Future by Design

February 13, 2018

Future by Design

Democratic, intangible & human-centred: industry experts discuss shifting perspectives for the role of design in 2018



On January 30, Debbie Millman (Design Matters), Carissa Carter (Stanford d.school) and James Lovejoy (Google Experimental Design Group) shared presentations at RGD’s latest Future By Design event, inviting attendees to consider new ways of thinking about brands, design education and machine learning.


Viewers participated by listening to presentations from each speaker and then further exploring the topic in moderated discussions at screening locations across Canada.


Debbie Millman began with her presentation on "The Democratization of Branding," in which she introduced the idea of "deliberate differentiation;" how brands are manufacturing meaning in a way that invites participation from the public and encourages a sense of belonging.


Josh Lovejoy invited viewers to consider the role of human-centred design thinking in the context of machine learning and the necessary role of human knowledge and judgment in AI innovation. Using the example of the "Google Clips" project, he illustrated how technological innovations must align with well-understood human needs in order to be successful.


In our last presentation, Carissa Carter explained the different abilities of design students and the importance of recognizing tangible abilities such as learning from others, crafting intentionally and synthesizing information, while encouraging the exploration and practice of intangible abilities such as moving between concrete and abstract communicating deliberately and navigating ambiguity.


Here are six takeaways from the event:


  1. "If you aren’t able to create a design that captures the attention or the imagination of the consumer, there’s no point in doing it at all." - Debbie Millman


  1. "Experts know that design is more nuanced than 'process.' Design templates are available, but plugging content into a template does not make you a designer." - Carissa Carter


  1. "Rather than building systems and expecting them to find the needle in the haystack for us, we can design them to clear away the hay and let us find the needle ourselves. Ultimately, we’re the best judge of the things that matter." - Josh Lovejoy


  1. "As designers, makers, thinkers, creatives, we must have a sense of what is happening in the world and how it impacts the way we think. Having our finger on the pulse of culture is critical to being able to create something that’s relevant." - Debbie Millman


  1. "School is structured, but the world is messy. Teaching students the ability to navigate ambiguity means helping them to maintain multiple outcomes for a project at the same time. It's about creating an environment where it’s okay to not know the answer." - Carissa Carter


  1. "Machine learning is best used to augment the design process, rather than automate it. You can use it to find patterns in your own design system and automate the decisions that don’t require a lot of attention so that you can spend more attention on the things that require more thoughtful engagement." - Josh Lovejoy


For more insights and conversation, follow the hashtag #rgdFBD on Twitter and Instagram. Recordings of the presentations are available for RGD Members in the Members Only section of the RGD website.


For information on hosting our next Future By Design event, taking place April 24, in your city, click here.




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The Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD) promotes professional standards in the graphic design industry and authors a quarterly column on the Applied Arts website.