But the design experts we talked to–from companies such as Microsoft, Google, Ideo, and Forrester–offer a glimmer of hope. As they look forward to 2019, they agree on one thing: The cold, corporate thinking that has defined the business world over the past several years doesn’t jive with how people want to live. In 2019, people will be more than mere data points; it’s a designer’s job to make sure of it. Here are nine key design predictions for 2019.
We’ll focus on focus
“Design has journeyed into uncharted territory. The impact of technology is more strongly felt than ever and at scales never seen before—some of it positive, but much of it negative. We’re distracted, depressed, and overwhelmed. The digital experiences that were once fun, delightful, and helpful now feel like a burden; an always-on state that we hope to escape.
“In 2019, I believe design needs to be the answer to that escape. We need to take a hard look in the mirror and hold ourselves accountable to the unintended consequences of rapid innovation. Do we need 1 million new apps a year? Do we need to design for constant engagement? Do we need to live in the corners of Dark UX? We do not. We need to be more intentional and design experiences that support cognitive sustainability for individuals, groups, and society. It’s time now for designers to take on this ethical responsibility. The biggest design trend will be a return to mindfulness and focus.” —Albert Shum, corporate VP of design, Microsoft
People (and products) will do more with less
“Fueled by the recent IPCC special report, natural disasters demonstrating the severity of human-caused climate change, and a lack of action by the U.S. government, apparel brands and consumers will take action. Consumers will be more aware of the negative effects of overconsumption and more people will aim to reduce their wardrobes to fewer items. Brands will design better products and invest in sustainability and circularity. Patagonia and H&M are just two examples of that.
“Product design will become more conscious, and designers will design for quality and longevity, as opposed to trends. Consumer insights will be leveraged to design with the customer in mind from the get-go in order to reduce overproduction. A focus on functionality, comfort, and great design will provide garments with greater versatility. Apple has led the way in technology in simplifying products while increasing their performance, and similarly in fashion, companies will focus on simplicity and removing excess details, while increasing the poetry. Beautiful design will give customers a feeling of delight and joy for the fewer pieces they own. In spite of owning fewer things, individuals will do more, and so will the clothing they wear.” —Nina Faulhaber and Meg He, cofounders, ADAY
IoT will leave the house
“While cool IoT products continue to enter our homes, the dream of truly connected homes with products from fridges to lights talking to each other to make our lives more convenient, safe, and fun, remains just that—a dream. Engineering degrees are still required to make disparate products work together.
“In 2019, Forrester believes that IoT is poised to make a much bigger impact in our lives at work and around town, with 85% of companies implementing or planning to implement IoT solutions. Municipalities are already exploring how IoT solutions can make cities safer and more efficient by implementing connected lighting, parking systems, and even trash cans. Smart manufacturing helps companies increase their production levels while creating higher-quality products. Smarter supply chains will ensure there’s more visibility into where products are and if they’re in the correct condition—even helping ensure our food is safer. Devices ranging from elevators to turbines can signal when they need maintenance, before they break. The list goes on. IoT will continue to make an impact in nearly every industry including healthcare, retail, agriculture, and more. However, it is critical to address increased security risks driven by the fragmented array of connected devices, sensors, and infrastructure necessary to enable IoT solutions in enterprise, consumer, and city environments.” —Michele Pelino, analyst, Forrester
Cities get the data
“We are living through the greatest period of urbanization, and demographic and climate changes in world history. More than 1 billion people will be added to global cities by 2030. Designers must rethink and reinvent how people experience every aspect of their lives and become a driving force behind resilient, more livable cities. While tech product and service companies have enjoyed huge successes, the same agility and investment have mostly eluded the built environment. This is about to change. According to a recent report from Re:Tech, investments in real estate technology by venture capital firms reached nearly $13 billion in 2017. New materials, mobility, robotics, sensors, AI, and data platforms will pave the way for new and agile design approaches. The next phase of architecture will shift from creating places that last, to designing user-centric, innovation-ready, and highly adaptive spaces that learn and change in real-time for continuous evolution, sustainability, and performance.” —Hans Neubert, global lead of digital experiences, Gensler
“Cold,” “efficient,” and “modern” lose their grip
“The often-simplistic love affair of the tech world with clean, simple, and emotionally subdued design is coming to a slow, yet clear end. Such formulaic serene Sameness is no longer a valid risk-averse strategy as more and more companies understand that brand building requires a distinguished aesthetic with an emotional point of view. The shift to more emotional, expressive design is even felt at the leadership of the tech world: be it Google hardware designers coalescing around a decidedly warmer, more human approach to personal electronics or the growth of Lyft, while adopting a playful visual language.” —Gadi Amit, founder, NewDealDesign