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Evolution of the graphic designer: Part 2

In the second blog of a three-part blog series, Designer Simon Mannering looks at the evolution of the graphic designer and what the key qualities are that graphic designers will need to possess to be successful in the next decade.

My previous blog spoke about how graphic designers got to where they are today, and what goes into being a modern functioning designer. This post looks at how our changing environment will shape the future of graphic designers… not design agencies, or the myriad of other multi-skilled people therein, that is much too complex a question for this blog post.

Key qualities graphic designers will need to possess

I’d like to take a look at what are the key qualities that graphic designers will need to possess to be successful in the next decade.

Collaborative

As technology further diversifies and the possibilities for entirely unique channel solutions multiplies, designers will need to form networks of problem-solvers. Individuals with common goals will produce the most impactful, disruptive and original work. Designers, unconfined by conventional corporate boundaries, will ‘power-up’ and break through into valuable new territories. Cross-disciplinary teams will also become more commonplace as the potential of ‘skill specialists’ begins to be realised.

Non-hierarchical

PWC predicts that by 2030 only 9% of US employment will be ‘permanent’. Graphic designers will need to ‘float’ in and out of businesses and agencies as talent clusters around those who can predict incoming investment prospects. Emphasis will be on having the relevant skills to deliver on the client vision, not on the number of years spent working under a generic job title. Designers will be recognised by worth, not seniority.

Specialist

Graphic designers will be less and less generalists and become a network of specialists. Designers with complementary skill sets will coalesce using networks and create powerful solutions for clients and customers.

Adaptive

Current skill sets will need to be forgotten as new specialist skills replace them. Staying relevant to the needs of the customer will be valuable and essential.

Political

Designers will realise their potential to become a force for good. Injustice, bias, inequality, marginalisation will all be confronted in an increasingly direct manner by designers. Whereas the designer of yesterday was employed by politicians to amplify a pre-determined agenda, the designer of tomorrow will create their own agenda and use their skills to make a difference.

Long term

Designers will need to stop creating ‘solutions’ and start to build systems. Technology and agile methodologies will ensure that designers become comfortable with designing with systems analysis built in, ensuring each new iteration or subsequent piece of work becomes more effective than the next.

Cyber-enabled

Assisted and augmented intelligence will be utilised and fully integrated into the creative process. Designers will organise inputs and scope for machines to generate permutations that the most creative minds would not be capable of. A new dawn of super-effective design will begin as a result. Qualitative and quantitative analysis will be done in real time to determine likely effectiveness. Preparation will need to be made for the rise of autonomous intelligence.

Tactical

Increasingly, the more mundane tasks designers have to do today will become automated. Keyboard and mouse workstations will become far less commonplace in design studios, with the bulk of a graphic designer’s time rather spent on strategic, creative and tactical thinking.

Interface specialists

Designers are used to talking concepts through with colleagues and clients, but voice control will become the number one way of interacting with our design work. The one-size-fits-all mentality that has taken graphic designers this far will recede and the old-fashioned banks of 27-inch screens will disappear. Many other types of interface will fill our design studios. Vertical screens where designers can work standing using gesture-based controls, or desk-sized screens that can be tilted and used more like drafting tables as some graphic designers rediscover their freehand roots. Multi-platform software used to oversee automated tasks and AI collaboration will proliferate and find a natural home in smaller smart devices. AR will play a massive part in how designers operate.

Responsible

As mentioned earlier, designers and those organisations that employ designers have a responsibility to be more ethical in their approach, and this is nothing new. But with the acceleration of social media and increased ease of communication we have all become far more accountable. What we could get away with before will no longer be acceptable, and as such, the age of the conscientious designer is here.

No matter how the role of the graphic designer evolves, the overriding quality that must be embraced is being ‘responsible’. Graphic designers (and designers in general) are not just at the mercy of the future, they are creating the future. Graphic designers, and all those who collaborate, support and enable them to have great power. Great power not only because they create and communicate stuff, but also because designers have recently become much closer to the centre of a world that is driven by innovation and reinvention.

The world is increasingly full of problems, but graphic designers have the power to create change for the better.

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