The following is an excerpt from IIDA’s annual Industry Roundtable report, Industry Roundtable 23: The Future of Place, Experience, and Worklife. Read the full report here.
There is no mathematical formula for creating products and spaces that are engaging and compelling—that end-users want to spend time with and in. That said, Holger Hampf of BMW Designworks relies on a set of “power tools” to create designs that have “stickiness”—an attribute that’s getting harder to achieve in our consumerist age of disposability and endless trade-ins and upgrades. “We’re in a dangerous moment where we are able to build excitement for—but not attachment to—objects,” he says with some urgency. “We need to find ways of retaining excitement and building attachment to our designs over time.”
Layering emotive, tonal qualities atop the physical, “object” qualities can enhance the sense of discovery and surprise. It’s an approach that correlates to the workplace, for which we design space around specific behaviors and to foster new types of behaviors. It’s the reverse of starting from an aesthetic style or visual cues. Notions like shape and style come only after first considering the behavior we wish to support, as well as defining the attributes we expect and want the design to deliver.
Another intriguing, if concerning, aspect of our cultural moment is a lowered standard regarding what we consume. “Everything we experience these days is compressed and pixelated”—meaning the music and images that stream through our smartphones and Internet cables. “We have started to accept the low res, which to me, as a designer, is a disaster.” It’s also a design challenge to be solved. “How can we extrapolate and create experiences that don’t feel compressed?” Hampf proposes. There’s the opportunity to create more relevant, authentic, “hi-res” experiences for our clients.
Design is Ultimately Human
“Automation/AI will change every industry, product, and service, including our profession,” says Diana Farmer-Gonzalez, IIDA, Assoc. AIA. Indeed, it already has. Consider the advent of smart test fits. Verda Alexander, IIDA, had a darker take, cautioning that “AI and genetic modification will pose new problems for jobs—and increasing inequality.”
But where we once used to fear the robots, we now want to partner with them. It’s not about man versus machine, but man and machine. Perhaps in the future, there will be VR interfaces and “prosthetics that fundamentally blur the boundary of human and machine—cyborgs,” Susana Covarrubias, IIDA, predicts. “Interfaces that highlight human interactions are what’s most important.”
But for now, we need to work together better. AI is here to stay and will only become more useful and prevalent. Technology is now often viewed as a positive enabler. This is a shift from the usual party line which supports that technology undermines human connection. Technology can reduce loneliness, for example, a cultural phenomenon that concerns many industry leaders. Julia Feldmeier, journalist and brand anthropologist notes, “Technology gives us a sense of rootedness in a culture defined by the failure of institutions, a culture in which people no longer trust religion or corporations or government.”
Read IIDA’s full Industry Roundtable report, The Future of Place, Experience, and Worklife.
I agree that AI is an incredible enabler and brings amazing opportunity. I would cautious to say that it brings a connectivity to replace the valuable sense of community offered by many institutions and religions. That’s one thing this younger generation (of which I am a part) doesn’t understand. Did we not learn that from being quarantined for weeks? Technology kept us from being totally isolated but was no replacement for face-to-face connection.