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10 things for 2011

As we're only a few hours away from leaving the first decade of 00's behind, the predictions for the following year are all over the internet already. Following last year's predictions, here's some things to expect in the year 2011.

by Sami Niemelä Creative Director, Nordkapp

UPDATE: now including also the missing fifth piece. Thanks for our reader @sebastianwaters for pointing this out.

1. Connected, wearable electronics hit mainstream

On wearable electronics Nike+ was just the beginning. For example, see Mutewatch, Analarm or MMNML‘s incredibly successful Kickstarter project turning iPod Nanos into multitouch wristwatches. The next step is someone making these connected without wires. Even in mere consumer products, the possibilities are mind boggling.

2. Everything that can be connected will be.

On a larger scale, the EU Connected Smart Cities -initiative is about to prove that internet of things and urban informatics are becoming ready for their primetime. For a normal consumer, this means screens popping up everywhere and all kinds of sensor-based services messing and sometimes, over time more so improving their lives by making context-related information accessible in many places we never thought of before. This means also a whole bunch of design opportunities and there are indeed actors emerging in this field, such as Arup and Urbanscale, a New York-based venture we are proud to be associated with.


3. Finally, the true year of Mobile

In many western countries such as Finland, the wireless broadband is fast enough and more widely spread than cables or fibers. In tablet computers, 3G is becoming ubiquitous and the line between “computers” and “mobile devices” keeps on blurring. After a promising, hyped up few years, we predict 2011 will finally be the long-awaited year when portable/pocketable connected devices will become the integral part of the average consumers’ life, replacing desktop and laptop computers one by one.

The thing to note here is the the very definition of “mobile” keeps on shifting as more, varied platforms and devices enter the market. The internet consumption as a whole is moving towards mobility. What does this mean for designers, apart from the obvious challenges on developing single content for multiple sizes and fidelities? See the following;

4. Making meaning as a product

Someone said iPhone apps are the new homepage – you have one because the others do too. We predict 2011 will see more sense in the mobile business and developers release custom platforms that instead of just replicating print publications tap into your social graph and make something sensible out of it.

Following Flud, Flipboard and many others, there will be more players mashing up, aggregating and making sense of the vast content out there. We predict 2011 will see first second- or third level aggregators provided by both startups and corporates alike—because filtering and making pretty layouts based on your social graph’s content is just not meaningful enough. There are few players emerging already such as Finland’s own Futureful.


5. Book Publishing will never be the same again

The year 2011 will be a turning point for book publishers. In parallel to the glorified pdfs now turned into “iPad magazines”, the book publishers now have a chance of the lives to either follow the footsteps of the music industry (and fail miserably) or acquire a bit of breathing space by re-releasing their books to iOs and other platforms electronically. There is a third option as well, which will be for the bravest only — let go of control, embrace the social web and build new business models on top of it.

Why is this? As music industry as a whole has proven already, the attempts to control and lock people’s content are constantly failing. What matters instead is going back to the basics and delivering a quality product. What comes for putting your faith to a app on a single or multiple platforms, that doesn’t really work either. First movers had the advantage indeed, but now for example iTunes app store is becoming bloated with overwhelming selection already. See also Matthew Ingram’s post on Gigaom: If an App Is Your Content Strategy, You Are Doomed. People don’t like silos.

The third, winning option, is to play your cards right: embrace the open web and it’s instant, always-on nature. Have faith in people – if your content is good, money will change hands at some point. And most importantly, don’t be paranoid about allowing regular people, your users, to share, quote, and redistribute their purchases. Think of their efforts as a bonus for delivering interesting content and build your future success on top of this.

6. The New Materials of Interaction

The first working prototypes of nanotech touchscreens open up the flood gates to all kinds of interesting innovations. NFC and sensors will start their migration to become commonplace. For an interaction designer, these materials will be significant because someone has to interpret and make sense out of it all for people and businesses. For example, what is the service journey when the touchpoints are anything from buildings and city-scale interaction to screen-based services and predictive algorithms?


7. Technology fades to the background…

Ubiquitous / pervasive computing actually means what it says in the tin – tech gets embedded everywhere, and finally disappearing. The upside of this is that everything will be in the cloud, and very transparent. On the downside again, it will be even more frustrating if something does not work: it most probably means a silent box sitting in your shelf.

8. …And gets more important than ever

So here’s the kick for designers—While technology itself disappears, interaction with it can’t be avoided. This sets the bar quite high for products, services and especially designers shaping them. The world needs design more than ever, just to make sense of it all and make sure products and services are pleasant to use. The competition will be more harsh than ever, and products / service owners will have a single shot of launching after the public moves on to the next big thing.


9. Things will be physical again

Following the Post-digital movement started in 2009, cloud-based products and services are manifesting themselves on physical objects and artifacts. This time we’ll be wiser and avoid making landfills by either temporary, recycleable items such as receipts or more sustainable, connected products that are based on low denominators and conceptual ideas that won’t be old next year. One bit physical/digital interaction will be an essential part of this, as will re-using and recycling existing objects by adding digital components in them.


10. It’s all connected but not the way you’d think

In 2011, making successful products and services won’t be about just getting the word out— instead design will play more important role on actually thinking, concepting and making the products and services better, more meaningful, usable and enjoyable to use and consume. The social revolution has made everything immediate and transparent—and covering up mediocre product with lots of marketing just doesn’t cut it anymore.

At the same time, design thinking and doing is making its way in business world and this will continue giving design the credibility it deserves. While the flipside of this coin is that designers need to be more skilled than ever, and the entry to the field gets harder, the positive side and the potential is huge: There there will be a lot of interesting work ahead of us, on familiar and emerging opportunities are aplenty. Now—happy and prosperous new year 2011 to all of our readers, let’s get to work!

Somewhat related;

Image credits:
Lunatik: Minimal Design
Connected Cities: cc Gabriel Rocha on Flickr
Year of the Mobile: cc Blake Patterson on Flickr
Nook + New York Times cc Karen Horton on Flickr
Troika’s Kinetic Sculpture cc Anders Sandberg on Flickr
Under waterline cc Marcus Vegas on Flickr
Arduino Led Matrix cc Davis Mellis on Flickr
Change cc David Reece on Flickr


  1. Great list, thanks for sharing your thought. But where is #5?

  2. Nice list! Keep up!

  3. 23.12.2011 at 21:57
    Pingback: 10 things for 2012 | Nordkapp Blog
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