D&AD President’s Lectures – The Digital Revolution 2.0

A few of us MBer’s went to the D&AD President’s Lecture this Wednesday evening, headed up by Neville Brody with the ominous title The Digital Revolution 2.0. It was great to hear about changes and advances made to technology, to see interesting projects and innovations, but I was definitely left wanting and asking myself so what does that mean for design? How are we, as an industry, set to design that of which is so unclear?

A recurring theme throughout the night was about how the mindset and temperament of design and creativity is at odds with the speed and precision of technology. Currently, Google future-proofs themselves against this by keeping things extraordinarily simple, perhaps gaining perceptions of ‘we’ve got better things to do…’ One comment made during the event was that our design process is contextually slow when compared to the fast progression of technology and innovation. Through speeding up our design in order to match this, what will be lost? Speaker John Fass had some interesting thoughts when it comes to our fast-paced mind sets. Will there be a more enforced necessity for people to make active efforts to stop this hurtling pace and… just… think… slowly. He proposed a heart monitor that created it unable for one to engage with a task until you had slowed your heart rate right down and placed yourself in an appropriately calm mood. Of course, a professional industry is not going to promote the slow when work can be created and money produced faster. What does this mean for design? As markets move from products to services, will we all be experience designers, will the aesthetics become redundant?

Though there has been a recent renaissance in craft within technology, this type of innovation always comes in connection with something physical. Digital hacks use traditional materials and physical objects to create and emphasise this aesthetic contrast. When we are given the constraints of a screen we can easily revert to the universal systems of frames, boxes, inputs, outputs. How can we break from this in order to ensure a visual future which is not utilitarian? Andy Sandoz, of Work Club, made a plea for breaking out against what the machines are telling us to do. Code language is seeping through into our everyday language – hashtags are now commonplace in places where they really, really shouldn’t be.

I cry for more of Andy’s thinking and also for the realisation that there’s no shame in taking advantage of a room full of design minds and using it to discuss exactly that – design. If we do not address and discuss this now, we may find ourselves in that utilitarian landscape after all.