Dream & Do

Design: Not just a pretty (inter)face

Tara SheltonComment

Having designers on board will increase your chance of success. Here’s why….

I’ve always been pretty happy about being a designer. Creating and designing solutions to everyday problems, creating identities and bringing brand personalities to life. A frequent question we asked as designers is “What is design?” and “What does a designer do?” For those who know very little about the industry, they would call it “the ones that make things look pretty”. The truth is that the industry has evolved itself into a whole new level where it encompasses a lot more than “things that look pretty”. Today there are digital designers, web designers, user experience designers (UX), user interface (UI) and many, many others. Design does not restrict itself to the aesthetics, it is now more concept-led and forward thinking than ever before.

As mentioned in one of our recent creative show and tells, a technology forecast company KPCB (one of Silicon Valley’s top venture capital providers) released the 2016 Design in tech trend forecast report on the industry. Why create such a report? The goal was to show the design eco-system, how it has evolved and what the prediction will be for the next year. It also mentions the increasing trend in M&A (Mergers & Acquisitions) activity in design, the adoption of design by public companies are growing. User experience matters a lot more in the current digital age and the impact of design contributes to the success of start-ups.

Reports from Gartner, Accenture, Deloitte, Temkin all indicate that user experience matters and especially digital experiences. 20 years ago, the early desktop wasn’t mobile. Compared to 20 years today, mobile users check their smartphones all the time and so the experience has to be engaging to grab the user’s attention. Gartner say that, 89% of companies strongly believe that customer experience will become their competitive edge by 2016, versus 4 years ago. Temkin says that people are

“6 times more likely to buy in to experiences that have emotional impact, 12 times more likely to recommend a company that has considered this aspect and 5 times more likely to forgive a mistake.” In other words, creative user experience and market relevance is crucial in gaging customers than ever before and will only increase in the near future.

According to last year’s findings, all of the predictions for 2016 all came true. M&A activity of design-led businesses is likely to grow, designer-led startups will have increased access to capital and design in venture capital is not about being pretty – it about relevance and experience.

42 design firms have been acquired since 2014, 50% of them were acquired in 2015 alone.  In the mix, there are tech companies, services such as Accenture and Deloitte & bankssuch as CommBank, with the bulk of the companies were in the services sector.

Last year 36% (9 out of 25 such as Airbnb, Pinterest) of the top venture-backed startups had designer co-founders. 21% of “unicorn” (one of a kind startups such as Airbnb, Square, Buzzfeed, Pinterest , Shazam) across all section have co-founders who have embraced design or come from a design, arts or human centred background including architecture, design, music, visualisation, fine arts and media arts.

So the report has a 5 year prediction for the design industry. The first is the influx of design into top services companies through M&A activity, which means that designers will have great access and creative input to executive board. Secondly, we‘ll see more designers becoming partners at VC firms, and even starting their own venture funds. Lastly, the general word “design” will need to change in meaning, because it means too many things. John Maeda categorises the meaning of design in 3 different designs – classical, design thinking & computation design.

Classical design is characterise all you can see – include communicational design (graphic, visual communication), fashion, architectural, Industrial. Design thinking is the underlying functions, emotive design such as user experience, the finer details of website or app – designing for giant websites such as Facebook and Google. Lastly, we have computational design - which is the technological realm – the system which supports our current digital experiences.

At the moment, there is an increased interest in these 3 fields of design and acquiring the combination of the three will more likely to deliver a more relevant and successful business in the current digital age. The world has finally recognised the importance of creativity and the ability to evolve and change.

Change can be nerve racking, but for designer it cannot be more exciting time. When your job is to constantly think and create new, undiscovered experiences, it is pretty satisfying to know that your creativity is being acknowledged.

Written by Rachel Chu
Designer & Illustrator @ Dream & Do