4 Ways to Prepare for the Changing World of Design

The world of design is constantly changing and evolving. As a new generation of designers prepare to enter the workforce, there are new concerns and focuses that affect past, present and future design standards.

This year, five students with the Digital Corps took the 10-hour trek from Muncie to Minneapolis to hear from some of the greatest minds in the design industry. They learned new trends, met fantastic people, and returned feeling more prepared for what comes next.

1. Accessibility is essential

Like we talked about in a previous article, accessibility is becoming one of the most important aspects of design.

In WWII, design was created for averages. Fighter planes were designed for the “average man” based on overall statistics regarding body height and composition. It became problematic when the pilots weren’t fitting into their planes, because they weren’t designed for the extremes. The designers of the planes didn’t consider that the “average man” doesn’t mean “every man.” The same concept applies to designing for disabilities with technology products.

Designing a product to meet the needs of every single person in the world is impossible, but understanding the user and designing for extreme situations is essential.

2. Stop focusing on how things look

Designers don’t just make things look pretty. Tons of thought and intense troubleshooting go into creating content for a specific audience. Just like a business, designers use distinct methodologies the produce a well-thought-out product.

“I think the whole point of graphic design is conveying information,” said Nolan Chamberlin, a designer with the Digital Corps.

“Be very cautious about what you do, because you may think something looks cool, but you need to be aware of what it means.”

Using design thinking to solve problems with design, rather than ignore them, is something that Nolan tries to do every day. Looking beyond the “what” and deeper into the “why” and “how” will lead designers to create better products.

3. Take advantage of the resources around you

Utilizing other perspectives to test your designs is key. Awhile back, Facebook redesigned their website. They tested internally among the designers and the team that created it. Everyone loved it, and they were sure it would be a huge hit when the site went public.

Wrong.

The site was designed to only meet the needs of designers, not the user. To mend the problem, Facebook discussed the importance of testing outside of internal situations. They learned about the importance of Facebook Groups and how communities of video game players to a gang of biker-women could be forged. Without the user’s feedback, this small tool was overlooked and the possibility of creating a better life for the user was almost completely eliminated.

Lindsey Geiser, a designer with the Digital Corps is excited to tap into the resources around her when she gets started with a new design. “It’s easy to get stuck in a bubble,” said Lindsey. “Going to conferences shows you the excess of communities out there. There are tons of different personalities.”

Anna Weddle, also a designer with the Digital Corps, realized that taking advantage of the individuals around her was most beneficial. Volunteering at the conference allowed

“Connections don’t have to be bigger name designers — just meeting people and checking in is worth it. Critiques are sooo important and getting them from people who are not in class with you is invaluable.”

4. Be vulnerable

Taking risks is essential to to creation of powerful content. Leah Callahan, a designer with the Digital Corps learned that being vulnerable to critiques and taking risks to expand your knowledge makes or breaks you in the design world.

“As a designer that’s how you are going to succeed and how you are going to make it one step further along and get where you want to be. You have to be vulnerable.”

But, how do you become more vulnerable? Creating for yourself as a designer and pouring emotion into personal projects is the key.

“I think sometimes as designers we get so caught up in client work, client work, client work, that we need to put aside some time to put a little piece of ourselves back into our work, or else we’re going to get burnt out,” said Leah.

Leah wants to be more expressive in her work. Showcasing who is she is a designer and an artist will help her balance out the busy lifestyle she is quickly adopting. Kelli Reutman, another designer with the Digital Corps, also wants to actively pursue creating more personal work for her own benefit. Kelli, an advertising major, hasn’t been an artist her entire life. To get started with design, she recommends designing for yourself.

“Do personal projects and find stuff that you’re interested in and just start designing it,” said Kelli. “Whether its drawing or coding or illustrator to make designs, you can start anywhere. Put in the effort and you’ll get into it.”

Design is changing, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But by trusting yourself and letting your designs flow free with an emphasis on the user, the world really will continue to benefit from the work you do.