Design experts share their thoughts on technology's growth over the last 10 years

The 2010s might not have witnessed a groundbreaking invention such as the wheel or fire or even smartphones (which was seen in the preceding decade itself) but this tiny phase of human history, it can be argued, marked the spread of communication technology among the masses. Smartphones and the Internet became ubiquitous even in many developing economies — according to a Pew Research Centre report, there are at least over 2.5 billion smartphone users. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which were largely used for recreation in their nascent stage, became hotbeds of serious affairs such as business and politics (fake news and negative impact of mental health were their side effects).

MetroPlus asked four tech design experts from various fields of their thoughts on technology in the 2010s.

(The designers quoted in the article participated in the DesignUp conference held in Bengaluru in November)

Katja Forbes: The era of smartphones

The very first iPhone was released in 2009. There has not been a more impactful smartphone ever since. It undoubtedly changed the way we did things. With it, Apple nailed the ease-of-use. For years, everyone else was playing catch-up with them. But I never really owned an iPhone. Because I was already owning a Macbook and designers can get trapped into an ecosystem. So, after Blackberry, I deliberately went for an Android phone… an HTC. But now, as we approach the end of the 2010s, Apple has been left behind.

In the next 10 years, I think smartphones are going to get smarter. We will be seamlessly moving from one interaction to another with different smart devices. Today, we take these devices for granted. But they have literally changed the way we interact with our friends and family. For instance, look at the amount of data we record. At no other point in time has life been recorded so much. But sometimes I also think since almost everything is digital, if all data gets erased somehow, what will remain of our history?

(Katja Forbes is the Managing Director of Designit, Australia & New Zealand, a strategic design firm)

Payal Arora: Rethinking the traditional practices

After being excluded for a very long time, globally, the low-income population have been increasingly becoming consumers of the digital world, especially over the last 10 years. If data is the new oil, then, these guys are going to be the next billion users that generate and consume data. So, tech and Internet companies must take them into account when they are designing their products. So far, they have been neglected and have been told by their governments and markets to ‘take what you get’. But it’s time to put empathy back into design. These Internet companies have to spend time and money to know who their users are and what they want. Facebook and MySpace, essentially, were social networking sites. But then Facebook became big not because it looked better but because it understood its users well and made subtle changes. So, companies must sensitise themselves when they enter a new market.

(Payal Arora is a digital anthropologist and author of The Next Billion Users. She is a professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Simone Rebaudengo: The complications of making things simple

Everyone’s been talking about the Internet of Things. It’s essentially where all your devices will be connected to a larger cloud. From digital steering wheels to our home lamps, things can be connected and operated from elsewhere. We, of course, think it makes our devices and our lives simple. But it’s not linear. For example, with a toaster, you know that if you connect it to electricity, it will work. You can see the process unfold in front of you. But when you are connected to the cloud, you don’t really see what’s happening. Like the lamp you got from IKEA might not be physically broken, but it won’t light up because you are unable to upgrade the latest software. Everything is great until it’s broken, but now you don’t know how to fix it.

(Simone Rebaudengo is a product and interaction designer based in Shanghai, where he works with international clients like BMW, Philips and Google Creative Labs)

Jon Kolko: Embracing the analogue

I’ve been dramatically impacted by a return to analogue and calming technology — I’ve re-embraced things like musical instruments and handicrafts. I started playing the sitar, and I began painting and turning bowls on the lathe again. I’ve found that what was once an escape from digital has become my norm, with digital becoming a side distraction. I’ve abandoned non-professional uses of social media, and have made an effort to immerse myself back in nature. And this has, in turn, made me a better designer. I’ve become more sceptical of technology as a solution for our business and design problems, and have been more aggressive in proposing simple, tech-light solutions to my clients and partners. It hasn’t been a difficult change, and it’s been a very fulfilling one.

(Jon Kolko is the founder of Austin Center for Design, an educational institution teaching interaction design and social entrepreneurship)

(The designers quoted in the article participated in the DesignUp conference held in Bengaluru in November)

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Printable version | Sep 30, 2020 2:36:42 AM |

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