What do these traits have in common? They belong to the designer of the future, according to a panel of experts gathered at frog Amsterdam in February to discuss the future designer.
The panel included Thorsten Jankowski, UX Lead at Volkswagen Group IT, Michiel Schwarz, design thinker and author of “The Sustainist Design Guide”, Elisa Giaccardi, Professor of Interactive Media Design at TU Delft, and Dave Benach, Global Talent Acquisition at frog.
After the lively debate and Q&A, the attendees then took action by designing the LinkedIn profiles of imagined designers from the future (Marty McFly, anyone?). The panel gravitated toward 6 traits that define the designer of the future.
Though designers often get lost in the details, Benach felt that they need to move beyond that as their responsibilities change. “It’s not just about designing an standalone tool. You have to be able to elevate beyond the level you are currently working at and understand how that effort will integrate in the system you are working within,” he said.
Jankowski, who leads a lean team of designers within an IT organisation said, “My definition of a designer will not be someone who is giving form using design methodology, but also a tech guy, an IT guy.” The disciplines are overlapping as we head into a time when tools allow us to see products and services go from idea to reality in less time than ever.
Giaccardi pointed to a division in required skills for designers, depending on the environments in which they find themselves. “The few students I supervised go to a large company thinking ‘I want to make an impact’ but when they write about the experience, they say “I learned that it’s really about compromising, and understanding stakeholders,’ so it’s a different set of skills that they require.” Other students have a clearer idea of what they want to produce. “So those students that have burgeoning ideas, that are just ahead of the pack, we encourage them to go out on their own.” She encourages incubation for students who have great ideas.
The ability to prototype came up repeatedly as a necessary skill. By doing so, designers bring ideas to life, said Giaccardi. “There is a perception that students spend too much time on research,” she said. Therefore we need tools that “help them make that leap.” Benach agreed. It’s important, he said, to focus on “closing down your brain and starting to think with your hands.”
“Design is not just about creating the dots,” said Schwarz. “It’s about connecting the dots, therefore design is becoming about designing relationships.” The shift also moves in the direction of solving meaningful problems that create real change. “Scaricity of resources, ageing populations, shifting economic centres will see designers taking on real challenges that will have real purpose and impact,” said Benach. “rather than iterative improvements on existing products or yet another mobile app that allows you to catalogue the beer you had last night.”
Schwarz pointed to the shift from ideas and output being a proprietary thing, to something that is created with the purpose to be shared — open-source work being a key example of this change in thinking. “Design(ing) a product to be shared is a new concept,” he said. Design is entering a new focus on the social and ecological. “The 20th century is the century of technology, of engineers. I’m convinced that the 21st century is the century of the designer.”
Are you ready?