Last Monday night, I was 1 of 5 product designers on the Future of Work panel, part of AIGA’s San Francisco Design Week. Focusing on the ever-evolving role of the designer, our conversation covered everything from whether designers need coding skills in the future, to the impact of current trends on the industry, to the skillsets companies look for when hiring a product designer.
Here’s a recap for those who weren’t able to attend the sold-out event.
- Tyson Kallberg from Asana
- Mario Delgado from Wealthfront
- Diogenes Brito from Slack
- Heather Phillips from Designer Fund
- Me, Dennis Field from InVision
Ryan Donahue, VP of Design at Zendesk, moderated the panel.
So what does the future look like for product designers, according to me and my fellow panelists? We mostly agreed on the following points:
- Product designers will play a bigger role within an organization, becoming leaders who help companies achieve key business goals through design.
- Design won’t just be valued as visual—it’ll be the common theme in a company. Product designers will help spread that message to every department in an organization—even the ones that haven’t traditionally been design-focused.
- Designers and engineers will start to work together more closely, nearly eliminating the walls we see in some organizations today. With an emphasis on leadership, designers will always need coding knowledge or the ability to understand how something’s built. Better tools will help designers communicate with engineers, even if that means generating some code to make handing off things to developers or other areas of the organization easier.
- Designers should break out from their silos and get comfortable with crossing into other departments to provide expertise and solutions to a problem—even if it’s not typically an area where designers might lend a hand. Here at InVision, we’re encouraged to do just that. If someone can help and add value to another department’s projects, we’re encouraged to go help.
- If you know how to code, you’re set up nicely for the future. And if you don’t, it’s time to learn enough to be able to tell your story. The future designer must be able to use appropriate tools and methods to communicate ideas to their team.
Product designers will play a bigger role within an organization, becoming leaders who help companies achieve key business goals through design.
Design won’t just be valued as visual—it’ll be the common theme in a company.
Ryan said it best: start getting weird. Designers need to feel comfortable doing things that are different from what everyone else is doing, so cut through the clutter and push yourself to do more. That’s how change happens.
The Future of Work provided some valuable insight into what the next few years hold for product designers. And that future looks pretty bright.