Nathan Adkisson / Local Projects / Director of Strategy, Associate Creative Director / 03.20.18

Where is design going?

In the last ten years, we went through the phase where the world realized the importance of design—that “everything” is design. That led to a proliferation of design sub-disciplines as people tried to differentiate themselves. It reminds me of certain music scenes: “post-hardcore symphonic doom anti-folk.” Unfortunately, organizations aren’t going to create departments for a dozen different design disciplines. This may be most acute for UX designers: in a utopic sense they think about everything, but in the reality of the way many things get built, the immediate need is methodical interface design. Designers like efficient, tight teams, so I imagine the future is that in-demand designers will have a few niche areas of focus or interest, but a solid ability to deliver on the fundamentals.

How can design education be more relevant?

The tension, as always, is between theoretical and practical education. The best programs will give students a healthy dose of each. The most important thing is the ability to know when to put each form of knowledge to use. When we’re under deadline, that’s no time for academic musings or general opinions. However, there are certainly moments during research or concepting when a sharp provocation from left field is exactly what the project needs.

What are the future skillsets designers need to learn now?

Soft skills: ability to work with diverse team, including non-designers. A sharp eye and ear for transformative, unspoken insights about human behavior. A deep bench of research techniques, and the experience to know when to deploy each. Technically, tools for prototyping quickly are worth their weight in gold. I’m a big believer of VR not as a general narrative engine but as a revolutionary professional tool for architects and exhibit designers to step inside the environments they are building.

What should a design school do to prepare students for transdisciplinary work?

“Teach critical thinking about the benefits and challenges of applying each of the disciplines in different situations. Flexibility is key—slavish devotion to one process doesn’t work in a transdisciplinary environment.

A multitude of perspectives is great, but it can get distracting or overwhelming if You don’t want to create a cohort of “”multiple designer disorder”” patients.”

What should a design school do to forward equity and inclusion?

It’s easy to pay lip service to fairness and diversity, but it takes real investment—time, dollars, emotions—to be truly equitable and inclusive. I like friendly competition as a motivator: design schools should set audacious goals and declare them publicly. Make them bold enough that you actually have to think like a designer to achieve them.

Nathan Adkisson

Local Projects

Director of Strategy, Associate Creative Director

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