what I'm reading

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading a lot more than I typically do. Because the internets are all about sharing, maybe I should share some of my finds, complete with notes. This week, let’s talk about the future. I predict that by 202x, we’ll be able to write notes in the margins of websites. Not just the Kindle-app version of notes to ourselves, but notes like we might find in library books… Because that isn’t asking for any type of online abuse at all…..

“The Future of Design (and how to prepare for it),” by Matt McCue and Kiana St. Louis provides key insights from industry visionaries for what design will become in the next 10-ish years. The article starts by stating that designing for the future, or even defining the future of design, is a challenge in that technology is in constant flux. The authors point to contemporary mobile technologies as an example, as more and more businesses build digital strategies with these devices in mind first, whereas they would not have done so even 5 years in the past. “Quickly evolving tools… and a shifting playing field make it almost impossible to predict the future, because the gadget that will drive our lives in 10 years probably hasn’t even been invented yet.” McCue and St. Louis further go on to define how design careers are changing, in that most designers today are focusing on more hybrid positions (designer/computer programmer) than specialized or singularly focused discipline tracks. This implies that many of the positions needed in the future might not be imaginable today, given the current state of flux we find the design profession undergoing.

But recognizing that they alone cannot determine the future of design, McCue and St. Louis spoke with a number of design visionaries, asking their insights into what the future of design might look like. Comments ranged from “The definition of ‘design’ will loosen up,” to “3D printing will continue to grow in importance,” to “the public sector will need more problem solvers,” and many places in between. While a couple of contributors commented upon up and coming technological implications, the core overriding ideas discussed had a more revolutionary theme: regardless of what technological advances may come, the days of designers toiling alone on the sidelines, focusing solely on their specialization, answering to corporate demands rather than aiding in guiding corporate visions, are gone.

According to the visionaries, within the next five to ten years, design and business will live hand in hand, with each feeding off of the other equally. Creative thinking will become far more pervasive in the workplace, as specialists from multiple fields work together to find more appropriate solutions to normal, day to day problems. Single-minded focus will fall away, as will the idea of starting and ending a career within a single firm or specialization. Cross-disciplinary teams will take the lead, and the designer as entrepreneur will take center stage. In other words, creativity, teamwork, and diversity within your design skill sets will be key—even over mastery of 3D printing and virtual reality. 

In an article summarizing a relatively recent EdSurge conference, Charlie Chung called attention to a few of the presentations’ key points. These included the following:

Suzanne Gibbs Howard, IDEO U—The world is in a constant state of change and in need of “those who generate new ideas with the path is unclear.” To help create these creative problem solvers, IDEO U bases its curriculum on the idea that “teaching creativity is not a linear activity…” 

Candace Thille, Stanford Open Learning Initiative—Recent research in the cognitive sciences has helped Ms. Thille develop a more personalized learning experiences. 

Marco Molinari, Educational Effectiveness at UC Davis—Mr. Molinari discovered that traditional faculty are hesitant to take on new teaching models, but teaching assistants are not. He used this information to explore ideas of improving the learning experience for students.

Jonathon Katzman, Minerva Project—Building a new university, Katzman realized they could not predict the future, but knew all future jobs would need practical knowledge. A sa result, they developed their curriculum to focus on creative thinking, critical thinking, effective communication, and effective interaction.

Bridget Burns, University Innovation Alliance—The UIA works with a number of universities to “support students of all family backgrounds to succeed in (a) university…” To do this, they help establish collaborations between universities that help meet the needs of the students. Ms. Burns points to three key insights behind their work/success: (1) ask questions before diving into a solution; (2) tap into empathy as a means of connecting with people; and (3) spend time on project management to make sure things get done.