What Will 21st-Century Designers Do?


Given vast changes in society and technology in the past 50 years, what will designers do differently today?

Digital revolutions and consumer technology have had huge impact for industrial designers, product designers, even graphic designers… And then there’s all the new stuff for “interaction designers”—who might have one or more of the job roles shown in the diagram above, when working collaboratively with their design team.

How can designers of all kinds be prepared to work effectively in the 21st century?

I believe that 21st-century designers need a set of literacies, which means the ability to “read” (understand) and “write” (create and evolve), in these areas:

  • Systems
  • Collaboration (the practice of co-designing)
  • Internet of Things (all things tech)
  • Coding (software logic and representations)
  • Frameworks for Interaction & Conversation

There should also be components of 21st-century Economics and Social Equality.

At the invitation of Nathan Felde, Chair of Art + Design at Northeastern University, I spoke to a gathering of graduate and undergraduate design students. Click here for the presentation slides that tell the story of the literacies and their rationale.