2018 #DesignInTech Report Overview From SXSW

Computers aren’t good at inclusion. They’re good at exclusion, because they’re only based on past data. The business opportunity for the future-thinking designer is in inclusion. — Fast Company on the 2018 Design in Tech Report

For this year’s Design in Tech Report, I did something new — I computationally designed the entire report instead of making it on Keynote/PPT. As a result, it’s less easy to distribute in its purest form. For now I have a Slideshare snapshot, and I’ll release a link to the entire information experience next weekend.

Key highlights from the report are as follows.

Design in tech is evolving rapidly and globally

  • Design isn’t just about beauty; it’s about market relevance and meaningful results.
  • There are three kinds of design. Classical Design, Design Thinking, and Computational Design.
  • In 2017 there were 21 acquisitions of creative agencies or designer-founded startups.
  • Medical schools in the US are using design thinking in their curricula.
  • Consulting companies are going beyond just design thinking — they’re changing how business is done.
  • China continues to lead in designing experiences at a scale and level of sophistication that astounds.
  • Indian and Latin markets are advancing design thinking and computational design. And we have a lot to learn from them.
  • Gen B(older) is becoming a market opportunity for new products and services that can’t be ignored.

Design capabilities don’t scale like Moore’s Law

  • Design is generally used early in the product development process instead of applied at the very end before it is shipped.
  • Creating an inclusive culture for designers is how to start building better products. Listening to what they value is how to start.
  • Unconscious bias is promoted by stereotypes that exclude others. Recognizing exclusion is a way to take immediate action.
  • Design tools and systems are ch-ch-changing these days. Among many new capabilities, machine intelligence looks to change everything.
  • We’re in a golden age of data visualization and quant-qual science. The tools that are available today enable understanding — for those who want it.
  • User research skills and product management skills are vital for designers to understand to work more inclusively with customers and product colleagues.

Atoms × Bits × People has happened at scale

  • Custom fabrication technology that leverages computation while using less tech, traditional manufacturing ideas is becoming more accessible.
  • Speech recognition has advanced to the point where the experiences provided by this technology are becoming just as important as how computer graphics technology brought GUIs to the screen.
  • Augmented reality (and VR) experiments and ideas abound as the technology becomes more accessible via smartphones and inexpensive peripherals.
  • The majority of Americans now own a cellphone and are rapidly upgrading to smartphones, but the US lags in 13th place in average mobile data used per person across countries.
  • Speed is a key design attribute of a mobile experience with sessions averaging on the order of 30 seconds and over half of site visitors abandoning a site visit if takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

AI isn’t good at inclusive design because we aren’t, too

  • 88% of designers surveyed believe that it will be at least 5 years or more until visual designers are replaced by AI. AI can already do a lot right now.
  • The history of AI and generating visual art goes back to the 1960s with A. Michael Noll and other artists at Bell Labs, and stretches back to Marcel Duchamp.
  • AI is extremely proficient at tedious tasks that no human should really have to do, like: adjust image contrast, correct messy lines, and re-style images.
  • Google is by far the leader in mixing AI with design experimentation due to the amazing talent they’ve acquired like Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viegas — who at IBM first advanced data visualization with their landmark Many Eyes.
  • AI is showing us the unintended consequences of running what appear to be “fair” algorithms that feed off of past activity and practices that are converted into training data. But embedded in that training data is our long history of exclusion.

We can expect AI to only widen the digital divide

  • It’s easy in the technology world to look away from inequality because the privileges that come with tech life are pleasurable and self-fulfilling.
  • But designers in tech can easily forget that they’re in a tiny minority of the population that doesn’t really match their much broader consumer market.
  • So getting out of the tech bubble can be a simple yet powerful way to better connect with “real” people who don’t really need what is being created today. Ultimately, it becomes a way to design and make better products for all people.
  • A majority of designers in tech find themselves not working solely on premise. This means that we are entering an era where work can be more evenly distributed outside of hubs like Silicon Valley.
  • Our design imperative at Automattic is to imagine a world where WordPress is good design for all. And we’re currently exploring how remote work can achieve a new level of inclusive design.

Inclusion = INCLU$ION

  • Changing perception around the idea of “helping those who are less fortunate than ourselves” into “learning how ignorant we are as privileged people” is a useful daily exercise.
  • Using that energy to design and make better products is a certain kind of passion and practice that we’ll see more often in technology companies. Because inclusive design is becoming commonsense.
  • Choose action over wondering about what you can do about the world you see and don’t agree with. It’s easy today due to all the technologies we have available to us.

Design inclusively to expands your total addressable market

There’s so many movies from different points of view that are making a ton of money. Don’t do it because it’s better for society and representation, even though it is. Do it because you’ll get rich. You’ll get that promotion, right? — Kumail Nanjiani at the Oscars

Also, I posted a video summary on my YouTube channel “John Maeda is Learning” as well.

The main site for the report is https://designintechreport.wordpress.com

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