A simpler future

It may seem counter-intuitive to kick off a supplement on the latest in interaction design with a plea for designers to reconnect with the real world, but D&AD president – and digital pioneer – Simon ’Sanky’ Sankarayya thinks it’s a good starting point for those technophiles keen to embrace the challenges of tomorrow

Crystal-gazing seems a lot like pondering retrospectively. I believe that solutions come from places derived from experience, fun, playing and failing a bit. These thoughts/observations/activities are usually more universal and simpler, factors which still seem to be at the base of great insight and work, regardless of which ’sector’ you work in – whether the idea manifests itself in complex activation and rollout is mostly immaterial (although I don’t mean to downplay how skilled this part of our industry is). The fact is that this kind of thinking is based on people (dare I call it user-centric design?). Their relation to the world and what they actually want to be doing is more where I see solutions heading, but I could have said that 16 years ago at the start of my career, so what’s the difference now? Well, back then you couldn’t create most of the things we thought of, but now you can pretty much make anything – so you have to ask the question, ’why are we making this?, especially as that’s how the consumer wants you to be thinking.

The ’revolution’ of social media is an obvious one here – yes, it’s got ’technology platform’ stamped all over it, but most of it is based on the human desire to communicate, share, debate and even be entertained at the same time. We just need to figure out what the useful methods are in a market that deals with larger and larger parts of business and, indeed, larger, more vocal consumer communities. This is the cliff edge – what’s going to fuel the next few years of communications work where we can create projects with longer life, content or a service at their heart and finally start to pull design, advertising, architecture, events and so on together. And, in a real sense, where we can do those tougher, bigger ideas and hopefully think about what’s an appropriate method to get them out, and see if they work.

This weekend I’ve been sitting in a cabin in Sussex with friends but no TV, no mobile phone reception, no Internet and no newspapers. Did the world end? Did my girlfriend starve as our food order didn’t get ordered online? Did Twitter crash again due to too much (fairly pointless) traffic? No. (Well, maybe Twitter did crash). But when I woke up this morning I pretty much knew that the world hadn’t collapsed because I ignored it. In fact, I probably solved more work-related issues by not being connected to my normal world than if I’d been anywhere near my usual life. Our appetite for connection has made us stand still – if you pull an object in every direction it doesn’t move, science taught us that, for sure. So get out into the world – it’s a place where solutions are ripe for the picking. Then, hopefully, we’ll start to see things that simplify rather than complicate our lives and not worry about the next bit of techno ’smoke and mirrors’ that we need to engage with.

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