A few weeks ago I participated in an RGD webinar event about the future of content. As a budding graphic designer, it made me a little bit nervous about the role of the graphic designer in the future. If content is changing, then the way we design it to communicate the right message will also need to change. We need to adapt to the content in order for our role to remain viable. There were three speakers who all gave their opinion and insight about where they thought the future of content was heading.
Karen McGrane – User Experience and Content Strategist at Bond Art + Science
Karen spoke about the challenge of creating and designing content for different devices, channels, platforms, screen sizes, resolutions, etc. She also talked about separating content from presentation/form, and how these two things often get mixed up during design. For example, when designing websites, most people only think about designing for the desktop web, but then you have to make sure the tablet and mobile versions look good and make sense as well. Sometimes the design works well for the desktop and doesn’t work at all in other applications.
I had this problem recently while working with a website design developer called Wix. During the design, I completely forgot about checking the mobile preview to see if what I was doing on the desktop side worked well there, too (it didn’t). It’s easy to get caught up in the design and forget that we are designing to create meaning. Sometimes we get lost in the creation of visuals and need to take a step back to remember that our goal is designing content that needs to communicate effectively.
Ian Ardouin-Fumat – Information Designer at the Office for Creative Research
Ian is an expert in data visualization. He introduced us to a project he worked on called The Great Elephant Census, in which national parks and wildlife staff in Africa counted hundreds of thousands of elephants in Africa. Ian and his team were tasked with visualizing this massive amount of data, which was collected over two years and across 18 countries. His team took a unique approach to the data, making it an interactive explanation tool, rather than a static story. He talked about the difference between storytelling and letting the consumer explore on their own. Instead of providing all the answers, you make people ask questions and discover the answers for themselves.
I recently completed an infographic project where I had to take a large amount of data and communicate it in a visual manner that was easy to understand. Part of the project is creating an animation of the data, which I have yet to complete. Ian’s work with his Great Elephant Census project gave me some insight about making content responsive to the consumer instead of flatly announcing information. With the technology innovations available today, consumers are rapidly growing used to content being responsive and being able to interact with data, not just looking at it. This gave me some ideas about how to approach the animation side of my infographic in a dynamic, creative way.
Andy Pratt – Interactive Media Designer at Favorite Medium
Andy spoke about how design is being integrated into devices with capabilities such as facial and audio recognition. He stirred up a lot of discussion around ‘bots’ and machine learning, where computers are designed to complete focused, automated tasks, or even become responsive to the consumer. He proposed that artificially created content will increase, with objects such as our appliances giving us feedback and making suggestions. He gave an example of how a medicine cabinet would notice that your medication was running low and request a refill of your prescription from the pharmacy.
In effect, users’ existence would generate the content. For example, FitBits and other wearable fitness trackers generate data based on the users’ activities. He asked us to think about what type of relationship we want to create with our content. He also cautioned about measuring everything, because having more data but less depth is not always ideal. Also, people have short attention spans, they want quick content that immediately answers their questions or informs them. If we present them with vast amounts of mediocre data, they will only get confused and the meaning will be lost.
I haven’t worked with responsive devices yet, but it is a current consumer trend that seems to be growing. It draws on aspects of industrial design as well as environmental design, because people are interacting with these objects. Amazon introduced buttons that, when pressed, order certain products automatically because they are linked to a Amazon account. For instance, when doing laundry and you notice your laundry detergent is low, you click the Tide button on the wall next to the washer. Andy takes it one step further, with the object conducting the demand for the product. Will our washers be ordering detergent for us soon? Time will only tell.