We are surrounded by it. Most often we associate design with graphics or web design, but it’s much more inclusive. The spaces we live in are the result of architectural design. Our furniture and surrounds are interior design. How we move around is transportation and mobility design of everything from cars, boats, planes, down to bicycles, mopeds and even wheelchairs. Civil engineering includes the design of roads, bridges, tunnels, city planning, water supply and a host of infrastructure that most of us don’t even pay attention to.
We see design in every carton of milk or bottled beverage. Clothing, jewelry, timepieces, yes even the Apple version of a watch, cellphones, computers, you name it.
So what’s the question? How do we deal with design in a world where greater complexity and shorter design cycles are in conflict? What are the implications of time in designing new products?
Complexity is growing and the challenge of good design is to render the complexity simple or completely transparent to the user.
It’s not necessary to know the incredibly complex effort that was required to make the first iPhone. Thin batteries, dense memory, thin film display and touch screen all packaged with elastomeric connectors in a sleek metal case. Much of the product had to be invented to solve the packaging problems of making the phone. Manufacturing processes involving high precision, high throughput automation and mechatronics had to be developed to meet the requirements of the new phone technology. High strength glass was invented specifically to make the display look great and prevent scratching and cracking, although the latter problem is still being refined.
The electronics by themselves are incredibly complex, but when you add that to almost every other product it pushes the boundaries. On top of that, there is the interconnect and communications element that is becoming a requirement of every new product, even the humble thermostat has to be internet ready as Nest has very successfully demonstrated.
Where do we go from here?
Everything is going to be re-invented, re-designed, and re-imagined as something that has never been before. That’s a scary notion. Consider what happens when Tesla drives battery storage costs to half or less of their current cost. Used as a home storage system starts to make a lot of sense. Applications for storage that have never been contemplated suddenly become cost effective.
What happens when 3D metal parts become a common feature of the manufacturing world? If you thing that 3D plastic printing is big, the next wave is going to be really huge.
And so it will be with everything. While I don’t subscribe to the Internet of Everything hype, there is an element of truth to it when you examine some of the emerging new products coming from the recent generation of technology.