Back in mid-2003, HOW Magazine contacted me to write about the “Future of Design.” The article was printed on page 160 of the October 2003 Issue of HOW, in a now defunct section called “Design Sign-Off.”
The reason for revisiting this article is because it was just pointed out to me that HOW Magazine just published an entire issue based on the topic of the “Future of Design.” In order to see how these ideas held up from 4 years ago, I've reprinted the article (along with an edited section that wasn't in the printed article which talks about virtual reality glasses).
Feel free to add your thoughts to this piece in the form of comments.
And away we go!
The New Pilgrims
Printed in HOW Magazine, October 2003
There's a monumental transformation occurring in our industry. The old agency models are being exorcised by new, innovative practices. The Internet hasn't gone away, it's just getting wiser. Communication lines are shorter as the Web transforms into a sharing environment rather than a one-way broadcast. The necessity of print media will be reduced by virtual reality and digital books, only to be maintained with a push from the design industry toward more sustainable practices and paper choices.
The days of the specialty Web shop are quickly ending. Before, a client's brand was dispersed from identity firm to Web studio to print agency until the original and all-important message was lost. Now, creatives are embracing video, print, sound and interactive media at the same time with the ultra-powerful "processing toolbox" that sits under their desks. The computer has given very small creative groups the agility to control every aspect of a client's precious identity, all with a noticeable lack of "packet loss" that occurred among specialty agencies.
With the new designer's mastery of the psychological aspects of interaction design and the ubiquity of broadband wireless connectivity, the Internet of the future will have to simplify for the masses. (Edited Copy from original article) – With a larger global audience, communication through VoiP Video Phones, or Reality-Enhanced glasses, allowing someone to maneuver through a busy city street with floating arrows indicating the direction to a desired location, or to know the names (and possibly dating status) of people they pass will be transmitted to the human retina from the glasses and appear to be floating in the space ahead while moving through the crowd. – (End Edited Copy from original article). The term "designer" will continue to expand into multiple disciplines and dimensions where we'll be expected to produce what we envision. This will occur not only in interactive experience and print, but in product design and architecture. Design's role in the world will become even more important, helping local audiences understand global issues and vice versa.
Electronic inks and digital books will provide a paper-like reading experience that lets users access information anytime, anywhere. Graphic designers will write, produce, direct and share films and video games, envision and build architectural monuments, and generate virtual landscapes for friends and family from multiple global locations to gather together. Where you live will be as important as your online "lair." Geography lessons will occur in Roman temples on Tuesday and in the virtual Congo on Thursday. In time, virtual and real worlds will blur and communities will populate, sustain and thrive: the new pilgrims in a very eclectic landscape.
Furthermore, the print industry must shift toward reusable papers and soy-based inks. The book Cradle to Cradle, by William McDonough & Michael Braungart, discusses sustainable materials that work naturally within our environment rather than damaging it. The design community must expect printers and paper mills to uses and produce polymer-based paper and printing processes that don't release toxins into our air, and must lobby the government to make these materials accepted and affordable to everyone.
As time goes by, the goal of a graphic designer will be to master and invent new forms of media, working in small collectives that will communicate with others. The Internet has already made it conceivable to set up channels that allow designers to share ideas. Watch what happens the day a designer in Singapore sends a logo for a music festival in Tokyo to a designer in Iraq who passes her thoughts to a designer in Arkansas. Imagine: The glorious global cross-pollination of ideas.
Dave Fletcher is a Founder and Creative Director of theMechanism, a maxi-media firm in New York City and London. He wrote extensively about “The Future of Design” in an October 2003 article in HOW Magazine, entitled “The New Pilgrims.”