The future of design thinking and workflow

Every week I mount my soapbox here and bore those unlucky enough to find themselves on this site with concepts like design process, design standards, upgrading our skills, rising to meet the challenge of globalism, etc. Then, every once in a while, something comes along to make me feel like I’m not the village idiot standing in the middle of the street, screaming at the top of my lungs while the townspeople walk by and try to pretend they don’t know I’m there! Well, maybe I am the village idiot but at least there are other folks on other corners shouting as well!In this case, it happens to be the brilliant folks at NextDesign Leadership Institute. “What is NextDesign Leadership Institute?” you’re probably thinking. It’s a design thinktank (betcha didn’t even know we had a design thinktank, didya?) with these stated goals:

NextDesign Leadership Institute was created as an experiment in innovation acceleration.We wondered if it might be possible for a small team of practicing designers to help speed the rate of adaptation, by graduate design education, to the radical events unfolding at the leading edge of the marketplace, that are impacting design leadership today. We optimistically guessed that it might be possible and if it wasn????????t, finding out seemed like interesting research! To undertake that experiment, we created the NextD initiative and the NextDesign Leadership Institute.

They have also published a fantastic set of “Mindscapes” that illustrate the changing challenges and roles of designers both in the present marketplace and in the future. Here are a few screen grabs from the Flash slideshow that illustrates them:

What designers face is changing. Interesting concept, illustrating the shift from the time when one designer with one discipline could solve then modern day design problems to now where it takes a more collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach. Indeed print designers often find themselves needing to solve problems that extend onto the web, even though they are not trained or knowledgable in web design. Conversely, web designers are increasinly finding that their designs and solutions must also be — in some cases — adaptable to the tactile print world.

When design begins is changing. Where the creative development process was at one time very linear with design typically occupying a spot at the end of the chain, once all the important decisions had been made by others, we’re now seeing that design is beginning closer to the beginning. We’re increasingly asked to answer the “What” and “Why” rather than simply the “How”.

How designers work is changing. Gone are the days when we worked alone in a top-down fashion or only with teams consisting of other designers. Today, we work much more closely with writers, marketers programmers, tech consultants, etc. Modern design problems have grown in complexity and no longer lend themselves to top-down, single disciplinary solutions.This concept leads to the next two slides:

Traditional design methods vs. futuristic approaches. Our process must now be more inclusive and transparent. Both with our clients and with teams of professionals in other disciplines. This is a radical shift for designers, who are used to gathering information and then disappearing behind the magic curtin, only to re-appear with magical solutions as if constructed by witchcraft or teams of little design elves. This mystique has actually hurt us as the outside world regards these works of magic as largely produced by computers and software and not as the result of a solid creative process and brain power.

A change in design communication. The way we think and the way we communicate has changed from before. We have to be able to communicate on a level that involves far more than the “look and feel” of things. We now have to have an understanding and speak about human/user behavior, technological trends, likely scenarios and needs that extend beyond the present and into the future. Our communication requires that we work from the future back rather than from today forward.Isn’t all this EXCITING?????.chris{}

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