1. Design as a process
In 2006, the UK’s Design Council published their seminal paper on Transformation Design. Somehow things kept bubbling under the radar for a few years, but slowly design started to catch up. Meanwhile service design and UX had brought the holistic, human centered thinking into into the collective design consciousness, and year 2009 saw Design Thinking in the limelight. 2010 will be quite interesting as design-led thinking keeps on penetrating in both business and technical development, and sometimes even shaping whole organizations, institutions and governments in a new, design-centered form. If you’re in marketing, you should be aware of the impact of transmedia storytelling will have on your work. If not, get busy with it.
2. Rise of design generalists
Architect Eero Saarinen noted that designer should always resonate with the next larger context. As one could’ve read between the lines on previous theme, designers today tackle problems far beyond mere artifacts or even services, the larger context becomes more challenging to grasp. Keeping this in mind, design matures to seniority in the sense that it keeps on addressing the several different interaction within a system and hence, its boundaries as a whole. Design tools such as service journeys and experience maps address this level already, but in order to fully grasp the potential, design teams themselves need to involve different types on people. These people should possess great design skills but also understanding of lateral thinking, even to a degree where they see themselves as generalists. Of course there will always be specialists, but design as a process needs both narrow but deep experts and wide-reaching empathic polymaths. Intelligent, curious and open minded people who are three-week experts on most pre-narrowed topics.
For example, when reaching into humanist sciences such as sociology beyond the surface requires training and experience. At the same time, when sociology is brought to the context of design practice, sociologists themselves need to understand design as well. They don’t have possess design skills, but understanding how design works is essential. In design itself, interaction designers are already the de facto design generalists, and like all other designers, need to understand the human needs as well, and act as a filter for various kinds of inputs from research to vision to business. As design practice in particular is reaching towards more important strategic role, the role of a individual designer as a catalyst will become even more important.
3. End of control
It should be pretty obvious by now that the internet has changed everything. And the change will only get faster and more vicious to the industries left behind. On a personal level, this is not that significant as most people are more than well of with a Facebook account, and possibly LinkedIn for the internet-savies. But if you’re in the business of running a company, things get very different. Now the people are in charge, and make no mistake, your brand is what they think it is. Not what you claim it to be.
Regarding content industries things will get interesting. For example, while in Finland the local media companies are busy suing TV-Kaista, Swedish service Voddler is about to launch a Spotify-like streaming video service in Finland as well. The industry is changing, and it will be exciting to see who are the ones prepared to embrace the change and who will get left behind.
4. Post-point and click interactions
At this stage it’s not really a question whether the rumored Apple device gets released or not, but the storm that has been built around. Last year saw the release of different kind of netbooks such as Litl, Nokia Booklet 3G, light operating systems such as Jolicloud and Google Chrome OS and 2010 will see many more. Squeezable mobile devices? You got it. Magic wand as a remote control for your tv? Oh yeah. Neural interfaces? Just $299, my friend.
It’s pretty clear interaction and especially web browser is far off from being tied into a form factor of something called “a computer”. Multitouch and gestural interaction guarantees also that the “computers” are just not for geeks anymore— for further evidence, just hand out your iPhone to a 6-year old kid or your grand dad. Oh and did I mention that Amazon’s most gifted item *ever* was Kindle on this christmas? And what comes to Apple, they most probably are onto something big again.
5. Ubiquitous computing
So this is where the things will get super exciting. The year 2009 saw Russell Davies coining the term Post Digital where internet turns around and penetrates physical objects. This co-incided this with the rise of sensors (almost) to mainstream, and Arduino, Pachube et al will keep on providing designers and technologists alike tools to prototype, hack, and visualize the ambient data in ways we’re just about to realize the potential of.
As our friend Adam writes, everything will have an IP address and it will happen sooner than you think. In-eye bionic interfaces? Almost there. Large scale touchscreens? Yes. And when we start pulling all these together, it’ will be magic. Besides, Google is laying the groundwork already.
6. Play and social gaming
While location was all the craze in 2009 already, last year saw the also rise of services such Loopt, Gowal.la and Foursquare into the mainstream. For you not familiar with these, they are websites and mobile applications that build a reputation system around real world places. For example, in Foursquare you can become the Mayor of your favorite coffee shop until someone else checks in at the same place more than you. This encourages play and digital meritocracy on real world locations. Other examples include for example geo-caching.
7. Design for people, not just users
Forget users, forget useless focus groups and fluffy market studies. The real innovation lies in combining technical advances with real latent needs of real people. Of course, the future will be mostly unpredictable, there will always be black swans, but at least part of it will be made by the pioneers. And the beauty of it all is that design-led innovation doesn’t always need to be revolutionary. A lot of times, evolution is more than enough. For Bank of America, their Keep the Change-program made more than $1.8b in customer savings while finding an untapped behavior in the existing system.
8. Aggregation, aggregation, aggregation
In 2010, having just “feeds” or even “real time web” is just not enough. Information on the internet is growing exponentially, and while major services such as Facebook are taking first step on curating the social graph, there’s a huge need for simplicity in terms of content. One of the biggest reasons this hasn’t done yet is because it’s not easy. At all. There are several companies providing services or APIs on mapping the social graph itself, and a few attempts on social curation in general. While the notion of aggregation is not exactly new by itself, my bet(and hope) is 2010 will be the year we see the first major services in the mainstream.
Photo credit: Oberazzi on Flickr