Designers, brace yourself, we are about to lose control

Designers, brace yourself, we are about to lose control


The discipline of Design has changed a lot in the last few years. From the 50s to the late 1900s we became known for well designed industrial products. As we moved to websites and apps, we talked about creating the experience. Today we are at a fork in the road again. Messaging apps are now bigger than social networks or websites. It is that time again, a time to reflect and think about that transition that we will experience.

Today people can order their Uber through Alexa, get all their medical updates via Wechat, or get stylish vintage sneakers from eBay via shopbot.

So how is the landscape changing from a user’s perspective?
1. Users bring their context, and they choose their ecosystem of apps.
2. The app platform decides the interaction, look and feel.
3. The virtual assistant and the AI directs the conversation flow.

So the real question is, what are you and I really designing?

Let’s look at another long-term perspective about how the role of the “user” has changed. About ten years ago, Dr. Liz Sanders articulated this trend well. In the 90s users were called consumers. In the 2000s they had transformed into users. Now and in the future they become co-creators. Obviously, this change is not new. UGC (User-generated content) took off, and companies like Facebook are built on UGC. From a business perspective, this creates a barrier to entry for any newcomers.

So again what is the role of the designers in this new ecosystem?

1. Designers will understand the ecosystem, the needs, dreams and the fears of people. UX professions coming from the social sciences background will continue to observe individuals and their environments and build mental models for creating the interaction platforms.

2. Designers will lay the groundwork for the mindset and the rules ( and not try to design the experience). They will setup interaction guidelines that allow the learning platform to improve and feel authentic in the moment of a conversation.

3. Designers will, as Ivan Illich calls it “give people tools that guarantee their right to work with independent efficiency.” We will build tools for active creativity, not just consumption. These tools will transform companies to become better faster, reduce wasteful and irrelevant products.

So let’s get ready to let go of control. How can we understand our users’ behaviors and aspirations to articulate design criteria? How can we quickly move to creating user experience scaffolds and components?

Thanks to Lindsay Kenzig and Chris Avery for reading drafts. If you liked this, please click the heart and follow buttons below.

image credits: giffy