De Mestral and His Dog: Design in the 4th Industrial Revolution
George De Mestral and his dog head out for a hike amidst the Swiss Alps. They return, covered in sticky, stubborn burrs. Curiosity is sparked. De Mestral inspects one of the burrs under a microscope. He focuses, and sees thousands of tiny hooks and tiny loops, which causes them to stick to any fabric, or fur, that passes by. Voilà, the invention of Velcro.
Velcro. Super Glue. Play-doh. In a world littered with happened-upon design, you’d be forgiven for thinking that design is invention, by accident.
You’d also be wrong.
The problem, followed by the solution, followed by the better solution, has always been there. It’s designers who have found ways to identify, quantify, and refine it.
Then along comes the 4th Industrial Revolution. Democratised across all industries, designers are being called upon to solve increasingly complex, nonlinear problems. Health. Finance. Agriculture. You name it, designers are working in and on it. This brave new world, where designers traverse multiple disciplines on singular projects, was the panel discussion at the recent book launch of Design. Think. Make. Break. Repeat. The publication, from the University of Sydney, was particularly close to home for Wunderman-Bienalto, as 60% of our design force are Design Computing alumni from USyd. CEO Hurol Inan was also a panellist, offering his insights from within the industry.
Emerging themes from the discussion included:
Times Are (Still) Changing
With no signs of slowing, unprecedented disruption brings with it an imperative for business change. Strategy. Operating models. Objectives. All in need of an overhaul. The good news? Design processes are well-placed to assist with these transformations. Future-forward companies are already launching pre-emptive changes. They’re arming themselves to stay ahead, while they still hold a dominant market position.
Take It from the Top
Be wary of the lip service surrounding design within organisations. Investment is not the same as being invested. If the C-suite is on-board and design practitioners are supported, then design solutions are limitless in scalability and will be successful in innovation.
A.I as a Friend, Not Foe
Human creativity isn’t algorithmic. We don’t need to be concerned about artificial intelligence and machine learning nudging out the need for designers, anytime soon. How the partnership between designers and AI plays out is up to us. The application of conversational design, for example, can be seen in the chat-bots and virtual assistants that Wunderman’s AI division are currently designing (with Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Google and IBM).
Though books such as Design. Think. Make. Break. Repeat. are toolkits toward successful solutions, the consensus among the crowd of the launch was that design will never be fully rhymed or reasoned.
Million dollar ideas will still be scrawled on post-its.
Walking the dog will still inspire game-changing inventions.
Just ask George.
The industry panellists included:
Hurol Inan – CEO, Wunderman-Bienalto
Jürgen Spangl - Head of Design, Atlassian
Lian Loke - Program Director, Master of Interaction Design & Electronic Arts, University of Sydney
James Brennan – Business Development Manager, ANZIIF