A world that was once dominated with human touch and close interactions has become one of home offices and social distancing. It is hard to believe that is has been over a year since the first global lockdown. The world hit a giant pause button on what we once recognised as normality. Offices and schools were forced to close, Industrial activity limited and travel restrictions put into place. Places which we saw as hubs of life quickly resembled ghost towns.
While there has been a limit to physical activity our activity online has drastically increased with heavy technology usage being our form of contact with one another. This has been through all forms of media be it streaming or social media. With an increase of users online the design world has seen the forefront of many online schemes. What does this mean for a designer adapting to live in this new world?
“Silicon Valley design guru John Maeda distinguishes between three categories: “classical” designers, who create physical objects or products; “commercial” designers who innovate by seeking deep insights into how customers interact with products and services; and “computational” designers, who use programming skills and data to satisfy millions or even billions of users instantaneously.” - Times Magazine about John Maeda.
While looking at my own practice and its application to technology I have discovered that I am what Maeda would class as a hybrid between and ‘classical’Designer and a ‘commercial’ Designer. I have explored that in the past year through my practice. At the start of the year I would have classed myself as a ‘classical’ Designer due to the fact I designed for personal gratification. I designed because I wanted to express myself and my identity and I did that through a series of my own illustrations as well as expressing my own interests through my university projects. Bottom line was that I was designing for myself.
This year has demonstrated that I can adapt my skills towards commercial design. I have worked for both Netflix as well as Storyteller, both experiences led me to discover the commercial side of the design world. While at Once Upon A Time I designed for a more speculative project for Netflix I was taught how to adhere to brand guidelines and create work that would stand out amongst millions of other titles on the platform.While at Storyteller I have learnt a lot more about Digital marketing and its greater impacts. I have learnt about customer interaction and what is needed to grab the attention of someone scrolling through social media. This demonstrates that I have been able to combine my classical design skills with new found skills in the commercial realm.
Along with my classifications I aspire to entail the skills to be a ‘computational’ Designer. I believe that I have started to explore these mediums in my practice. At Netflix I was informed about the use of algorithms and how each key art image is tailored to each user to convince them to watch a certain title. I found this interesting as an overall application of algorithms because it is something that is used throughout various streaming mediums. It works because of the individuality of each users search page.
Similar algorithms can be applied while advertising and is something that I have started to learn about at Storyteller. Storyteller has given me the chance to work with the large Facebook ad database that stretches over to Instagram (Facebook being their parent company). The large database has allowed me to see how each advert targets certain demographics, locations and age groups. This entails understanding audience behaviour and programming it to certain digital marketing techniques. When looking at Storytellers brand ethos there is a focus on creating a community. This concept bridges the cap between digital and physical as we work on creating an experience for the customers that is validated.
There is an increase in people using technology as a platform to reach people and this has only been pushed forward in a post covid world as more people explore personal ventures whether that be being social media influencers or starting up a small business. This however has also meant that a lot of work is getting lost and there is an over saturation of content. It means that there is a higher demand and pressure on designers to either stand out or become the best in a crowd. I believe personally I have experienced both on my DPS year. To stand out was to work on my personal work as a designer and I am still learning. To become the best in a crowd, this has happened through storyteller, a lot of it is market research. See what is working successfully and make it work for our brand. This has meant that I have been challenged as a creative to make sure that my work is individual but inspired.
It is clear that I have explored all of Maeda’s explanations of different definitions of a designer. Does that pose a question to what it means to be a designer in a post covid world? Or is it something that now is interdisciplinary and not applicable anymore like it once was. It just goes to show how complex the design field is as it deals with everything and anything. What I have explored today is just the surface of how complex the design world is thanks to the development of technology. Our race continues to find ways to be personal and connect and we have continued to do soo in a world which limits social contact. We have made technology one again work for us in our favour.