Future of Working and Learning

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Future of Working and Learning

Key Takeaways

  • Some impactful global trends in design education and the design sector include a shift from traditional design education, the need for designers to solve increasingly complex problems, integrating emerging technologies into design, and a rise in the importance of core values in design.
  • There market for design and demand for designers is expected to grow globally as industries increasingly seek designers that will enable them meet future challenges.
  • Emerging technologies such as AI, VR, and ML are becoming ubiquitous and designers now understand that they will play a critical role in "injecting utility, joy, beauty, meaning, and humanity in how AI manifests and integrates into our everyday lives."


The latest and most impactful global trends in design education and the design sector and insights on the opportunities and benefits that may play out over time have been provided below.

1) Traditional Education is Becoming Less Important

  • Traditional education is no longer as important as it used to be to work in the industry.
  • Students no longer need to study in a prestigious art school or get a creative degree to have a successful career in design.

Why it is a Trend

  • Emerging designers are increasingly embracing online learning and many emerging artists are not attending art schools as the graphic below shows:
  • In fact, about 75% of professionals in the industry didn't attend an art university.
  • A survey of design students found that "75% of students (30) had experience with online learning: 67.5% of design students (27) had studied and completed one or more subjects fully online and 7.5% of students (3) had completed an MOOC."

Drivers and Inhibitors

  • A key driver of the trend is the rise in remote learning in general, especially since the COID-19 pandemic.
  • Another key driver is the rise in remote work. About "36.2 million workers or 22% of Americans will be working remotely by the year 2025. This is an 87% increase from pre-pandemic levels."
  • This massive shift to remote work has also resulted in corporate learning and development being shifted remotely.
  • A key inhibitor, however, is that majority of design students still prefer in-person education. A study found that 75% of design students "would study face-to-face when the online mode would be the only other option and 27 students (67.5%) would prefer to study a design subject face-to-face when the blended learning mode would be an additional option."

Example of an Organization

  • College of Design University of Minnesota is an example of a school that had to embrace remote design learning.
  • Other design schools embracing the trend include School of Motion, Udemy, Domestika, Skillshare, and Motion Design School. The graph below shows a breakdown of online schools preferred by design students:

2) Incorporating Emerging Technologies and Processes/Practices into Design Education

  • Design schools are increasingly embracing new technologies to help ensure their students are ready to meet future design needs.
  • Technologies such as 3D, augmented reality (AR), voice UI (VUI), virtual reality (VR), machine learning (ML), Internet of things (IOT), touch sensing, motion sensing, and other technology are increasingly being incorporated into design education to future proof emerging designers.
  • Design schools are also collaborating and networking with industry leaders such as Canon, Google, Uber, and Samsung to better understand practical design practices and processes that are currently emerging in innovative workplaces.
  • According to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), efforts to educate and future proof current design students "requires a heightened emphasis on industry collaborations, high-profile guest discussions, wellness programs, and communication workshops in an academic setting."

Why it is a Trend

Drivers and Inhibitors of the Trend

  • Emerging technologies such as AI, VR, and ML are becoming ubiquitous and designers now understand that they will play a critical role in "injecting utility, joy, beauty, meaning, and humanity in how AI manifests and integrates into our everyday lives."
  • Educators also understand that the future is constantly evolving and preparing design students for the future requires networking and collaborating with innovative companies that are building for the future.
  • A key factor inhibiting the trend is that integrating emerging technologies into the curriculum is difficult and challenging for some design schools.
  • According to Anastasia Raina, an assistant professor at Rhode Island School of Design, "exploring the application of machine learning for art has been quite limited so far as it is an extremely time-consuming process. With Adobe software, we’ve been conditioned to see results right away, whereas, with machine learning, the process can take weeks and often requires constant troubleshooting. Then, after all the effort, the aesthetic result may fall short of the artist’s hopes.

Examples of Organizations Participating in the Trend

  • SCAD and UCSC are examples of schools that are participating in the trend.

3) Complex Problems

  • According to a paper on the trends that will shape the design industry in the coming years by the Professional Association of Design, the future of design will increasingly be dominated by complex problems as even simple tasks are increasingly situated within complex systems.
  • According to the AIGA, working within complex systems "requires a new paradigm to replace a mid–twentieth century focus on the limited issues of appearance and function. Designers will be required to master certain methods long required in other fields.
  • This trend is evident in designers designing visual systems, social systems, and technological systems.
  • A new paradigm shift in design is increasingly required as "much of the work in solving problems at the systems level is in analysis and planning, not in physical production. It is distributed across experts from a variety of disciplines with different worldviews who work closely as a team."
  • To prepare college students to handle complex design problems, experts recommend that college design students "should frame design problems at various scales, nested at the level of components, products, systems, and communities. They should have opportunities to respond to open-ended briefs with ongoing responsibility for negotiating the boundaries of problems and for ranking priorities within a well-researched list of constraints and opportunities."
  • Students also need to "identify and visually map the interdependent relationships among people, places, things, and activities in a complex system."

