We asked high-profile design experts from around the world: "What do you think will be the game-changers in industrial design and product development in the next two to five years?"

“There’s a storm coming. The design world as we know it is separating into the Polymaths and the Guilds. The Polymaths are the broad-bandwidth thinkers who can see across cultural and technical boundaries to find meaning in new future combinations and the Guilds, the specialist capabilities that can facilitate those ideas once they have been envisioned.

“The designer as we know it is already an endangered species. What is a service and what is a product in the 21st century is up for grabs. Where does the product end and the metaproduct begin? How many ‘services’ as we know them today are going to have to migrate to ‘this side of the glass’ and articulate themselves through physical metaphors of their virtual self? Is NEST an object, a service or part of a synthetic-aperture radar gathering big data for the highest bidder? I guess it depends who you are and what your agenda is.

“The next five years may witness the most important shift in consumption patterns we’ve seen for centuries. Buckle-up, Dorothy, you’re going to have to be on your toes. And if you’re going to continue to call yourself a designer, better work out what that means...”

Richard Seymour – Co-founder and Design Director, Seymourpowell, United Kingdom

“The most important factor influencing 21st century industrial design is decentralisation. We are already witnessing this shift in the media space: in the past, to create a video broadcast, one had to have a television station (centralised model); in today’s decentralised world, anyone with a camera can upload to YouTube or Vimeo.

“In product development, the early stages of decentralised models in making (eg Ponoko), in funding (Kickstarter), and fulfillment (Amazon storefronts) are realities. We will see decentralisation in the design process through such phenomena as co-creation and participatory design – not to mention the rapidly evolving space of 3D printing. Decentralisation is happening because of digital and network media.

“In no other time in human history has knowledge been easier to share, both instantaneously and on a global scale. The fact that you may be reading this magazine on a tablet is a testament to this change. In the next five years, we will see the effects of decentralisation more and more in the system of objects of our everyday lives.”

August de los Reyes – Senior Director, Samsung User Experience Centre of America, United States

“As demand for industrial design’s traditional core skills is shrinking, two new areas are opening up: experiential design at one end and strategic design at the other. Experiential design is a super-set of traditional design, which includes non-physical interfaces. Strategic design is high-level business planning and big-picture, long-term thinking based on deep insights.

“Physical experiences are becoming virtual experiences. Study a studio photo of a recent electronic device and you won’t know if you’re looking
at a music player, a television, a book, a web-browser, a camera, a telephone, a medical device, etc. Electrons are replacing atoms. Interfaces have moved from levers, to buttons, to on-screen iconography. Service and process design is part of this expanded discipline.

“Industrial designers tinker with a company’s raison d’être. By becoming deeply involved in the product, we become deeply aware of the business behind it. Strategic design is about big-picture thinking and treats the product (the experience!) as the tip of the iceberg. Design thinking, disruptive innovation and business modelling are all part of strategic design.

“We are witnessing the spread of design into engineering, software and business degrees. We need more of the reverse though, we need design education to embrace these adjacent disciplines or it will become marginalised, clinging to the shrinking ‘design for manufacturing’ core. As long as we require physical goods, there will be work for industrial designers, but these new fields offer opportunities for great design.”

Oliver Kratzer – Managing Director, Ideal Industrial and National President, Design Institute of Australia

“Today’s vision can be tomorrow’s reality and, as such, we need to have a greater responsibility with regard to where we invest our creative resources.  If LED technology becomes highly cost and energy efficient in the next five years, then we can flood our walls with light and live the ambient dream.

“If bio-technology becomes the answer to scarce resources, then we will be able to enjoy abundance in food production and greener living. And if technology becomes truly smart and adaptive, we will be able to spend more time on that which we enjoy most.  A future where form and function follows experience and creates a higher level of meaning to our lives is within reach.

“The connection design has made with people around the world has been recognised commercially and, as such, we have been given a strong voice. Let’s use it well!”

Pernilla Johansson – Design Director, Electrolux Major Appliances Asia Pacific, Singapore

“The next five years will change beyond anything we can imagine. At the moment the way we understand the world is based on thousands of years of slow evolution in materials of which we have had time to become well acquainted.

“Metamaterials will be the next game-changers; these are materials that have no reference point in nature, materials that go beyond smart technologies to create scenarios based on a world beyond science fiction. Take invisibility, for example, of a potential metamaterial – it’s not something that exists in nature so therefore it doesn’t have the reference point, traditional materials have had.”

