Design sector - Visions and desired future scenarios

Last updated 13. July 2016 by admin

The second year Design data markedly expanded upon the first year data in terms of the breadth of design sub-sectors involved, and the depth and detail of foresight. The design sector is diverse, ranging from product and industrial designers to homeware and clothing design, urban and interior, digital, user experience, and service design. While a broad range of designers were interviewed, it is important to note that the visions and desires of private sector designers have been somewhat better represented in the research than public sector designers.


Integrated 3D Advancement Across the Design Lifecycle

There was a strong desire for the integration of 3D visualization, design, and fabrication technologies from product-oriented design sub-sectors. This broader vision brings together a number of different commonly expressed needs and frustrations:
A. The lack of software integrating the entire design lifecycle
B. Limitations of 3D printing technology, including accessibility
C. Limitations of 3D visualization and design software

The increasing disconnection of disparate technologies supporting different stages of the design process was seen as a potential threat. The product-oriented design process in particular may employ commercial tools ranging from Sketch to Photoshop, Illustrator, Rhino, Cinema 4D, 3D StudioMAX, and SOLIDWORKS. As these diverse platforms continue to develop, lack of integration across the design lifecycle may pose an increasingly large problem, which should be addressed.
As technologies at the creation, visualization, and fabrication stages are evolving three dimensionally, their integration will become more important and yield greater benefits. There is strong interest in advances in 3D modeling to improve the 3D representation of design ideas. This may include innovations such as a more advanced 3D interface for the design of 3D-printed objects, and improved representation technologies—3D “screens” or alternate representation media are still underdeveloped.

There is significant interest in continuing the application of Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies to visualize and present projects/products to potential users before development. But the inadequate capacity of current modeling applications to approximate the feeling of an object—touch, material, diffusion of light—is also seen as a major issue.
The potential to develop more accessible versions of modeling tools developed for industrial designers presents a major opportunity area. Technologies such as pro-engineer SOLIDWORKS, Cinema 4D, and 3D StudioMAX tend to be very expensive to access and difficult to learn. More accessible extensions enabling other types of designers to create 3D worlds—enabling the situation and storytelling of designs within them—could be beneficial to creation, visualization, and modeling of other types of products and services.
There is also a desire for better interface between fabrication technologies like CNC machines and the 3D design environment. And of course, the realization of this broader vision would also involve the unanimously acknowledged need for improvement in the quality, variety, durability, inter-mixture, and compatibility of materials that may be used with fabrication/prototyping technologies like 3D printers.
Critically, 3D printing technology must become much more accessible if this vision is to be realized. A focus on democratization and mass access is key, not just in terms of the technology itself, but the type of facilities through which it is being made available. Public sector designers and independents or those in small studios are not able to access these tools, while digital and user experience designers tend to have less interest in 3D printing.

New Interfaces for Creation

This vision area overlaps with the previous one in the core assertion that the interfaces currently available for designers to interact with software at the creation stage are insufficient. The most frequently cited need was for sketch to reality capabilities. Numerous experts discussed the lack of technological substitute for sketching ability. Combined with a direct translation tool, this type of development would be very useful. One problem raised is that digital outputs are very precise, and so can loose much of art and intuitive-ity of design. Secondly, we currently lack the ability to easily translate a sketch to a tactile creation or prototype. As an example, one designer envisages being able to transition from a sketch to machine cutting a foam block to enable swift model production —all through a simple, intuitive, interface not involving a keyboard.
Further visions for new interfaces also focused on the idea conceptualization phase. There were strong desires for the ability to use hands to create and edit, and a shift from the mouse to haptics and sensors. There is an interest in intuitive haptic and mind-controlled tools, with a sentiment that simplicity is key to success in this area.


