16 December 2013 - 12:55pm | by Whitespace

Goosebumps, pigeonholes, buzzwords, missing lines and the future of design

The future of designThe future of design

We recently had another desk move to accommodate our growing team, and I had to give up my secret shelf of old typography and creative magazines. During the cull I came across an issue of the ISTD (International Society of Typographic Designers) from 1997, the year I graduated, with the cover story ‘Will graphic design reach the year 2005?’

To some, the rise of digital, the lack of a proper hand-kerned typeface, the potential death of print (yes they were talking about that even then) seemed a scary prospect. To me it suggested a pretty exciting future, with designers dabbling with Adobe Director, inspiring multi-disciplined agencies like Why Not Associates and collectives including designers like Tomato. It seemed that design had been given a whole set of new opportunities to embrace; motion, interaction and the internet, and to be honest I thought it was cool.

When I look around the studio at Whitespace 16 years on, the present is a world where good design is applied to more exciting stuff, more channels, more applications, more technologies, more amazing ideas and products than ever before. The principles of good design help us engage with more people in more meaningful ways, creating conversations and influencing conversions. When I see what we are getting up to here in Edinburgh, the future of design and our industry gives me goosebumps.

What are pigeonholes anyway?
One of the big challenges for organisations in 2014 is how they pair marketing requirements to our industry’s self-defined and well-versed agency categories. We Whitespacers have had a great year including being named Scottish Design Agency of the Year for a second time, but it’s not surprising given the work we’ve been involved in that there is some confusion as to how to categorise us. Some folk think of us as a design agency, others as digital, and some as a marketing campaign specialist. We are in fact all of these things, but we are also a good deal more and it’s hard to put us in a pigeonhole. I guess the challenge for Whitespace and others in the industry is to ensure we can demonstrate the thinking, creativity and results, that we have the skills, talent, team and genuine ability to tackle the brief. Then, perhaps, pigeonholes don’t really matter, just the good work we produce.

This years buzzword winner is…
Content marketing has been the buzzword for 2013 and this looks unlikely to change next year, yet many of us have been doing just that for a long time - working collaboratively as a creative group of designers, writers, technologists, animators, social media community managers, photographers and illustrators. Next year will see richer, more multi-layered content required from agencies - work that involves, and begs to be shared in every space.

Not that last year’s buzzword winner ‘phygital’ should be forgotten, its just been swallowed by content marketing in its quest for agency service offering of the year.

Whose line is it anyway?
If there ever was a real line that agencies were above or below, then I guess design, and Whitespace, come from below it. But I don’t think the division really exists now (if I’m honest, I have to admit I never really believed in it). Forget the death of print, now it’s the death of digital marketing – just ask research leaders at Forrester. I believe ideas are everything, channel is anything, and good design lives forever. Digital is something that runs through everything we do as marketers and designers - it’s in our DNA, because we have always known it.

So does graphic design have a future?
I think the best design does more than capture attention and make the audience linger. It extends the experience, compelling the viewer not only to notice, but to remember. So, my answer to the question is ‘hell yes’!

2014 Prediction in five words
Considered, crafted and channel neutral.

Iain Valentine
Creative Director
Whitespace

Tel: 0131 625 5500
Email: iain@whitespacers.com
Web: www.whitespacers.com
Twitter: @whitespacers

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