Week 11: Lecture Notes – The Future of Design

The future of Design

Today we’re going boldly into the future, exploring what that looks like for the world of Graphic Design and what has changed, is changing and might change as that future unfolds.

Exploring the future definitions of design from the usual crowd showed a fairly unified vision. I even agreed with Simon Manchipp for a change (what a future that is!) in his analysis that the future of design was in experience, stepping away from the “thing” and focussing more on the experience of an audience. Even that last aspect is an interesting key-point in that brands no longer focus on creating and converting customers, but instead create fans and an audience. This I think is fairly evident in the media-frenzy of Colin the Caterpillar and Cuthbert Caterpillar… i.e. the cakes from Marks and Spencer and Aldi respectively. What we are not discussing in that story is the cake itself, but the story and the personality of the two supermarkets as brands at war on social media.

image: Twitter

This ties in to what Sam Winston said about attention economy. An interesting dive into the commercialisation of our attention as data as discussed in detail in the documentary The Social Dilemna (Netflix). This discusses how very literally the actual product is our attention span and interests. It is easy to envision a future where this becomes more and more prevalent.

The overarching theme though comes in the need for multi-skilled graphic designers and the idea of the bespoke and it’s importance. Whilst print is dying, there is a contrasting sharp rise in sales of board games and vinyl records.

Source: Statista – (Global board games market value 2017-2023 | Statista, 2021)

I see this as tying back to the idea of experiential design. Consumers desire experience and the bespoke but also want basic functionality. Consumers are buying expensive, bulky vinyl records whilst also subscribing to subscription music streaming services. They are buying craft gins and visiting independent tap-rooms for social experience, but also settling for Wetherspoons in between. What this suggests to me is that we are losing any middle-ground that once existed.
It also suggests to me that I should figure out a way to produce artisan editions of novels…!

I believe that the future of graphic design also lies in this lack of middle-ground. We will see a rise in the artist, the signpainters, font foundries and letter-press-printers, but also a rise in subscription based design and instant access design such as Fiverr or even Canva.

The Environment

I was quite interested by the continued discussion around the environment as way of discussing design for the future. I was fascinated by the work of Superflux.in and continued to find out more about their work. And as discussed by Suzanne and Maziar, designers do play a key role in shaping the future and the impact we have on our environment.

I’ve often thought of the “Print isn’t dead” campaign banded around places like Etsy and Pinterest and wonder if clinging to this is a dangerous exercise in nostalgia? After all, it is this penchant for nostalgia that has lead western cultures to very recently commit socio-suicide. Brexit being the key example here.

source: People of Print

This version of Britain in the midst of Brexit is a feverish land filled with such delusional dreams and contradictions. If before joining the European community in 1973 Britain was known as the “Sick Man of Europe” because of its poor economic growth – Earle, S., 2021. The Toxic Nostalgia of Brexit. [online] The Atlantic. Available at: <https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/10/brexit-britain-may-johnson-eu/542079/> [Accessed 26 April 2021].

Perhaps a better slogan might be “Print is Dead, get over it”.

As is, we are using less paper, fewer toxic inks and less resource to produce magazines, newspapers and general information. We can read books on our phones. Undeniably this pushes down the burden a physical industry introduces to the planet. But at what point does the massive burning of fuel to maintain data-storage out-weigh the good this might do? Even in 2015 a report found that data storage was responsible for 2% of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the aviation industry – Mic. 2021. The environmental impact of data storage is more than you think — and it’s only getting worse. [online] Available at: <https://www.mic.com/p/the-environmental-impact-of-data-storage-is-more-than-you-think-its-only-getting-worse-18017662> [Accessed 26 April 2021].

So if that’s the case, then perhaps our seeming increased love for bespoke and experiential design might be a good thing in the long run and it is in the past with cold-print techniques such as risograph, screen-print or letterpress that we might find the solutions to the future.