At South by Southwest (SXSW) 2016, the big media/tech/art/futurism conference, leading design strategist and thinker John Maeda talked about his second Design in Tech report.
I consider Maeda to be one of the most important voices in making design matter as an essential part of our daily lives, and the life of a brand. He has an incredible background balancing technology and industrial design with art, strategy and thought provoking concept. So when he talks, I pay attention.
Using data about acquisitions that large firms and consultancies have made of design companies, he has looked at the current state and future of experience design (XD) for business. He’s presented this future as a three-parter: classical design, business design and computational design, and focussed on the future of the designer.
He explains this difference being that classical design is more traditional (broadly how we understand and define design), but business design and computational design are much more strategic with much higher reach. They are more about designing the frameworks for a brand – the culture, or experience, as much as the minutiae – it includes lots of UX thought, and a heck of a lot of customer experience thought – as he discussed user relevance and business strategy needs for good experience design.
The exemplar for computational design is Google – the speed, relevance and intelligence of Google’s search has changed lives. Great, intelligence frameworks are designed and implemented to make it more powerful and ever more relevant.This is only expanding as the Google ecosystem makes itself even more embedded in the way that we live, crossing from transport, to search, to sharing to conquering Go.
The other is the (als0) Google led AMP Project, a non-partisan project to enable faster downloaded pages on mobile phones, that can be used by potentially any website. It allows almost instant pages on your phone – no waiting. It’s amazing, simple, useable and shouldn’t be underestimated. The same goes for the quite similar Facebook Instant Articles, that enables incredibly quick, mobile phone optimised articles to be read through Facebook. When a user can get to an article that quickly and experience fewer disruptions in the way it can be read (eg, you don’t get distracted by menus and sidebars of advertising or links), it changes the experience quite significantly.
This is actually one area where Apple has not found a great balance (to namedrop one of the other Horsemen) – while their classical design is undoubtedly best practice, their computational design is often lacking. They’ve received quite widely reported flack for problems with their Apple News product in late 2015, and iTunes and the App Store get bulkier and more overburdened with each release.
Business design is the one I love – it’s very much customer experience he’s talking about. I’ve already pimped customer experience recently, so seeing the sight of Maeda’s report is music to my ears (notwithstanding the terrible mixed metaphor I just used). It’s all about using design thinking, and properly designed frameworks, to deliver powerful customer value, and maintain relevance in an evolving market.
This relevance is where Maeda sees the business strategy evolving – corporates needing this thinking to structure experiences with their users, and starting to bleed the edges of designing UX through to designing culture. Business schools will embrace design as a discipline. Love it. Not only is it something close to my heart personally (as this is where I have always seen my niche), but it is something I feel will really grow in this next phase of business and industry transformation.
It’s all very #soinspiring.
Also quick shout out. Adobe are starting to make public their design and UX concepting tool – Adobe xd, which is about Experience Design. A slightly unfortunate name (to me) with the timing of Maeda’s report, since concepts like customer experience (CX) and experience design (XD) are all fairly new and yet to settle on an agreed definition. But hey, what’s in a name?