The 6 design trends John Maeda predicted in his State of the Union

Design in Tech Report 2017 cover image

Like Groundhog Day for designers, you know spring’s a comin’ when all-star designer John Maeda drops his state of the union — the 2017 Design in Tech Report. Slide decks may be a snooze, but this particular presentation will echo through tech for the next year, sneaking its way into founders’ fundraising pitches and other corners of Silicon Valley. It’s a 48 page presentation, so the Figma team pulled out our biggest takeaways and chatted with Maeda to get more color. You can check out the full video presentation here.

  1. Designer hiring sprees. Major corporations want more product designers than ever. In the last two years alone big companies acquired more than 35 design agencies. Facebook, Google and Amazon have hired 65 percent more designers in the past year. Why’s the demand happening now? “Because technology is so commoditized, anyone can make an app,” Maeda told us. “Now that you can do that, how does it make someone feel, how relevant is it to someone’s life? That’s more of a design question.”
Slide from Design in Tech Report 2017. Full deck here.

2. Design inclusion. Since tech has spread to the masses, design needs to be more inclusive of people with different backgrounds. Airbnb, Slack, Google, and Microsoft are leading the way.

3. Design schools lag. Education hasn’t kept up with the product design demand. Most schools still focus on classical design — ala print era typography — and don’t teach people how to design for web and mobile. More than two thirds of students surveyed said they had to teach themselves digital skills from outside curriculum like Lynda.com. Maeda doesn’t have much hope for design schools changing anytime soon. “They’ll evolve at the rate they’re designed to evolve, which is slow and deliberate,” he said.

4. Design-focused investing. Venture capital firms want to invest in design-focused companies and two VC firms are launching with that as their mission. The feeling is mutual — 80 percent of designers Maeda surveyed said they’d start a company if only they had the cash monie$.

5. More design tools. It’s still the Wild West in terms of product design tools, a fragmented landscape with a lot of different workflows. No one company has streamlined the process, although a lot are trying. We at Figma were happy to get a shoutout in the presentation. But Maeda cautioned designers against getting too excited about the proliferation of tools. “It’s important for every designer to notice the more these tools get sophisticated the machine intelligence opportunity grows,” Maeda said. “The need for designers will diminish.”

6. Other trends: The rise of voice interface designing (ala Alexa), the need for cybersecurity designers, the dominance of China in design.

Some of Maeda’s report is a bit aspirational, but it’s true that the future’s looking rosy for tech design. Now’s the time to be a product designer, hire one, or build a company for them. Perhaps the biggest challenge — aside from the education pipeline — is that no one has successfully united designers’ fragmented workflows. We’re chipping away at that at Figma, and given the flood of other new design tools, hopefully it’s just a matter of time.

At Figma, we’re amazed by the cool things people are doing across the product design community. We’ve decided to start highlighting those experiences, perspectives and untold stories in articles on our blog. For those new to us, we’re the first product design tool that’s based in the browser, giving people the opportunity to build apps and websites together in real time. Come check us out (and we’re hiring!).