Chris Lefteri – Principal, Chris Lefteri Design Pty Ltd, United Kingdom

“On the occasion of the Exhibition Oggetti e Progetti – Alessi storia e futuro di una fabbrica del design italiano held in 2010 at Die Neue Sammlung in Munich and after, on the Exhibition Ethical and Radical at Philadelphia Museum of Art, we have attempted to investigate how we envisage the company developing over the next 10 years.

“A very hard, ambitious and maybe impossible project just for our nature as mediators in the design field. In fact, our task is to practice a continuous and tireless mediation activity between, on one hand, the more contemporary, advanced and international creativity in product design, and, on the other hand, the public expectations. But the last word rests with the public. We want our products to tend towards the universal, creating new myths that help to decipher our era. We are also aware of moving on an invisible borderline that separates the possible from the impossible, what the public is ready to understand, accept and perhaps love and what it is rather not able to understand and do right. That’s the destiny of the Italian Design Factories.

“The panorama of modern design is certainly very complex and it’s not easy to say what its direction will be; regarding Alessi, we think it will be to direct our research towards two different poles: the ‘ethical’ one intended as the search of new simplicity, modesty and somehow austerity and the ‘radical’ one intended as a prosecution, perhaps an acceleration in the search of highly expressive and decorative forms, that in some way
are out of line. It seems to me reasonable to assume these are the two trends of interest for the ongoing decade.”

Alberto Alessi – Founder, Alessi, Italy

“The most important driver of change for the industrial design (ID) profession will be the gradual shift up the value creation scale from product to service to experience to transforming behaviours (The Experience Economy by B Joseph Pine II and James H Gilmore). This shift will require us to continually improve our professional knowledge, tools and methodologies in order to cope with the increasing complexity of the problems we address and the evermore complex interactions of products and services with human behaviour.

“This trend is being driven by the on-going integration of electronic intelligence, into all aspects of the man-made world, that will continue to drive industrial design from last century’s definition of ID as giving form to products to the 21st century’s definition of ID as giving form to experiences and later transformations.

“Other significant trends that will have an impact on design are the continued strong support of China for the creative industries and a deeper involvement of design in solving social issues. This will hopefully accelerate the improvement of living standards which need to go hand in hand with greater progress on sustainability considerations.”

Clive Roux – Immediate Past CEO, Industrial Designers Society of America, United States

“Over the next two to five years, industrial design will be a lot more responsible for product, user and market research, creating brand and product strategies, gaining a better understanding of the user, the market and brand building, which will lead to more innovative and competitive product solutions.

“Industrial design will take on more of the front end of the development process and become more critically involved in the strategy process.”

Murray Hunter – Managing Director, Design + Industry, Australia

“Designers will work less with artefacts and more with services, experiences, strategies, organisational matters and to a greater extent be involved in the creation of a future sustainable society.

“Hopefully we designers can redefine what growth is and visualise what sustainable profit is.

“Consequences of the big denial concerning climate change will have a massive impact on how we live our lives, what we eat and how we work. The need for ideas of how to share the globe’s resources in a more equitable way, will challenge designer’s minds in many years from now.

“In different parts of our world we will face entirely different challenges; an ageing population, youth unemployment, increasing natural catastrophes, Internet censorship and the oppression of dissidents. Difficulties are however most often an opportunity for change.

“Today many designers strive to make changes but often they are up against the challenge of short-term profit or out-dated legislation instead of focusing more energy and time where it is actually needed.

“There is a great opportunity if we continue to think differently and implement innovative design solutions whether it is for the UN, society, companies or education.

“Designers often have the skills to make the complex not only intuitive, efficient and easy to use, but also appealing and exciting. That talent might be something politicians need a little bit more of.

“To really find out what it is all about, we should never stop asking questions during the design process. We should believe in involving and being aware of people’s needs, wishes and dreams.

“A lot of people should benefit from the design. Otherwise – what is it good for?”

David Crafoord – Director of Product Design, ergonomidesign, Sweden

“The author Günter Grass once said ‘Progress is a snail’. Even today, many companies worldwide are still acting frighteningly slowly towards integrating and utilising the proven and successful insights of communication processes and design within their business practice. This is very difficult to comprehend, since virtually all enterprises are searching for solutions to meet the future demands of their markets, and it is exactly the specific skills of the design profession that can anticipate the relevant developments.