Why it is a Trend

  • This trend was highlighted in a research paper by the Professional Association of Design (AIGA) as one of the key trends that will affect the design industry in the coming decade. The trend was also highlighted by UX Planet.

Drivers and Inhibitors

  • This trend is being driven by a more complex word that is increasingly embedding new technologies in businesses.
  • In addition, the designer's job today is increasingly demanding, extending "to the design of services and communities of interest that interact through new models of communication."
  • A factor inhibiting this trend is the lack of design professionals that are competent to handle these challenges and "reconciling the competing priorities of technical feasibility, functional usability, what people want technology to do, and the demands of site-specific use."
  • Designers are not just faced with developing methods, competencies, and processes required to handle the expanded scope of work complex problem present, they are also faced with the challenge of building processes and design that can withstand the velocity of change.

Examples of Organizations Participating in the Trend

4) Core Values Matter

  • Another key trend is the increasing focus on values such as climate sustainability, equity, and inclusion in design.
  • According to Céline Semaan, the founder of Slow Factory, designing for human survival will become the new necessary field of design: ecosystems over aesthetics."
  • According to AIGA, transition design, "a practice that proposes design-led societal transition toward more sustainable futures", will increasingly become standard in the next decades.
  • Social innovation design is also expected to dominate in the coming years. According to the Center for Social Innovation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, social innovation design is a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than current solutions…with value that accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals."
  • To prepare students for the future, Don Norman, founding director emeritus of the Design Lab at the University of California, states that "emerging generation of designers must be steeped in history and material science."

Why it is a Trend

  • An interview of 30 design experts identified the trend as one of the two main trends that will impact the design space in the next decade.
  • The trend was also highlighted in a research paper by the Professional Association of Design (AIGA) as one of the key trends that will affect the design industry in the coming decade.
  • AOLCC also identifies social conscious design as a key trend in the space.

Examples of Organizations Participating in the Trend

  • California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, University of Oregon, and the University of Texas, Austin are examples of colleges participating in the trend.

Insights on Opportunities/Benefits Based on Trends

Increased Demand for Designers

  • A key opportunity as a result of the trends identified is an increase in the demand for designers.
  • According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in arts and design will grow by 4% annually between 2020 and 2030.
  • According to a study conducted by Forester, a "global survey of design teams found that half expected to grow in 2021 and one-third expected to grow by more than 25%. And that’s probably low, as that survey was fielded during the summer and fall of 2020 when economic conditions were more uncertain."

Design Market is Expected to Grow

  • According to Forester, the global design industry market size is $162 billion and it expects multiple software categories used in design to grow by more than 20%.
  • The global industrial design market is expected to grow with a CAGR of 5.3% between 2022 and 2028.

Design-Led Companies

  • There is an increasing appreciation of the benefits of a design-led firm and this will only increase as designers get involve in solving complex problems.
  • A study by McKinsey found "that design-led companies had 32% more revenue and 56% higher total returns to shareholders compared with other companies."

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Benefits

  • As AI increasingly integrated into design, experts expects that it will benefit designers tremendously.
  • AI would enable design teams to automate routine tasks and deliver projects faster.
  • Routine and repetitive tasks such as grid alignment, adjusting contrast ratios, and consistent typography can easily be automated, allowing the designer to focus on more creative tasks.

Remote Work

  • Remote work is already here to stay and as emerging designers are increasingly being thought remotely, more and more of them will also become more comfortable working online.
  • Remote jobs will offer designers more flexibility and additional income as good designers will have the opportunity to offer excellent services to companies that have no-need for in-house designer but still require excellent design services.
  • Designers will also have the opportunity to use their skills in unconventional and more impactful ways in the future.
  • The chart below shows that remote opportunities is already popular within the design industry and this trend will likely continue:

Research Strategy

To provide the most impactful global trends in design education and the design sector and 5-7 insights on the opportunities and benefits that may play out over time, our research team relied on data, research papers, and insights from industry leaders, media reports, market reports, and peer-review papers, and academic database. Trends were generally selected based on how often they were reported as trends by multiple sources or based on expert analysis of the trends. We then provided insights based on market reports and industry expert insights surrounding the various trends selected. Each insight selected has been backed with relevant industry statistics or quotes.

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