Richelle Sibolboro

Top 5 Trends from DesignTO: Attributes of the Future Designer

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I love design. I love it so much I travel to experience it. But this year, because of the pandemic, I stayed home so I could stay safe. That didn’t stop DesignTO as they went “Distanced and Digital” this year, offering many of the IRL programs, online. As I explored the many pages of the website, talked to some of the exhibitors, and watched many talks, I couldn’t help but see some trends emerge. Not just overall industry trends, but more specifically, trends in the realm of the designer. And how the pandemic has transformed, not just our physical working environment but the way we will need to work in the future

So instead of writing about the obvious trends of what it means to go digital, I thought it might be an interesting change to write about the emerging trends I’m seeing in the role of the designer in the digital world.

Adaptability 

As I interviewed several designers, artists, and curators, I was hearing the same thing “we had to pivot so many times!” Things that were usually set in stone, became very fluid. Designers had to adapt to preparing work for a real space, to figuring out how to manufacture their items locally, to having to create a virtual space and finally developing a platform for the work. Designers in 2021 will need to be able to do so much more than designing a physical object or space, they will need to design the entire digital experience and plug into new digital ecosystems to that they have never thought of before.

See my interview with Dinner with Diaspora and how they had to pivot several times to get their exhibit uploaded and online.

Entertain me 

Because everything is pretty much online, it means that practically everyone is watching a lot of talks, webinars and interviews. As a result, the designer can’t just be an expert in their craft, they now have to entertain us on screen. If you are going to have a talk for an hour, come up with some interesting talking points to keep us engaged. This goes for both the interviewer and interviewee. Think of Stephen Colbert, Oprah and Trevor Noah, there is a presence they bring to the screen and there is something they are also able to bring out in their guest. Education now also has to be entertaining.

See my interview with Emily who was so comfortable with my interview that it seemed more like a conversation.

Content is key 

Designers are natural storytellers and produce content without realizing it. But now, they will have to feed the beast with social media being one of the main channels where people are consuming content. Audiences are curious and want to actively engage with their beloved influencers. Content is a blessing and a curse. It is easy to invite audiences along for the journey but at the same time, designers may want to keep some of their work to themselves so it can be properly “revealed” at designer festivals and shows. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a proper formula for content development and deployment. But once you find something that works, keep doing it.

Watch Christian Lo of lighting studio Anony and Lambert Rainville and Nicolas Sangaré of multidisciplinary studio Rainville Sangaré, on the occasion of their installations at EQ3’s King East showroom.

Identity 

This is something that the next generation of designers will have to be very aware of. BLM has shined the light on cultural inequalities which are causing many young designers to understand, seek out and develop their own identity within their work. It is a new type of contemplation and self-reflection. And this will create more topics of discussion as the DNA of design is broken down and built back up again as culture and identity rise to the surface. Knowing where you come from and how that affects the way you view design will be an added advantage to giving design more depth and breadth. 

See my interview with Dinner with Diaspora and how they take on cultural identity in their work.

Collaboration 

Design is all about collaboration. It’s the core of the discipline. And this attribute will continue to evolve as more individuals will be brought to the table to help bring a designer’s vision to life. New disciplines will be brought together such as gaming, animation and film, to create new products and spaces to be experienced and designed.

See my interview with Deborah Wang on how collaboration was the main concept in their exhibition ‘Exchange Piece’.

Richelle Sibolboro

Design strategist and content creator for hire with a passion for arts and culture specifically in design, architecture, and travel. She has produced content for designboom, Azure magazine, Open City Projects, Digifest, and World Design Weeks. Follow her on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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