Independent Thinking Blog

The Future of Design is Immaterial

The first time I watched CSI: Miami I was hooked. No, not on the show — on the uber-cool screen in the lab the characters were manipulating with their hands to pull up information. I wanted one.

If that was the future of design, it was pretty awesome.

Today, of course, almost all our devices have touchscreens. We move seamlessly between keyboards, mice, and our man- / woman- / child-hands.

Now I covet this.

Design has become more fluid and more tactile. Google’s material design exemplifies this. It recognizes the necessity of integration, and that “mobile precepts are fundamental, but touch, voice, mouse, and keyboard are all first-class input methods.”

Google is a brilliant company.

The future of design is not screens.

The Future of Design is not Screens

Two recent Fast Company articles point to the future of design. In one post, author Paul Woods writes:

I know what you’re going to say: “Screens will always exist . . . yada, yada.” And that is certainly true—we’ll always want to watch movies, look at photos, and probably use them for a million other things. But the role they place as the primary utility in our lives is set to change. Much like what happened to print (remember that weird paper thing with ink?), in the not-too-distant-future, the majority of daily tasks—ordering an Uber, making calls, sending emails will not happen through a visible GUI, but rather through voice or touch (and in the further future, maybe even thought). It’s coming.

Woods argues that in order to stay relevant a post-screen world, visual designers need to be adept at coding, have a cross-disciplinary skill set, and be laser focused on solving real-world problems.

Meanwhile, Mark Wilson thinks that one day “your home could be made of Google.”

He calls it Google’s Immaterial Design. Writes Wilson:

On the surface, Material Design was a new paradigm for interface design: UI carved out of real objects, casting shadows like real paper. But the philosophy and motivations ran deeper—the design team, at the time, told me that they imagined Material Design as a path to shape-shifting interfaces that could transform to add a room to your home or a screen to your wall. In this future, they suggested, Google could be the intersection of digital infrastructure and physical infrastructure. It wouldn’t have to take over the world anymore because it literally would be the world.

Now that will be uber cool.

Our screen-less future is already here.

I wrote recently about Amazon’s Alexa and the growing importance of voice recognition. From setting timers to asking for information, it’s already shifting me away from products and screens to voice and AI.

Google just released its own version.

Watch this space, because as this shift accelerates the implications for people and companies will be huge.

Feature photo and screen + bubbles by Steve A Johnson (Flickr).

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