The evolving role of the Designer

When you think of the role of a Designer (digital) what do you think of?
Most people are likely to think that a Designer adds the trendy colours, typefaces and pictures to make your website look ‘next level cool’. If this is the image you have of a Designer, then you wouldn’t be wrong. However, during the past fifteen years or so, the role of the Designer has undergone a serious make-over. Today, the role description of a Designer is complex and involves a great deal more than simply making something look good.
Recently, I attended the Web Directions Design Conference. While the conference managed to highlight all of the typical design stereotypes (think powerpoint presentations clearly NOT designed in powerpoint, quirky fashion and even speakers presenting barefoot.), it provided great insight about the extremely diverse role of the modern Designer and future directions for design.
The days of Designers just making something look good are over. Actually, I don't actually think those days were ever really here. Design is not only about how something looks and feels but also about the way it functions. Today, good design begins with careful research and obtaining evidence that inform design decisions, enabling accessible and functional products to be created.
Darla Sharp, Voice UX Designer for Google, spoke about the ways in which Digital Design has already expanded well beyond just designing an interface for the web. Design is now about how something looks, feels and sounds. Simillairy, Eduardo Veloso explained how using eye tracking in design can help broaden and aid design to create more accessible, functional and innovative products.
As the role of the Designer expands, so too does the responsibility associated with the role. Keynote speaker, Sara Wachter Boettcher explained the importance of inclusive design; designing to include everyone and prioritising your most vulnerable person/user first. She suggested that while designing and researching for your target audience is important and very beneficial to your company, it was just as important to ask yourself who you are NOT designing for?  What are some of the design consequences resulting from this? Where is the data you are using coming from? In what ways could the data be biased? Sara suggested that asking these types of questions at the start of the design process. These types of questions help to not only create visually appealing, functional designs but also designs that are inclusive and ethically appropriate.
Check out some examples and further reading here.
Research, prototyping, testing, voice & product design, design & content strategy are just a few topics covered by this year’s Web Directions ‘Design’ Conference. The conference highlighted just how far the Design industry has come and how the role of a Designer is continually evolving. It’s an exciting industry to be a part of! 


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