people with art backgrounds in the “classic” camp. I have enjoyed working with them on teams, like at IBM, and dealing with the challenges on Slide 8. Business leaders trying to innovate and giving “design thinking” a shot is a great source of clients for strategic user experience consultants like me.

Computational design

The report’s use of “computational design” is different from the (building) architects’ definition: using digital tools to design physical objects. Not a problem, this happens all of the time and is needed as things diverge and converge over time.

John has started computationaldesign.org to push the explanation of “computational design” forward. I expect more there later.

And I love the pioneer historical context. Learn a little more about the 4 (female) pioneers: Gillian Crampton Smith, Red Burns, Joy Mountford, Muriel Cooper.

My favorite parts

There is so much in the report, I can only comment on some of the things that hit closest to home for me.

  • “No single, perfect design organization structure” reminded me of a book on my yet-to-crack-open shelf: Org Design for Design Orgs, Building and Managing In-House Design Teams, by Peter Merholz & Kristin Skinner.
  • More tools for inclusiveness, excellent. Microsoft Inclusive Design Toolkit & IBM Accessibility Handbook.
  • The recognition of the importance of findability and the “invisible” layer of information architecture, although focused on SEO benefits, was nice to see.
  • UX Design is a lot like writing” resonates a lot with me. While it is great that design schools are teaching writing, I am biased towards the opposite approach — start with writing, rhetoric and culture, then add in design and tech courses — after serving as the Experience Architect in Residence at Michigan State for a few years.
  • It was great to see an AIGA-sponsored survey that shows their “classical” design community is embracing digital. I joined AIGA in 2002 when it started to embrace experience design, left for a while when it was not interesting to me, then came back to engage local AIGA members and educators.
  • I am not an expert at UX & security, but one of my consulting partners, Darren Kall, is. I have learned a lot from Darren and have seen the “Help Wanted” postings, including being recruited to work at Ann Arbor security software companies. Not my cup of tea, but I sure hope other designers take it on so the world does not fall apart.
  • The themes of “accelerated learning” (at the beginning of the report) and “inclusiveness” (at the end) jive with the TechHire efforts. I see more blending of design and software engineering bootcamps on the horizon, for example, increasing the diversity of the workforce skilled in computational design for companies to hire.
  • There is a “small print” reference to Creative Power Day on the next-to-last slide that you might have missed. Check it out and do something on May 4th. I have already filled out the form to be contacted.

Background material & further reading

There are lots of great studies and articles referenced throughout the report. These are the ones on my list to skim and make sense of.

That’s it

That’s all I have for this weekend. I look forward to seeing what other people write about the report (as they discover it Monday morning and beyond). If you discover someone else’s reaction to the 2017 Design In Tech report, please add a link to it in the comments.

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