Designing Social Innovation

There is strong desire for social innovation to be the core focus for the future of the design sector. There is a clear sentiment that technology should function as a means-to-end in support of wider societal goals. Design experts consistently emphasized the importance of focusing the design thinking approach on societal problems and goals, rather than creating an excess of new, potentially wasteful products.
The Design sector is shifting to be more concerned with the public sector, service design, systems design, and user experience, so the needs of these subsectors will be increasingly important to the future of the design sector as a whole designers envisioned a new era of co-created strategic transformations including specific visions for the areas of:

  • Education, social housing, and mobility
  • Healthcare: co-designing future healthcare services to tackle the single biggest challenge that western society faces (our growing older population and the health care crisis that will accompany it), through a redefinition of the user/provider relationship and application of data aggregation.
  • Environmental impact and accountability software to help monitor the energy used to produce new products, product lifecycle, recyclability, and greater understanding of material value to extend lifecycle and reuse rather than demolition.
  • Digital sustainability for cultural heritage and information access, including the improvement of internet search capacities, and digital information repositories for the research/analysis phase of the design process.

User-Centred Design Tools

There is a need to leverage new and existing technologies for user research applications. Built environment and service designers in particular desire greater access to technologies to monitor daily behaviour, collect feedback, and use data to inform design outcomes. This vision included the overall concerns that technology should assist rather than guide the creative process, as well as the notion that tools should become more invisible, intelligently and inconspicuously reacting to our needs. There is also a desire for greater ability to turn off and have privacy. Further desires included slower obsolescence of software platforms, and more customizable, modular tools to be used in composing other tool sets.

Collaboration and Connection Platforms

The desire for new approaches to collaboration and connectivity was one of the most widespread. This need is driven both by the physically dispersed nature of teams and value chains, as well as the increasingly peripatetic nature of collaboration in the growing “Gig Economy”.
There is a pressing need for greater basic connectivity tools, such as reliable and affordable conference calling technology. Greater connectivity might also include a wearable personal server, enabling dependable, cloud-based access to all one’s data.
Designers—especially in areas like User Experience and Digital—report that remote story-mapping capabilities are not yet good enough to replace face to face working sessions. There was a specific desire for a physical, transportable, cloud–connected digital whiteboard, storing and transmitting data between distributed teams. Visions for new collaboration approaches included ideas such as a common desk for companies within extended value chains; temporary, project-based shared workspaces, and integrated software applications allowing teams to share and exchange while maintaining individual work.
There was particular interest in tools to facilitate dialogue between designers and new teams/collaborators/clients at the beginning of a project: to integrate one’s personal ‘work algorithm’, into a team more quickly. There was also a related desire for technology helping to interpret between collaborators in real time: translating between actual linguistic barriers or the language silos of different disciplines and cultures.


There was clear and widespread need for knowledge, training, and other “SocialWare” to accompany technological development. Many experts report that their fellow designers are open to new technologies with potential to improve their work, but become easily overwhelmed by the fast pace and complexity of technological development.
Visions included a role for “techno-design managers” to serve as intermediaries between ICT business and design, as well as knowledge repositories to find and use new technologies, new business, models and collaborative value chains, joint workgroups, and the creation of a new creative technology discipline in education.

Open Design

There is an anticipation that new technologies will democratize design by lowering cost and increasing the accessibility of creative production. This is expected to involve more co-creation; more fluid ways to find collaborators and build partnerships; open blueprints for design artifacts; and open platforms, with which people can interact, customize, and personalize services. There is enthusiasm about the potential of open-source platforms, but also criticism that many open tools do not currently provide viable solutions. Commercial tools are typically seen to be more usable and provide better cross-platform integration

Translation Tools Between Front- & Back-End Processes

The desire for better translation between front-end and back-end design processes presents another interesting area for development. This need was expressed by a relatively small but technologically advanced subset of designers working across areas such as distributed transport services, windfarm management software, and innovative energy use feedback technologies. These designers expressed a desire for technologies allowing engineers and designers to experiment with new software programs in the same format. In applications like the windfarm software scenario, engineers first build in Excel or MATLAB, and interaction designers must then rebuild the technology from scratch in a more usable and commercially viable format.
There is a related and compelling desire for a high-quality visual programming interface, which would enable quicker development of the software component of prototyping for applications like physical computing or energy monitor examples. This would significantly speed up the process of developing and iterating prototypes.

This vision was further elaborated with the concept of an algorithm sensing tool, which would allow designers to more easily understand the algorithms that sit beneath design—the connection between interfaces and the deep technology driving the experiences. This tool would ideally model and help relate the abstract project concepts and goals with the actual requirements, features, and research.


