This article is part of CMO.com’s October series about creativity and design-led thinking. Click here for more.
Digital technology continues to disrupt almost every aspect of our lives. In doing so, it has ushered in perhaps its most exciting phase, where the worlds of digital, physical, and biological can be fully integrated through digital design.
With that as a backdrop, welcome to the age of digital design, a time that could well be remembered for anything becoming possible. In fact, the use of digital technology has become so ubiquitous that the medium by which it is designed and delivered is becoming increasingly less relevant.
Digital design means no longer being confined to a screen in an office, allowing us instead to focus on the best imaginable “people experience.” Digital design can manifest in any number of places–big data, analytics, voice design, 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality, and artificial intelligence, among others.
So far we’ve only scratched the surface of its potential, but we’re already witnessing the beginning of driverless cars, nanobots, drones, and homes equipped with audio interfaces and enabled by the internet of things.
At the same time, Google, Amazon, Samsung, and Apple are creating audio interfaces and navigation systems using virtual and augmented reality, while digital medicine is giving health-care providers access to unprecedented amounts of patient information to more accurately diagnose and treat diseases. In the future, 3D digital scans will copy DNA into materials through “genomic imprinting,” and 3D printers will then be able to create whole new human organs.
Design is also heavily involved in the most intricate automated systems that can relieve traffic congestion and redesign intersections. Melbourne is an example of a forward-thinking, connected city that has demonstrated a willingness to embrace design thinking into the core of its infrastructure planning.Over the next 10 years, cities everywhere will become increasingly more efficient as digital designs upend functions such as traffic lights that will change based on live data to adjust traffic flow.
With Power Comes Responsibility
As digital design emerges as a dominant driver of the global economy, the role of the digital designer as an influencer has never been more important. Through social media and content personalization, for example, we can directly impact individuals in ways that would not have been thought possible just a few short years ago.
We also have a big responsibility to ensure we evolve in a way that guarantees our survival. As we move toward clean energy, water, and air, digital design can not only help in refining recycling techniques, but in reducing the amount of waste we create in the first place. Nike, for example, is now using recycled plastic from its own waste, while Adidas is making shoes with plastic from the oceans.
In addition, what we are designing has a far greater reach because of its potential global impact. Revolutionary designers in the digital space, such as Elon Musk, for example, have completely changed the way we think about electric cars, space travel, and the ways in which they can benefit the whole world.
In Musk’s case, the accelerated advent of the electric car has not only created a hugely successful business model but has forced traditional heavyweights to plan to cease manufacturing petrol-driven cars by 2024 and ramp up its electric car production.
Structuring design thinking into communications tools that are easy to understand remains one of our biggest challenges. As designers, we should use our empathy as a way to connect to others. With consumer products now able to scan our neural activity, it's becoming more difficult to know ourself; in the future, the line between “did I make that choice or was it made for me?” will become increasingly blurred.
We now have the ability to change outcomes and to empower people. It’s not a responsibility to be taken lightly.
View Noble's presentation from the recent Adobe MAKE IT 2017, Australia's premier creativity event