Design in 2021 – what will interactive design look like?

As part of our series looking at design in 2021, Hege Aaby and Matt Rice of Sennep look at what will happen in interactive design in the next 12 months.

What do you think 2021 will hold for interactive design?

Hege Aaby, co-founder and managing director at Sennep: 

2020, what a strange end to a decade! Covid has turned our lives upside down with remote working and endless zoom calls. It has made us adopt new ways of thinking and working that are sure to be reflected in the trends we’ll see in UX design in 2021. There are three big trends we’re predicting for 2021:

Design systems: Large companies with a portfolio of digital products will either have a design system in place or will be in desperate need for one. A shared library of design components and ‘one source of truth’ not only saves design time but provides a better and more consistent user experience across a company’s digital touchpoints. In our current world of remote working, having systems in place that enhance collaboration and communication is crucial. We will see organisations that have those systems in place reap the benefits of a streamlined design process and take that opportunity to reinvest the time saved into other aspects of their businesses.

Augmented Reality: Augmented reality is not a new thing, but in the last few years it has been pushing the boundaries of mobile UX design. Having launched an AR app for Google HK this year, and with a number of enquiries about AR experiences, we believe there’s a big appetite for innovative AR applications in 2021. According to Statista, the market and data analyst, the revenue of consumer AR applications is expected to double in 2021 and exceed $6.2 billion.

As we have already seen, AR experiences have an immense potential for companies in retail, education, property, and entertainment, with experiences like virtual try-ons, enhanced museum experiences and interactive learning.

With the addition of LiDAR technology to the latest iPhone, AR experiences will also be quicker, more reliable and offer plenty of new creative possibilities. As people will be able to scan not only objects but whole physical locations with their phones and piece them together, we expect photogrammetry to become more prevalent. Given the current pandemic travel restrictions the opportunity to ‘visit’ or experience places on the web in 3D, AR or VR is likely to become more mainstream. Crowd-sourced imagery could also be used to construct whole streets or even districts of far-flung cities and open up creative opportunities for virtual tourism, gaming or even shopping.

Inclusive design: The murder of George Floyd in May 2020 shocked the world and reignited the Black Lives Matter movement. At Sennep it sparked conversations about diversity, equality and inclusivity in general, and also how it applies to UX design. We weren’t the only company talking about this. In an interesting survey by Invision, 62.3% said they had a team conversation about DEI at work—and 26.4% said it was the first time they had done so. With the topic at the forefront of people’s mind, we believe UX design in 2021 will become more inclusive, taking into consideration the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age, and other forms of human difference.

What is your favourite example of interactive design from 2020 and why?

Matt Rice, co-founder and creative director at Sennep:

You know that little sting of envy when you see a great project someone else has done, that you wish you’d done? We felt that when we saw Nestlums – an app designed to help young children grasp the concept of digital money.

Working in the financial sector and also making mobile games, this project hit the sweet spot for us. In a cashless society, understanding the value of money can be tricky, and we love how this playful app tackles it. Executed with lovely details, and with fun games revolving around numeracy, the app uses the power of play and gamification to help create positive habits.

The basic premise is that parents set tasks, and kids complete them in exchange for pocket money, in-game gems and praise from the characters. The in-game currency unlocks educational games and helps build financial literacy through play. Making a dry topic rewarding and engaging is something other financial institutions could benefit from too, so kudos to Glitchers and Cauldron for creating this fantastic app. We’re looking forward to seeing how they build on it in the future.

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