The role, influence, and impact of Design thinking in product development has garnered tremendous respect and prominence in the past two decades. The perception and role of the designer on the product team is transforming from that of being the team’s “artist,” to that of being the team’s “product strategist”. This mental shift underscores the rise of the “Strategic Designer” as a business thought leader, and has transformed the way companies think about developing software and apps. However, while UX designer’s have earned a seat at the leadership table, “design” is still largely considered just another service layer in the product development process — A column on the Kanban board that decisions and features must pass through. The future for this “tactical designer” is slowly dying and giving birth to a new archetype that blends the strategic with the creative — the Narrative Designer.
Narrative Design is more than just the future of UX. It is also the future Business Model. Today, many companies are still oriented around “selling products and/or services to customers.” This, however, is no longer good enough for tomorrow’s consumers. Companies must take a critical mental shift away from “selling products and/or services to people,” to a more humble mindset of “serving people’s needs.” Through this lens, the experience individuals have with your company is the product. In this world, a company’s engagement with the customer lives well beyond a simple transaction, and is more about a defined relationship the customer has with the solution they need and desire. These are the narratives that future designers are and will begin to shape.
As consumer choices expand, the standards for a customer transacting with a business are rapidly evolving, especially as more and more of our products are beginning to be delivered as a service. Consumers are beginning to look beyond the superficial facade of the brand and beginning to ask themselves questions like, “How will a company securely, responsibly, and ethically serve me?” They are starting to buy more into the motivations, philosophy, and personality of the brand (The Why?)… These factors will define the relationship a company has with the customer, and will be the foundation for establishing an on-going relationship and dialogue. Companies that look beyond just their core product, to how they holistically serve customers will create stronger and more loyal relationships with customers that can open up not only new possible revenue streams, but also reoccurring ones.
Let’s look at what is driving this future, and how this transition is occurring:
AI is Eating the Design World
Artificial Intelligence is an uncontrollable phenomenon that is beginning to shape many aspects of socio-economic life. Interaction Design and Visual Design are two small areas where this will become the case. In the future, interfaces won’t be designed by human’s, but rather by software. There are two main reasons for this: 1.) the Perfection of Interaction Design, and 2.) Personality Responsive Design.
The Perfection of Interaction Design
Once we have identified the “optimal” way for a user to interact with a particular component, take for example a “calendar picker,” there is no real need to “re-invent the wheel” with every new design iteration. As our body-of-knowledge around user testing begins to grow and becomes ubiquitous, we begin to narrow in on what is optimal for different use-cases. The need to change an interaction paradigm only occurs if the nature of the interface or the user’s context completely changes. As computers become intelligent and capable of “self-learning,” software interfaces will not be designed, but rather generated on the fly for optimal user interaction. Interactive components will live as a library within a software system, leveraged by AI-enabled systems to serve individuals with optimal experiences. As new “interactive components and paradigms” are added to a software’s UI library, AI-enabled systems will be able to not only test the basic efficacy of the interaction paradigm in real-time, but also its efficacy across contextual environments, devices, personality-types, ages, etc. In this manner, “good design” now always gives way to “the right design”.