Will Tomorrow's World Still Need Designers?
At Davos this year, four luminaries in the world of design were asked to predict what the future of design will be. The themes that arose from this discussion seemed to coalesce into two distinct categories that I'd venture to call "internal" and "external." On the one hand, the speakers emphasized the importance of privacy and personal convenience - a degree of customization we've not seen before, that will first be available, as usual, to the world's wealthiest 10%. Designers will create ingenious objects with hidden multifunctionality, devices that, for one reason or another, cloak what they can really do. We'll also see designers pressed to find ways to better protect trade secrets and the valued expertise of the genius creator - in other words, designers will be designing objects that actually enhance their own professional lives and buttress their privileged position in society.
This vision of a rather elitest future of design was counterbalanced by a set of notions that implied a very different path for the world's creative future - one that many designers with an instinct for self-preservation may treat with some dismay. On this end of the prediction spectrum I noticed a concentration on the external - an emphasis on transparency and simplicity and social responsibility. A belief that design that communicates its utility to the poorest 90% of the world will take precedence, and that mass design collaborations will serve a vaster public than professional designers have ever reached. This future of design would be world-changing and would mark a new direction for the practice of design . . . one that might not require designers.