Total Pageviews

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tech Moves to the Background as Design Becomes Mainstream

Over the past few decades, the computing industry has passed through several different eras. In the ’90s, the big tech companies were competing for speed in a race for faster and more powerful computers. Then in the ’00s, the industry moved to mobile on a quest for slimmer phones with brighter screens.

Now, the industry is entering the era of design.

As I noted in my column this week, Disruptions: Mobile Competition Shifts to Software Design, tech companies are looking for ways to make sure the user interfaces of their products are unique.

Design experts I spoke with noted that many of the devices we use look almost exactly the same today, hence that emphasis on the software that goes into that interface. Battery life and processing speed is only marginally different within product categories such as smartphones. But the look and feel of the software is what allows a copetitor to leap frog the competition.

Cesar Torres, a former Apple designer who now works for Sidecar, a ride-sharing start-up, said on Twitter: “While I don’t agree with the stylistic choices in iOS 7, it excites me that ‘design’ is a term that shows up in major news site headlines.”

Design, it seems, is becoming a mainstream topic. And for those who have lived and breathed design for decades, it’s a refreshing change.

“In the ’90s when I would meet with investors, there was no return on investment for design. Yet today, 20 years later, every project I do is because design is seen as absolutely central,” said Yves Béhar, the founder of Fuseproject, a San Francisco design agency.

Mr. Béhar said that, now, directors, chief executives and investors often sit in meetings and ask about user interface, overall experience, and the look and feel of a product. Twenty year! s ago? Most investors wouldn’t even know what those terms meant.

What the mainstream and the financiers are now starting to realize is that design is a doorway to something much more important.

“Design, even if you’re talking about Apple and their sexy devices is a promise of quality,” explained James Victore, an award-winning art director, designer, and author. “It’s a promise that the public is not going to be let down.”