Looking ahead to the new year

Now that we’re a week or so in to 2013, the reviews of last year have been digested, the predictions for this year have been published, it’s time to look at some of the big themes that could influence the design industry in 2013.


• Experimentation. As we’ve been hearing since 2008, recession often breeds experimentation. And while there have been plenty of examples of this already (pop-up retail spaces, use of newer, cheaper materials) 2013 is likely to see a boom in experimentation, both due to financial pressures (particularly in areas like retail) and also as braver and more enlightened clients realise that big, bold ideas can pay dividends in a constrained and risk-averse environment.

• Technology. Technological advances are having an affect across all sectors, and as technology gets cheaper 2013 could see emerging technologies used in interesting ways. What could 3D printing do for editorial design? QR codes for packaging? Online-retail for high street shopping units? Hopefully we’ll start to reach the stage with these technologies, and others, that they start to become cheap and ubiquitous enough to be used in unexpected ways.

• No quadrennials. Last year was awash with key national and international events – The London 2012 Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the US Presidential Election – each of which provided its own boost to the economy and the design industry. With 2013 stretching into the vast, event-less horizon, many are concerned that the design industry could see a downturn. But another way to read it could be that this lack of on-diary events could provide more freedom for brands and clients. Last year was notable for its lack of major or innovative brand work (particularly in the UK), so maybe 2013, with its lack of distractions, could be the time when brands, not events, take centre-stage.

• Rejecting existing models. In the same way that recession can bring about experimentation, it can also force people to tear up their existing business or structural models, and try something radically new. In editorial design this could mean websites spawning print titles (rather than the other way round), in retail we could see internet-based retailers bringing new ideas to the high street and in packaging design it could mean packs becoming browsable ‘interactive’ portals to the brand. The continued rejection of the existing models and stereotypes in 2013 could lead to a whole new way of thinking for brands and designers.

• Democratisation. As technologies have spread and become more affordable, so design – particularly in the product and interactive sector, has become more democratised. There are pros and cons to this. More affordable tools in more people’s hands could lead to bright and innovative new thinking, and the development of crowd-sourcing initiatives such as Kickstarter could see radical ideas quickly become reality. But as design broadens, it’s important that professional designers reinforce the value of what they do. In as much as 2013 could see design open up, it could also see established designers forced to up their game and shout even louder about all the good work they do.

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