IoT Design Trends

I was asked to be interviewed as part of an ongoing research project about trends in IoT, and specifically any I saw with how they intersect with design.

These are the emerging and continuing trends I see for this year:

  • Design to grow as a facilitator for collaboration and user focus

  • Increased awareness of Design Ethics / “White Hat UX”

  • Balancing the benefits of personalization with respect for privacy

  • Reconnecting physical and digital product design

  • Increased awareness of the context of use

  • Increased awareness of Human Centered Design (HCD) and accessibility as new spaces become connected/interactive/“smart”

  • Increased influence on production and manufacturing processes (and disposal)

Photo by  JJ Ying  on  Unsplash

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash

Traditionally, design has been an afterthought at most companies. Designers often are brought in at the end of planning or not considered at all in many engineering and software settings. Over the past couple of decades, how companies see design has dramatically changed.

Designers are now an integral part of planning and execution and more holistic perspectives have taken hold. By shifting the conversation from technical requirements to customer experience, many companies have been able to grow and garner attention. Agile, Lean, and Design Thinking practices have all taken a part in that culture- and thought-shift.

As businesses turn from waterfall processes to design thinking and agile processes, where concepts and designs could be tested and iterated on faster than before, designers can have a greater part in planning and execution. As companies look to design thinking to solve their challenges, designers become crucial to the process.

Empathy and compassion drive good design. When designers lose sight of who they serve, it’s those people who are affected the most. As recent events have shown, losing focus on the wants and needs of end users can have devastating repercussions. Having a seat at the table comes with a bigger responsibility to those they serve.

Teams need to go into the communities they serve and understand how they can use design to make the products and experiences better for the people they serve. Building those relationships and keeping people at the forefront of the process is key to making design successful. Understanding the needs of the community, over passing fads, becomes the moral compass from which to operate from in order to succeed.

Trine Falbe, a researcher, consultant, speaker, and lecturer focused on empowering people through ethical design has published the book White Hat UX, which focuses on creating unique user experiences without a dark side.

From 2015–6, MAD*POW conducted a year-long experiment, creating The Designer’s Oath, a tool that helps multidisciplinary teams define the ethical guidelines of engagement:

The boundaries of design are quickly expanding, and our code of ethics needs to be as flexible and easy to redefine as the process of design itself. The Designer’s Oath is a tool that we can apply to our own design processes to ensure that the end result does good.

Policy, infrastructure, and technology converging, and the challenges arising from that union are difficult and complicated. Designers are translators. They figure out what’s happening and distill so that people can digest, understand, and use something. Designers will be the ones to educate people and facilitate these changes.

Whether its advances in artificial intelligence, healthcare technology, or changes to local government policy, designers will be the ones who can make sense of the world for those who can’t. As the creators of designed experiences used by people all over the world — whether physical, digital or both or in-between — it is our responsibility to think carefully about how our decisions impact the person who experiences the consequences of those decisions. Those decisions have enormous implications, and aligning design and ethics can help ensure the longevity of what we create and carve paths to better outcomes for everyone.

Nick Di Stefano