“I am convinced that in future, many young, creative and entrepreneurially-minded designers will seize the opportunity and emulate James Dyson by founding their own companies and marketing their product ideas themselves. The conditions for doing so are ideal. Today, capital is in search of investment possibilities worldwide, and also the selection of manufacturing operations is wide and global. Therefore, I am sure that the
designer of today will transform more and more into a design entrepreneur à la Sir James Dyson, and will recognise and make use of these opportunities.”

Wolfgang Meyer-Hayoz – Principal, Meyer-Hayoz Design Engineering, Switzerland

“Our once familiar product development landscape has been swept away by the digital information flood. Virtually overnight, the Internet has transformed the traditional distribution system from ‘one-to-many’, to ‘many-to-many’. In the coming years, 3D printing and virtual manufacturing will increasingly allow objects to be smarter and more tailored to each customer. In addition, there are many emerging new product development business approaches, most notably Kickstarter, that are based on an open-platform, cloud sourcing, or cloud funding model. These new Internet platforms are all turbocharging and compressing the product development process enormously, all the while vastly increasing the amount of stake-holders in the design process. This creates a huge double-edged challenge and opportunity for the industrial designer.

“If we, as designers, beyond being the form giver of the object, can successfully navigate these heady crosscurrents of culture, technology, environment and human emotion, we can build intrinsic meaning and value into the work we do. Yesterday our values were founded on rational certainty. Success tomorrow will depend on our ability to tolerate and embrace ambiguity as well, as always, upon our powers of imagination, creativity and intuition.”

Eric Chan – CEO and Founder, Ecco Design, United States

“Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once wrote, ‘The more things change, the more they remain the same’. As such, one must focus on ideas that build ‘continuous patterns of success’ while disregarding ‘one-hit wonders’. Successful continuities build credibility. 

“Indeed, there are two companies that continue to provide ‘game-changing’ fodder based on their successful heritages. IBM and Apple continue to be the bellwethers to watch. This may be a boring or predictable answer to some. Nonetheless, they are successful because they fuse relevant business and design decisions allowing each to navigate unanticipated economic ups and downs within an ever-increasingly complex world. Their corporate leadership champions design as a means to evolve their reputations. They express unique corporate spirit from the inside out – they do not change according to the whims of time. Their attitudes allow them to produce wonderful products and services that are not only at the core of their character but they are ideas that are meaningful to people and our environments.

“Both companies coalesce relevant issues – design, technology, engineering, business, etc – creating design currents that other companies struggle to follow.  Both have keen understandings about the importance of R&D, albeit they approach it differently. They plan ahead and identify what will be pertinent and make modifications accordingly.

“IBM and Apple continue to merge design, business and technology creating more natural, seamless interfaces for relevant ideas. Yes, IBM and Apple are large companies now. However, they did start small, but they remain true to the same principles with which they began. They lead. They do not follow. Such corporate policies always allow for real ‘game-changers’ to happen, no matter when.” 

Gordon Bruce – Principal, Gordon Bruce Design, United States

“Interactive product experiences have become ubiquitous in modern life. As this trend continues to gain momentum, the need for excellent UI and UX design within the product development process grows. We believe that the crux of innovation resides in the seamless and inspired integration of digital and physical design, starting with a user-centred perspective. These parts represent the conception of a holistic user experience design philosophy, which will revolutionise the product landscapes and thereby shape users’ expectations.

“Availability of new prototyping tools that can create more responsive and interactive experiences, as well as new rapid manufacturing techniques, let us enhance our designs in an advanced iterative process. Crowd-funding and platforms like Kickstarter enable individual designers and inventors to develop innovative products that large companies would not dare to. This pioneering mindset has set the stage for the design community in 2012.”

Matthis Hamann and Roman Gebhard – Founders, Lunar Europe, Germany

“Power of people will increasingly be the most influential and important factor influencing industrial design and product development in the coming years.

“Thanks to the success of social media, people’s interests and desires have been rightfully put back to where they belong – at the centre of attention, for any solution provider. From consumer industry, business to business industry, to government agency, any organisation that wishes to achieve great success has to be able to help their customer do better, live better and be better.

“More than ever, it is the thrilling role and responsibility of the designers to facilitate such movement, from understanding the people, bridging the
communication, interpreting the insights, to eventually creating innovations that will truly benefit the people, and industry and the society.”