Modeling Complex Systems

The desire for technologies to model complex systems shares some similarities with the vision for an algorithm sensing tool. While there are a number of systems mapping tools in the market, they tend to be technology lead and do not do a good job of modeling human relationships, activities, and interactions.
Service designers in particular envision systems mapping tools that are dynamic and useful for modeling relationships between elements such as infrastructure in given city, as well as different types of people, communities, local governmental services, and technological factors.
There was also interest in developing complexity modeling around a mixture of Artificial Intelligence & programming systems for algorithms. There is a need to rethink how to model these complex intelligent systems, because there is currently no way of designing around them apart from playing out scenarios—a process which is not quick enough. The vision proposed for this issue is to better design with intelligence itself—to find ways to make AI and the algorithms that drive it more tangible to manipulate. This was considered by some as one of most important issues for the design industry to tackle in terms of developing new tools at the moment. 

Key Future Trajectories

 Integrated Design Lifecycle 3D Advancement

  • More accessible affordable 3D printing technology and facilities
  • General integration and translation capabilities across design lifecycle
  • Integration of 3D advancements from creation to visualization and fabrication: i.e. better interface between CNC machines and 3D design environment
  • Develop more accessible versions of modeling tools such as SOLIDWORKS and Cinema 4D, and 3D StudioMAX, enabling non-industrial designers to model and storymap their creations in 3D environment
  • Continued application of VR and AR to visualization and modeling with enhanced approximation for feeling/haptic sense, photorealism of actual material
  • Screens (potentially 3D) that better approximate final look and form
  • Rethinking 3D printing materials in terms of quality, variety, durability, inter-mixture, and compatibility

New Interfaces for Creation

  • Sketching input to more closely approximating artistry of hand-drawing
  • Sketch to reality capabilities: simply transform sketch input to 3D model output
  • Simple intuitive, haptic, and mind-controlled (electroencephalographic) interfaces for creation and editing
  • Moving away from reliance on mouse and keyboard

Designing Social Innovation

  • Crucial need to focus on design thinking approach and design/user research in technological development across the board
  • Leverage design thinking to tackle imminent need to co-design future of healthcare services, education, public housing, and mobility
  • Environmental impact and accountability software for products and built environment projects
  • User-Centred Design Tools
  • Leverage new and existing technologies for user/design research
  • Desire for technology to become more invisible and allow for greater privacy
  • More customizable, modular tool sets

Collaboration and Connection Platforms

  • Reliable, affordable conference calling
  • Remote story-mapping tech good enough to replace face-to-face meetings
  • Physical, cloud–connected digital whiteboard, storing and transmitting data between distributed teams
  • Personal, cloud-based server connected to a wearable such as a watch
  • Tools to facilitate dialogue between designers and new team/collaborators/clients at beginning of project
  • Real-time translation tools for linguistic, cultural, and disciplinary barriers
  • SocialWare
  • Investment in knowledge, training, and support staff to accompany technological development
  • Development of new roles such as ‘Techno-Design Managers’ and ‘Head of Customer Success’, as well as new creative technology disciplines in education
  • New business models and collaborative value chains

Open Design

  • Open blueprints for design artefacts
  • Further develop open tools and platforms to be more user-friendly, commercially viable, and have better cross-platform integration
  • Bridging Technologies: Front- to Back-End Translation Tools
  • Technologies allowing engineers and designers to experiment with new software programs in the same format
  • APIs offering additional features to bridge between involved apps and offer more refined ways of controlling data
  • A high-quality visual programming interface, along the lines of a plugin such as Scratch (MIT media Lab)
  • Algorithm-sensing tool relating abstract project concepts with actual requirements, features, and research

Modeling Complex Systems

  • System mapping tools which better model human relationships, activities and interactions
  • Developing complexity modeling around a mixture of Artificial Intelligence & programming systems for algorithms

Interactive, Responsive Environments and Textiles

  • Innovative textiles with properties such as temperature adaption, self-maintenance, emotive adaption, and microfibers, embedded or integrated with solar panels, LEDs, or integrated circuits
  • Applying technologies to the design of a playful and interactive urban realm: multi-touch-screens/walls, wearable technology, augmented reality, transparent and flexible screens, mobile devices, and light/sound/touch-sensitive technologies.


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