Design Wishes for 2010 and beyond

OK, new decade and all, here’s my wishes (not predictions) for the next few years (i’d be an idiot if i think i could predict 10 years hence) for product design and directions-

  1. Design for time. Sustainability and “green” is, for the most part, about the here and now. Yes, you can recycle that packaging, and the plastic housing is made from corn, but at the end of the day they will all end up in the landfill and over time (depending on the material) even if it makes the earth happy in the sort term. How about a return to the past times when long term sustainability was less about buying a product that is “good” in it’s life-cycle analysis, but more good in yours? Here’s to products that can be repaired rather than disposed of (no matter how short the decomp rate is on the corn-PLA). Adds skilled labor to the economy, and keeps more products out of the landfill for longer. Quality over quantity and craftsmanship and care over features and functions.

To that note, how about products that look better with age, rather than worse? That old Eames chair or well-worn wooden desk - the more time the better it is. In my mind, the more we can design products that are meant to last longer than the owners, the better we are all ahead, in enviro terms, but also design. Design for the ages requires an adept skill to avoid trends, focus on the user and the lasting relationships we all hold with the objects we use. Sure, I’m some are abject at this given the rate of technological improvement and advancements now current… but surely there is some way to keep 90% of a hardware design or adopt a more modular process of design for those tech objects that change and improve so quickly…? With firmware, open standards, and component architecture design I believe it is completely possible…

  1. It’s all about the system. The iPhone is great because of good ID, good UI, but more than anything else, a good universe of integrated systems. The iTunes Store, App Store, simple sync with macs, etc. The more that products can share and relate data to things you already have, all the better. The times of proprietary systems, formats and the like are long gone and the barriers to sharing such data on “the cloud” are no more. Any new product should be considered within an ecosystem of the things that a user already has in place, or might. A fancy e-reader is useless if I can’t get what I want on it. Why 2-3 different ebook formats and shops? I can buy a real book anyplace and read it anyplace. Same should be true for many things.

The wheel does not always need to be reinvented. How about things that work together better? A chair is all fine and good, but if I can’t get a matching sofa, maybe not so much. Why not design a chair to match a competitor’s sofa? A fridge to match a different brand’s toaster? Computer accessory companies do it all the time. More and more, I hope that systems of products are developed across products, systems, brands, etc. Ignoring all else outside your own product/brand is the compartmentalized mentality of old.

  1. User ownership. It is only based upon old models that the services and products don’t translate to their real use. I pay for 300+ channels on digital TV. Why should I not be able to access the same from my phone? my friends TV (I’m the one watching - locking it to a physical address is old think)? On a public screen I see while on a flight? The center of the product/service should be the user, not the false constraints put upon it by the brand offering the service. Either flip the model over so that I pay one fee and can get the content/product anywhere, or go the other direction and offer micropayment so that I pay for what I want, only when I want it. If they can meter hydro so that I pay when I use it, surely the same can be done for TV, web, etc.

  2. Normal design. Personally, I’ve always been a big fan of modernism, or what Jasper Morrison calls Super Normal Design. This type of restrained design ethos I think will (and should) become more widely adopted. You’d think in the 90 years or so since the Bauhaus, that modernism would have caught on more in mainstream product design, but yet, it has actually made little progress outside furniture and a few select (mostly higher end) products. With the economy not so hot, I’d imagine people will be buying less things. If those things are going to be around longer than usual, the less you want your products to look out of style/trend/fashion. In sync with my #1 point, if people are also keeping objects longer because the objects are good (not just by necessity), then this also applies. Let’s see less styling, please and more solid design. Not every product should stand out on the counter or in the home. Not everything needs to be a rocketship or look like an alien. The perfect form for many objects is, in fact a box of some sort. Crowns, curves and crazy surfaces have there place, but not in much of what they are commonly applied to. Just because you can make a complex surface in Alias, doesn’t mean you should. If more designers approached a design from a perspective of what is right, not what just is possible, I think the results would be outstanding. Look at designs from before the computer. They did have complex curves in some cases, but only where they were really necessary as it wasn’t just something that could be slapped on anywhere. You needed to know the math, resolve the edges and construct a curve. Not press a button. More Muji, More old school Braun, less blobjects, please.


My design wish for 2010 is that we have another company other than Apple to discuss and admire. They’ve surfaced as the pinnacle of good design and the summit isn’t very crowded.

Don’t get me wrong, I use an iPhone and have bought a crap-load of iPods for the family. They make great stuff, but they seem to be the only company people benchmark against.

Back in the day it was Sony. Who’s next?