Jeremy Sun – Design Director, orcadesign, Singapore

“The key influential factor for industrial design will always be based in talent. But to be game-changers, in a competitive global landscape, it will take amplified, inspired talent with diverse backgrounds, immersed in complementary disciplines and expanded skill sets. A deeper knowledge of disciplines like motion graphics, rapid prototyping, video, AI, AR, UI, UX, etc, will be hugely valuable for designers who wish to drive the conversation.

“Designers who can develop strong, relevant points of view in the form of design assets and put them into context with conviction will continue to lead the way.  The best of these design assets will continue to be an amalgam of skills, insights, technologies and tools, directed by designers with a greater ability to recognise the interdependencies of diverse disciplines and the patience to direct and apply them. 

“The future context for design will also involve a deeper business value proposition early in the total delivery process and an understanding of how to enhance the total brand experience.  Industrial designers will no longer be accepted as merely Jacks of the Design Trades without becoming Masters of most of them.” 

Brett Lovelady – Chief Instigator, ASTRO Studios, United States

“I see new technologies and the continuous need for sustainability strongly influencing the way we live but also how we think and create products and services.

“With the digital space and its inter-connectivity becoming increasingly important for everything we do, the quality of this digital experience and how it blends together with our physical world is in designers’ hands.

“Done right, we can funnel our hunger for the constantly ‘new’ into the virtual and focus on more meaningful, long-lasting products for our real world.

“Being an influential part of product development, we need to push for quality, for things we want to have around us for many years, worth the resources and energy they require. Less but better – the famous Dieter Rams and the Braun values of quality, functionality and simplicity are more relevant than ever in the search for answers to the world’s problems.”

Oliver Grabes – Head of Braun Design, Germany

“The future for design is certain, that we know. The proportion of designers to citizens on the planet is very low, and the quality and expectation of design and experience is at an all time high. As we now see, the demand for user experience and interaction is also demanding more talent than can be found.

“To add to this, new populations are emerging quickly, and unlike earlier decades, they are now empowered with access to the global market for products and experiences. Living and designing in the Western world will force designers to learn how to seek out insight and understand users’ aspirations, which are very, very different from themselves. The audiences being addressed will often be of a different generation, a different culture, and speak a different language, so leveraging empathy and insight will increasingly drive everything.

“Audiences today are also very design savvy, and may only be exposed to the current state of high-quality design. The 7+ billion people will increasingly live in a world of design democracy, in which design includes all touch points and interactions. They will not accept less than exceptional solutions offering value. These expectations will create unprecedented demand for all facets of the design profession. I’d say hold
on to your seats!”

Ravy Sawhney – Founder, RKS, United States

“Being an engineer is exciting. We challenge convention and ask ‘what’s next?’

“But we also need to answer the ‘what’s next’ with action. And to do this we need more scientists and engineers. This for me is the first game-changer.

“We must ensure the next generation are introduced to science and engineering during their early school years. Then we must ensure this fascination remains strong enough to pursue these disciples in higher education. After all what can be more exciting than the idea of creating a technology or product that brings today’s science-fiction to life. Like a lift into space, for instance. The most influential development for engineering and product design has arrived and it promises to transform our world. Nanotechnology shows the most exciting possibilities –
such as smaller, stronger, lighter machines and more efficient electrical conductivity. The key is now applying this high-tech learning to exportable industries. This is what will continue to drive economies.”

Sir James Dyson – Founder and Chair, Dyson Ltd, United Kingdom

“While in the coming two to five years we should not expect to see deep changes in the fundamentals of what will influence product design and experience, we will, however, see ‘shoots’ of potential ‘game-changers’ sprouting up.

“The global economic doldrums will shape austere consumption behaviour. People will buy less frequently but pay slightly more for quality that lasts. This will shape demand for products designed to last longer –  functionally and aesthetically.

“Especially in first-world cities, time and space will be increasingly scarce. Convenience and compactness will be the prime motivators of design solutions, with reinterpretations of known archetypes and design of bite-size experiences in products and services for a time-starved and fluid lifestyle.

“The next wave of innovation will come from materials. Not necessarily only in advanced and expensive materials, but in applications of known material technology in new ways. Designers will have to think first of materials before imagining the form.

“While consumers are still flirting with the topic of sustainability, their pull is not steep enough to outpace the predicted consequences. Design’s contribution will not just be in efficient hardware solutions, but to change people’s attitude by communicating, articulating and visualising the benefits.”

Low Cheaw Hwei – Global Creative Director, Consumer Lifestyle, Philips Design, The Netherlands

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