How We Work: The Influence of Technology on Design. A Recap of the Kansas City Design Week Panel

Last year I was asked to sit on a design panel for the KC Design Week. The topic of the discussion was how technology impacts design. The panel consisted of myself, Daniel Seagraves, Mark Logan, Chrys Sullivan, Michael Gekas (as moderator) and JC Hendricks. All of us came from various design disciplines and experiences; we ranged from architects to UX specialists.

The event was hosted at Populous, which is a global architectural firm that specializes in designing sports facilities. It was a pretty awesome venue for this purpose. Like I’ve done in the past, I'd like to share with you some of the discussions that we had about this topic of technology and how it’s influencing design, so that you can take something away from it as well – assuming you were not in attendance. So below are five of the topics we chatted about, as well as my general recap. Enjoy!

On Collaboration:

Michael started off with a question around collaboration and whether technology has effected collaboration in any way. The overall consensus was: sure, the places or mediums that we collaborate with may have changed, but our need to truly collaborate hasn't. We now may need to use tools like InVision, or InVision LiveShare, to close the gap of large teams, etc., but when we collaborate, we often do it the same way we always have.

On Time Management & Work-Life Balance:

When asked about how technology has affected time management, our balance of work and life, or our ability to disconnect, I think we all came to the conclusion that yes, technology can interfere in our days (if we let it), but that we all use technology to create the boundaries we need. An example is blocking time off in a group colander specifically for “work” time. However, even with that said, we all still have to make a conscious effort to find that balance – IF balance is what you want. Some people don’t want it, and that’s okay too.

On Data-Driven Solutions:

This was an interesting topic. When asked how data plays a role in design, many of the answers differed. One response was that we have so much data already, and the bigger struggle is that this data isn't all the same, so it can’t be used for much or it’s a struggle to even use it. Another answer was that data can sometimes be used "just because", and that it's always important to ask why we are using it, and what's the purpose or goal. Then design around that.

On Whether Technology Will Replace Designers:

I feel this was the hottest topic of the night, and many were on opposite sides. Still, I think we could all agree that yes, technology can and someday will be used to automate the mundane tasks that we do every day. And that this automation will hopefully free us up to do the bigger things that we all want to be doing in our day. Ultimately, it sounded like technology still has a way to go to truly replicate the smaller intricate details of design. However, we should all know that it’s coming and start learning how to use those problem-solving techniques etc. to remain valuable.

On the Fear of Technology:

When we were asked whether we have any fears around technologies in our individual industries, the overall feeling was that we don’t really know what the next thing is, but that we shouldn’t fear it. We don't know what the next five to 10 years will really bring for our industry, so rather than fear it, let’s be optimistic, learn how to use it, and embrace it with open arms.

So how do I personally view technology and design? I think it's an exciting time. Do I feel like designers will be entirely replaced by technology? No. Do I feel like technology has the chance to drastically impact our industry, and those currently in it? Absolutely. It did once with the computer, and I’m sure it will do it again. I’ll be honest – at first, I was skeptical whether it could ever happen, but because I thought about it and we talked about it, I think I can actually see it happening to some degree already. Knowing that also reinforces my views on designers needing to evolve beyond just "doing" and to become more impactful to organizations in many more ways than just the act of designing. If you too are skeptical, then think about it: at InVision we are building that exact product that's using technology to automate many of the small tasks a designer has to do every day. We're also building tools that use real information and data to help you build faster prototypes and collaborate in a more centralized location. We pull all the various technological tools that you use every day into this one location, which is working great for our customers and organization. They finally have a tool that streamlines all of this, and I can't wait to see how we continue to use technology here at InVision to increasingly help designers and organizations evolve their concepts, and take them places they've never been before.

So I’d love to hear your take on this topic. How do you feel technology will impact design in years to come? Are you excited? Scared? Let have a discussion about it on Twitter.

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