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Creative Agency Culture Brand Strategy

Where are agency design teams headed next?


By Sam Anderson | Network Editor

August 5, 2022 | 6 min read

At a recent roundtable event with design leaders from The Drum Network, we indulged in a little future-gazing. With creative and digital landscapes changing fast, we asked our panelists: what trends will dictate the next decade of evolution in design teams?

A futuristic rendering of a hand and a ring

7 leaders from agency design departments weigh in: where is their field headed next? / Axel Ruffini via Unsplash

Michael Vromans, chief creative officer, DPDK: expanded depth and breadth

We’re broadening our understanding of where a product or a touch point sits in the whole customer experience. It’s customer experience thinking, broad thinking, but very deep in craft.

Without experts who have fierce opinions and fierce visions, they will never be surprised. It’s yin and yang: there’s research, but you still need the artistry of creating something new, not a faster horse. And doing that within a context of operating within a very complex design environment (we’ve come to call them ‘design infrastructures’), where everything is connected throughout the customer experience. All the touch points are connected, so you can influence design from a central library; change 50 products or 100 products in one go.

Danny Bluestone, chief executive officer, Cyber-Duck: sustainable design

Sustainable design, the environment, climate change, are going to be big. As designers, we have responsibilities there in terms of energy and ethics as well. Designers will have to become almost like the safeguarders of ethics in terms of what is doable and what isn’t.

Inclusive design too. All of us are going to get older; everyone’s going to have some sort of impairment. Designing for those users is going to continue to be key.

Avery Hennings, lead experience specialist, Omobono (part of The Marketing Practice): some things never change

It’s simple: touch point agnostic and creative storytellers speaking to the right people.

Aya Baeshean, vice-president and head of design, Known: mastering change

Change is a dominant, inevitable factor in life (and in the future), and the ability to master fluidity within our departments is crucial. I always see the key as creating a solid core foundation for the department, but creating that system in a way that is flexible and able to have that fluidity.

David Rubery, head of user experience and user-centered design, Jaywing: better understandings of behavior

Technology will change and evolve at a fast rate, but humans are staying the same. They’re not evolving at the same rate. So for me, a design department is going to need the same set of skills: advocate for the user; engage with and understand user behavior; and use behavioral insights to drive design decisions. The skills and software we use to communicate that might be different. But those will still remain the output, whether it’s virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) or web3.

Jane Austin, chief experience officer, Digitas: the permanent power of curious minds

It will be what it looks like now – empowered people with trust and motivation, and who know what they’re doing. Where we’re investing in them to continue to do good work. The skills themselves may change, but the curious mindset shouldn’t.

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Hina Elton, research director, Foolproof: an acceleration

Designers will have access to tools that enable them to create design more efficiently, such as augmented intelligence tools, so we can speed things up a lot quicker and adapt and optimize design more efficiently to the trends of the future.

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