I couldn’t agree more. They took the torch from Braun as the best representation of a particular manifestation of great design. But there are lot of other possible permutations, and there are a lot of other industries it can be applied to. I t would be great to see more corporate design leadership across industries, and with the promotions of designers into high places at several large corps (such as designer Brian Nesbitt to business General Manager of Cadillac) I think it will happen.

Good one to put on the list.

De-emphasize the rock star designer, and promote the corporate rebel designer.

My wish for 2010 is that brands don’t decide to “re-invent” themselves just for the sake of doing it. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. 2009 was littered with pointless brand updates and redesigns that were not needed. This ranged from Tropicana, to Wheat Thins. It did make for great blogging though. :smiley:

I would also have to agree with the Apple comment. I love Apple but too many products are trying to be them instead of creating their own identity and better products.

Totally agree. So many brands abandon their gold mine of brand equity and product DNA to chase another brand’s DNA that they will never be able to really own.


De-emphasize the rock star designer, and promote the corporate rebel designer.[/quote]

Yo! nailed this one and it’s always been one of my personal pet-peeves, especially with this particular site. Seems like most of the stories on the front page relate to some one-off artistic product, like a chair or light fixture. That’s not industrial design. Industrial design is the creation of a product for MASS production.

Too much focus is on these 3D artists. I say artists because they are basically creating something for themselves and not for production. It’s not designed to use as little parts as possible, to fit into a PDQ tray, to be easy to manufacture, etc. Those are the things that corporate designers have to think about it. The end result isn’t normally as “flashy” as what these rock-star designers come up with, but I’d argue to say that it requires even more thought and planning in the final design. I’ve worked corporate for most of my career and it has always ticked me off to see all of these flashy products get the attention.

Ok, off my soap box.

I completely agree with the above. Here is a great short article on Coke and their brand refresh last year. It is about exactly what 6ix mentions.

R- your throughts are very nicely articulated, a good read… I agree with your wishes for the future, i wonder though, how the business and marketplace mentality of ultra consumerism, that has really taken hold, can be “evolved” to more of a “less quantity, more quality” strategy. certainly designers can be cheerleaders for that cause, but I mean how do you get the marektplace to break free of it at this point? I kind of liken it to the energy question- there is a huge infrastructure based around fossil fuels, which means you can’t change it too quickly without hurting a lot of people. So i’m thinking, are we now stuck in the same situation here relative to companies, retailers, online stores, even designers who thrive simply because consumers buy enough stuff, enough times in a year? Economically, what happens if companies switch from making 12 products a year that last 3 years, to say 4 products a year that last 10 years? I mean i don’t know the answer but perhaps this can be the next big area of innovation - figuring out how to do this successfully…

These two comments together I think are interesting and have a lot in common.

First, it’s the word “rebel”. Why is it that is seems there is a need to rebel against corporate to get good/interesting/s4xy design? Why can’t corporate see the vision, take more risks and produce good stuff? Sadly, much corporate design is boring, sad and uninspired, hence the need for that rebel corporate designer. I’m all for the rebel, but woudn’t we all win if the corporation itself could better position a brand to be that rebel?

Secondly, I see your point, 6ix and I am too kinda tired of seeing so many nicely rendered but never made (or made once) things. Yes, it is not really ID, per se, but closer to art. Yes, they do get a lot of traction on this blog and others. However, I don’t think that this kind of work is getting undue attention. Rather than seeing less of this, (and back to my first point), let’s see more corporate companies pushing out stuff of this level of interest. You’ve said yourself, that the corporate stuff is less flashy. I’d say less interesting.

The problem is not that corporate is not getting enough attention and the one-offs are, it’s that corporate stuff can be boring, and people want exciting. If the mentality at corporate changed, both these problems would be solved - no need for the rebel, and the corporation itself could become the “rock star” to capture people’s attention.

Of course I’m generalizing “corporate” and not all companies are the same. But still the premise holds.


I think 6ix makes a good point, if the avant garde stuff is what the general public and corporate people think of when they think of “great design”(becasue thats what is promoted in the media, basically stuff that doesn’t sell lots of units) then you end up fighting this perception of what “great design” actually means. It seems like pitching great design to corporate is like the boogeyman, they are so quick to equate it to spending more money - either on R+D or materials, manufacturing processes, which in turn only produces products that are less accessible for the common person (Starck’s lemon squeezer anyone?) i.e. loss of revenue by not spanning more of the mass market. i think classic business/corporate culture, when you boil it down, really believes that “less interesting” equates to higher revenue, and its a very difficult perspective to change.

a job.

by corporate rebel I’m not meaning someone who rebels against a corporation, but someone who works within one and uses all of the resources at their disposal to do some mass produced product that has impact. Jonathn Ive = corporate rebel. He is an easy one to point out, but their are tons of others, David Beckstrom at Pitney Bowes, Bob Schwartz at GE, John Hoke at Nike and so on.

