As developments in digital technology lend themselves to constant transition and evolution, the work of designers always involves an element of "new". Whether it's a new platform or technology, a new business proposition, or new target users, the need for agility and foresight is paramount to designers. As designers, we work at the front edge of mainstream, where innovation meets mass-market appeal. The constant presence of "new" in our work feeds our curiosity, and makes exploration a necessity.
Service designers need to constantly think about what tomorrow will bring and each year we ask teams at Fjord to predict the major trends that will impact businesses and society next year. Here, we delve into five design predictions for 2013 and share our thoughts on what designers should be doing to make sure they stay ahead of the curve and succeed in business in the coming year.
1. You talking to me?
In many ways, it's logical that the next frontier for interface disruption should be the voice. We're already seeing services like Xbox Kinect using facial recognition and voice to control the gaming experience, and Apple's investment in Siri is an indication that services are no longer going to be led solely by the touch of a screen. As a result, flexibility and adaptability will be key properties for successful designers.
Designers will need to broaden their horizons to move from purely the graphical touch paradigm to include additional modes like voice (both input and output), gestures in thin air (input only), and ambient information. 2013 will see voice services popping up more prominently in more contexts: transportation, healthcare, financial services and education.
Voice integration will become a must-have for smartphone and tablet applications, and voiceprints will emerge as a new kind of personal signature. This is a future where the service that wins will be the one that appears to be the most personal, responds the most quickly and appropriately, and simply 'feels' the most human.
2. Think like a startup... and act like one, too
Today's businesses want to '"think like a startup," but in order to stand out, they also need to act like one. It's important that organisations are able to move quickly, adapt and sometimes take a risk. Smart collaboration with businesses and users will be key to designers' success in 2013.
Although the work environment for designers has often been based on collaboration with other designers in the same studio, this traditional working model will become a thing of the past. Retaining the creative sparring from colleagues will be essential, but it will be equally important to ensure that there are outside inputs and inspirations too.
In 2013 we will see many more teams restructure and re-organise to adapt to digital change, and a growing demand for engagements that go beyond the traditional agency or design remit: mentorship and training for on-site teams; participation in multi-disciplinary think tanks. Organisations divided by channel will start to look very old-fashioned.
Startups never stop improving their design. Agencies and clients need to find new modes of working together that extend beyond launch to enable the service to evolve based on real-world feedback and response.
3. K.I.S.S. - Keep it simple, stupid
As personal ecosystems grow, so does the challenge. We will need to make meaning of more data from more sensors, public, private and corporate, and the simplest solutions will continue to win.
Data is the currency of today and it will be the job of designers to translate this data into a simple and easy to understand language. Focus on what can be removed, rather than what could be added and make sure every single feature, element, and interface drives real value for the user.
A growing family of personal devices, and ever-increasing volumes of data, constantly threatens the efforts of service designers to create elegant, focused, and simple solutions; however simplicity is the path to success. Leaders in simplification will continue to disrupt and transform. As choices and options multiply, companies with solutions that can guide users through confusing data will have an opportunity to become trusted advisers.
4. Access is the new ownership
The rise of subscription and streaming services has also spawned the beginnings of a 'pay as you go' mentality among content consumers. Innovative new services will see content owners generate increased revenue based on usage. For example, Microsoft's Kinect technology could be used to charge for movies based on the number of people in the room.
Companies should design clear access models like renting, trading, and leasing. Ownership could simply become a standard "upgrade" function across categories. Designers should look to include a variety of status-boosting elements in "access" services. For example, one-click ways to capture experiences and share them through social media networks, as well as "insight" sharing for those who prefer to project their intellectual pursuits.
5. Dawn of the personal ecosystem
We're already seeing digital wearables on the mainstream market (one example is Nike+ Fuelband), and in 2013 we expect the digital and physical to become even more intertwined.
We'll soon start to see connected devices infiltrating more areas of our lives, setting the scene for what we at Fjord call 'Living Services' - the point at which individual 'smart' objects interconnect to form a support network for their owner. This is when a set of connected objects becomes greater than the sum of its parts: your 'personal ecosystem'.
As a result, designers need to tread thoughtfully when designing things that are interactive or wearable. Comfort, fashion and durability will need to be taken into consideration so that consumers can slot these wearable services into their lives seamlessly.
Connected devices shouldn't disturb our "real" world experiences, rather they should integrate seamlessly. Services that fit naturally into people's lives and adapt to their habits and priorities will be the big winners in 2013. Connected designs we expect to take off in 2013 will include digital real-world shopping, digital payments, wearable fitness and health technology, ubiquity of mobile map usage and the connected car.
Ever-present newness and the changes it brings should inspire designers and affect the service design landscape with exciting opportunities in the year ahead. We believe that the predictions for what the New Year will bring are all actionable insights that will provide designers with a view of the infinite possibilities for their work in 2013 and beyond.
Fjord has produced a full presentation of its 2013 digital trend predictions and their design implications.