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In product design, the focus is on identifying people’s real problems and then coming up with possible solutions. However, product design is more than a basic definition. With the ever-changing world of technology, you can bet continuous advancements are being made in the world of product development. We have altered the types of design methods used, as well as the education and skill levels of designers. The future of product development is being reshaped at a rapid pace. It has never been more important for designers and industry leaders to be ahead of the curve.

Using our insights, and some additional research, we put together an overview of some shifts you should expect to see in the coming years as the product design process continues to change.

A new collaboration between designers and engineers

The relationship between designers and engineers is changing as rapidly as technology itself. Product design is no longer exclusively an independent role. To support the development of a product, each individual should possess a broad set of skills.

You are probably already experiencing this in your workplace today. To keep up with innovation, designers and engineers are having to continuously challenge themselves to do better.

In an interview with abstract.com, James Nichols, Senior Product Designer at Facebook and Principal at Truth About Design, said

“I’m already seeing this happen. Some of the younger designers on my team at Facebook have computer science degrees and write their own classes in Framer. Engineers are setting a higher bar for themselves with regards to designs because they see so many other apps out there.”

Statista estimated mobile apps would make almost 189 billion U.S. revenue by the end of 2021.

Over time mobile apps and websites are expected to be displaced entirely by augmented reality, meaning designers and engineers need to start preparing for this shift now.

Cortney Rowan, Managing Director at Altitude, explained that “products are becoming more complex as they become smart and connected.

Design and engineering teams must think about both the hardware development of the physical product and the software component it will run on.”

With collaboration becoming more important than ever, some companies are opting for a fused team setup that will help speed up the processes of each product design.

Having designers and engineers working together simultaneously allows decision-making to happen faster.

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Image source: accenture.com

According to Lee Powers, Engineering Services Manager at Altitude, the key to achieving this level of efficiency is having “a fused team with all members working together in parallel, running a lot of sprints–very quick design cycles–to produce something tangible that can be tested.

We learn what we can from each sprint before moving on to the next one.”

Adaptation has always been the key to success for effective app development. By changing the way they work together, designers as well as engineers will be influential in how the product design process looks in the future.

The adaptation of designers as marketers

Commoditization is everywhere, and with it comes a higher demand for business-savvy product designers.

With free and easily accessible design resources, design systems, and even more powerful design tools, designers now have the opportunity to improve their business thinking, communication skills, and problem-solving skills.

In the field of design thinking, which is a human-centric creative process to create meaningful and effective solutions, designers already possess a considerable amount of experience.

However, that isn’t going to cut it for much longer.

According to Wes O’Haire, Product Designer at Dropbox, future of product development will be focusing more on agentive design solutions.

“With the rise of automated technologies (AI/ML/etc.), much of [the] manual input can (and should) be automated. Set it and forget. Products will do things on our behalves, acting as an agent for us. That’s agentive design,” O’Haire says.

The product designers who recognize these shifts in their industry, and begin learning how to develop systems for these new skills will be the most successful down the road.

This evolution in product design is creating a new need for designers to possess a business-growth thinking mindset.

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Image source: Smashing Magazine

When thinking about products or features, it’s important designers have an understanding of the business objectives. The future of product development is being reshaped at a rapid pace. Designers of the future must need to think like marketers.

Knowing the language of business, especially finance and selling, will go a long way in helping product designers adapt to the continuous technological changes ahead.

Increased accessibility to different skill sets

As more designers apply a business-thinking mindset to their decision-making process, the line between product designers and product managers begins to blur.

Companies are looking to hire business-savvy designers who are adept at product thinking, data analysis, data science, strategy, and user research.

Marissa Louie, CEO and Chief Designer at Animoodles predicts that “more designers will get MBAs, and more product managers will create higher-fidelity wireframes and mockups thanks to democratized design tools.”

Developing expertise in a variety of design disciplines is becoming increasingly easier with shorter format university courses growing in popularity, in addition to online platforms such as LinkedIn Learning and Skillshare.

A new generation of multidisciplinary designers is entering the industry.

“What the field is witnessing is not that different from what education is facing. How do we best educate people?

Higher learning will see more and more competition from alternative education platforms. Software, small-scale workshops, and niche education are already reducing the appetite for students to pay full tuition for a degree,” according to John Caerta, Associate Professor and Studio, in response to the Design Census 2019 survey.

 

Education Level for Designers according to the Design Census 2019

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Image Source: Design Census 2019

In order to achieve innovation, design disciplines need to interact more.

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Image Source: Design Census 2019

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are two of the fastest-growing technologies across the design industry.

This software helps reduce the steps it takes to mock up as well as spec full user experiences, simplifying the entire process for designers.

This in turn allows a customer-centric business approach to be more easily incorporated into the product development strategy.

Increased need for ownership over design decisions

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Image Source: Design Census 2019

Product design has the power to influence our perception of everything.

You have probably experienced this first hand through the rapid spread of misinformation, especially with widely debated subjects such as the ongoing climate crisis we are facing worldwide.

This is an example of the unintended consequences design and technology can have.

A lack of awareness of design’s impact on the world has become a growing issue within the industry.

Even while design and responsibility have always been connected, we have yet to see the full execution of both.

Randy Hunt, Head of Design at Grab and author of Product Design for the Web, believes “2020 will be a tipping point for designers taking responsibility for their work, [including] the consequences of their design choices on the world at large.”

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The idea of ethical product design has gone beyond a basic trend.

Instead, designers and the products they develop are facing increasing pressure from customers to associate themselves with companies whose values prioritize good user experiences.

As an example, Zone Kaiwei Ni factory released an ad with hair built into the design on SnapChat. When users go to brush it away, they unintentionally swipe to shop for the products.

This is an excellent example of unethical design.

It’s no longer an efficient way to connect clients with your items to mislead them or provide inaccurate information.

Automation technologies are progressing rapidly, and agentive design is going to be influencing the design process in a positive way.

O’Haire predicts designers of the future will focus on creating products that are mostly automated while giving people the ability to tune and monitor the product.

Technology is going to reshape the design process by forcing a collaboration between product designers as well as product users.

Hannah Hoffman, an Associate Design Director said in response to the 2019 Design Census, she is “hopeful that we’re moving away from “move fast and break things” as our mantra. And instead, we’re learning to “slow down and ask questions.” Adding, “I see a rising wave of designers who are admitting to the faults designers have, the role we’ve played in a lot of technical problems, and are willing to stand up for what they believe.”

What are the takeaways for the future of product development?

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Image Source: Design Census 2019

The role of designers in the product design process is evolving.

As technological advancements become more automated, and skill-sets expand, there will be an increased need for collaboration in the studio.

Adaptability will be the most critical skill for future product designers to have while reshaping the design process.

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