To Six’s point, lets celebrate Industrial Design, and not so much a couple of kids in Brooklyn making a box on a band saw. Great to talk about, but it has almost become central instead of peripheral.

I think industrial designers are born to be rebels while working for corporations. Our thought-processes just aren’t the same as the pencil pushers. That said, that’s one major reason why I left my last job. Couldn’t stand it any longer. I tried for YEARS to develop a VBL for every line and stressed the value or proper design methodology, which I was taught in school (mainly in graduate-level courses.) In other words, I thought I knew what I was talking about. Well, they didn’t. Or rather, they had their own egos to protect, so I was never really heard. Very very frustrating.

Now I am only working with companies that actually value my opinion, and heck, even pay me for it.

Having just read another thread about an Apple blog: Apple Industrial Design cg commented that with Apple ‘Industrial Design has a seat at the executive table, reversing the typical pecking order with Engineering. They have an involved CEO who personally reviews everything, maintains very clear vision and very high standards’.

As a consultancy designer for several years, when I presented concepts to companies who didn’t have any inhouse design, or a designer as part of the descision making team, the company invariably went for the safest option, most closely linked to what they already had. Even when pushed - and I pushed. The people holding the purse strings have the most to loose, so they always want to play safe. Taking risks in many companies invariably means putting your job (and other members of staff’s jobs) on the line if it goes wrong; and most people are not prepared to risk it. That’s why it’s easier to follow than to lead, which is why Apple is so good and why there are so few companies around like them.

I’ve seen this too, if everyone left their ego’s at the door and just concentrated on the product, not climbing the ladder etc, then products really would move forward. Why do people shout down an idea just because it’s not their own, or feel they are loosing control of a project, because someone lower, but better (not me BTW) is racing ahead.

great point product tank. I remember this all to well from my days at a consulting firm. It reminds me of a quote that someone used during a presentation recently:

“The trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more” - Erica Jong

I’m not sure why this simple platitude is not more widely understood, but for whatever reason, having a designer that is an officer of the company seems to help.

Why do people shout down an idea just because it’s not their own, or feel they are loosing control of a project, because someone lower, but better (not me BTW) is racing ahead.

I really didnt want to get into this but my answer is because human beings are not the way they present themselves, to themselves :slight_smile: their needs and greed overcomes anythingelse including the envronment they live in. Then they talk about piece and humanism, but individually they all have the urge… to be better than some other. total holy ratrace that started before classical age…
Off topic, apologies but, someone i know in Africa once gave a very racist comment about africans not evolving fast enough etc. I thought about how the african tribes were away from civilisation and design for a better world. This is quite a seperation where the design should be there to better our lives but in this fast paced economy it isnt. it actually never was lets not fool ourselves here. It is there mostly to please the client for the time being and get the job. I might be a bit too much of a blunt weapon here but i dont like to lie about my thoughts. and i do not aggree with the way its done either.
I told that person about the need for civilisation, that the disease of the white men ( im Turkish and not racist at all) to evolve to conquer, also force fed the need to design better equipment for WAR. the need was towards a gain not towards a better life. Better recources may be. so, being happy with your nakedness running around like crazies dancing around the fire, even though is not acceptable in todays society, is less sick then evolving in a fast pace in order to gain power to control everything. the problem is, it doesnt even make you happy in the end. Cuz its just not enough. Nothing is ever enough for this race, and the way we are living aorund the world with our self created economies and our unique ways are definately to end us drowning in our own stupidity.
sorry if i sound negative. but i seriously do see a connection between daily behaviour of human kind from its first existance till today. just better toys. behaviour is the same. and i think we are a race that gives itself too much credit. so dont be upset when someone in your office gets a fit, he just wants what he always wanted. POWER

My wish for design in 2010:

A little less conversation, a little more action (quoting Elvis here :wink:)

I’m tired of overcomplicated philosophising of apparently simple concepts, it gets in the way of the final quality of the project.

  1. Less talk + fewer ‘manifestos’ and more ACTION on sustainability. Pathetic how much ink and words have be spend v.s. results achieved…

  2. Designers to be less self-referential star worshipers - cowboy-up and FINALLY join the business world you are apart of already. Too many designers hiding in studios, treating their careers as a ‘lifestyle choice’…

That’ll ruffle some feathers… but I have to agree.

Not at all. Lets not forget that Dieter Rams was on the board at Braun. There is a precedent. Going into executive leadership does not mean leaving design behind, it means being an advocate for it. An evangelist when needed. To many rock star designers only promote themselves instead of advocating for design as a whole and using their notoriety to educate.

I’m grinding axes today.