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Designers predicting the future…

Listening to 19 designers, educators and business people predicting the future made for an interesting Saturday morning. We were at Adapt or Die 2020, an event hosted by AGDA NSW as part of VIVID Sydney.

There were lots of great ideas around a few common themes: taking control of your own brand, the importance of creativity in a technological-heavy world, utilising technology to work smarter (and not the other way around) and the value of a good network.

Here’s some highlights.

Michelle Traylor of MamaTray predicts the end to being ‘offline’ because we will continually be linked to data by our clothes and jewellery. That makes our individuality and creativity even more important because it’s those traits that will stop us appearing to be clones.

To Charbel Zeaiter of Velvet Onion, the future centred on taking control of yourself and your life by using technology well.  On his wish list was a home surrounded by a technology grid that allowed him to ‘jam digital devices’ so guests were forced to be ‘in the moment’ at his dinner parties.

Charbel predicted that the speed of technology would mean instant rewards. Learning will be by rapid mastery because we will be able to ‘think/create/test’ so quickly.

The continuous learning circle will lead to us asking not who am I but why am I?  We will all need a purpose, and a brand to market ourselves.

Emma Markezic is a journalist, columnist and comedian. She believes there will be so many ideas available that most of us will be curating rather than creating. A barter system will be the means to swap skills, making it important that ideas have value.

Mark Simpson, from Sixty 40, is an animator best known for creating the Short Film Festival. To him, where we are now is not a lot different to how things have been in the past: ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’. His take home point was that to get the best from networking, we have to stop being precious. ‘We should all be our worst critics’ he said. Embrace it, and if you can’t do it, find a network that can do it for you. Good criticism is the key to good collaboration.

Andy Wright from R/GA forecasted that the lines between creativity and technology will blur as ‘connected creativity’ changes the way we work. He believes that creatives are the masters of their craft, and that can make it difficult to adapt. Successful creatives will need to learn and relearn. The speed of creation will lead to immediate and possibly devastating critiques and projects will become ‘endless’ as the go through many iterations.

Simon Lusty saw 2020 through the eyes of a recruiter. As head of Aquent, his advice was for designers to take responsibility for their careers by building a sustainable personal brand through continuous learning. (It would be remiss of us not to shamelessly plug the DESIGN BUSINESS COUNCIL workshops/e-courses/mentoring – click here for more information).

For Richard Curtis, CEO of FutureBrand, it’s all about language. In fact, he stated there is a new word created every 98 seconds. Using emoji’s as an example, Richard predicts that language will move beyond letters and numbers.

One of his most interesting observations is that at the same time we are trying to make machines more human (think robots), we are making humans more machine-like (think google glasses). Either way, technology will mean we can all do things much quicker, and data previously perceived as boring is now visible in everything we do (think Nike bracelet).

Jason Little (AGDA NSW) said what we all know, that aesthetic design is irrelevant and a worthless commodity because it can be done quicker, faster and bought cheaper somewhere else. By contrast, ideas will always be relevant. He predicts that designers will be working for technologists and, agreeing with most of the other speakers, our value will be our creativity and the ability to collaborate successfully.

Sha-mayne Chan is a designer working at Alive Mobile, an organisation that works with business to use technology to make work great. She sees a future where work and play will be combined to just become living.

To do that we will need to focus on people (she observes a lot of zombies in the workforce, they look alive on the outside, but they are dead on the inside); simplify technology (make it easier to work with technology rather change to accommodate a system) and give power to people so they can own their work and bosses can act as mentors rather than bosses.

Linda Jukic (Hulsbosch) quoted a futurist named Jim Dator in saying that 2020 will be an ‘era of imagination’. She agreed with others about the importance of collaboration but interestingly listed a number of people, like Einstein, that successfully worked independently.

She saw a future of idea hubs, where skilled managers worked with a network of bespoke teams. The result could be a network of people with a range of different skills, choosing with whom they want to want to work and when.

The three key skills she thought necessary in 2020 were conceptual, agile, and adaptive.

The main theme of Chantal Manning-Knight’s (Cloak & Dagger) presentation was the importance of the ‘pitch’.

Chantal sees life as a pitch and meetings as theatre where those with the best pitch win. Without a good pitch, the best idea is nothing, so sales may become leaders of a team. Like others, she saw design as one part of a never-ending project where fast is the new good and we would all have to excel at relationship-building to be successful.

Gerhard Bachfischer is a lecturer at UTS School of Design and he was the only speaker to suggest that it may not all be about skills.

Gerhard predicts that a successful business in 2020 will need to hire sustainably (which means being able to retain the right person); use innovative technology suited to the person doing the work (a common theme) and understand that fewer hours does not necessarily mean poorer service.

Bonnie Abbot, editor of Desktop does not see print as dead, but more as enduring ephemera. In her view, print demands conviction and therefore has to justify it’s existence whereas digital is the new disposable.

It was all food for thought, and reinforced a lot of what we know. Personal brands are as important as corporate, and a path continuous learning is imperative to keep relevant in a changing market.



VIVID Sydney