What Does The Future Look Like for Designers?

About a month ago, I was honored to be 1 of 5 product designers to sit on the Future of Work panel, part of AIGA’s San Francisco Design Week. The panel focused on the ever-evolving role of the designer, our conversation covered everything from whether designers need coding skills in the future, to the impact of current trends on the industry, to the skillsets companies look for when hiring a product designer.

This was my first ever panel, but I had a really great time and I wanted to share with you my experience as well as the findings.

Below is a recap for anyone who wasn’t able to attend the sold-out event.

The venue:

Zendesk hosted the panel at their headquarters, a gorgeous space with a rich history. Once home to the Eastern Outfitting Company, it has a modern feel balanced with carefully restored original architecture from the early 1900s.

The panelists:

Ryan Donahue, VP of Design at Zendesk, moderated the panel.

The crowd:

One of the coolest things about the Future of Work? Getting to speak in front of such an engaged audience. When it came time to take questions from the crowd, they asked some really great questions. One was so good, I think it stumped the whole panel, but Diogenes came through with a clutch answer.

After the event, I connected with designers who stuck around to ask more questions. Some wanted to know more about InVision or share their enthusiasm for the product. Others wanted advice on how they could play a bigger role in their organization.

The conversation:

So what does the future look like for product designers, according to me and my fellow panelists? We mostly agreed on the following points:

  • Product designers will play a bigger role within an organization, becoming leaders who help companies achieve key business goals through design.
  • Design won’t just be valued as visual—it’ll be the common theme in a company. Product designers will help spread that message to every department in an organization—even the ones that haven’t traditionally been design-focused.
  • Designers and engineers will start to work together more closely, nearly eliminating the walls we see in some organizations today. With an emphasis on leadership, designers will always need coding knowledge or the ability to understand how something’s built. Better tools will help designers communicate with engineers, even if that means generating some code to make handing off things to developers or other areas of the organization easier.
  • Designers should break out from their silos and get comfortable with crossing into other departments to provide expertise and solutions to a problem—even if it’s not typically an area where designers might lend a hand. Here at InVision, we’re encouraged to do just that. If someone can help and add value to another department’s projects, we’re encouraged to go help.
  • If you know how to code, you’re set up nicely for the future. And if you don’t, it’s time to learn enough to be able to tell your story. The future designer must be able to use appropriate tools and methods to communicate ideas to their team.

The consensus:

Ryan said it best: start getting weird. Designers need to feel comfortable doing things that are different from what everyone else is doing, so cut through the clutter and push yourself to do more. That’s how change happens.

The Future of Work provided some valuable insight into what the next few years hold for product designers. And that future looks pretty bright.

I’m still awaiting the video recording of this event and as soon as I get it, I’ll share it with you all so you can watch it! In the meantime please feel free to ask any questions that you may have about this event. I’d love to share more with you.

Note: This post was originally posted on the InVision blog: http://blog.invisionapp.com/the-future-of-work-a-recap/

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