​What will visual communication look like in 50 years time?

The Royal College of Art is showcasing work made by RCA students over the past 50 years, but what will visual communication look like 50 years from now? 


“In 50 years time, when the polar ice caps have melted, when the south of England resembles southern Spain, and when water is rationed, visual communication will only be possible on corporate or government-controlled platforms. Free expression will be impossible as all media channels will be owned by the descendants of Rupert Murdoch. This horrible fate can be avoided if we remember that visual communication is not merely a tool of corporate capitalism and remember that it has a great tradition of opposition and public service.”

Adrian Shaughnessy, designer, writer and Royal College of Art senior tutor and Unit Editions co-founder


“Visual communication will continue to become more cloud-based, more connected, and thus more contextual than we’ve previously known it. As information becomes more location-aware it will be continually changing as we move from place to place. This means that as designers we should already think less rigidly about the visual frameworks within which information can be presented, and think in terms of customisable filters that dynamically attune to our needs. The complement to this of course is an increasing fixation with the ‘quality’ of printed materials and objects as being somehow more ‘valuable’ than screen-based communications. As in the art world of the 20th century it is the value of the process that is really being questioned not the process itself.”

Malcolm Garrett RDI Creative Director, Images&Co


“Visual communication will be not only about looking, but will be enhanced by a paradigm shift in our use of sound, touch, and smell. Sensory communication will be the buzz-phrase. Also, whilst we will be immersed in a digital future, the role of communication in our responsiveness to social need will become increasingly important. Lest we not forget that the future is female as we will see gender equality finally arrive in the design profession.”

Professor Teal Triggs,associate dean, School of Communication, Royal College of Art


“In 50 years I feel like the mixing of cultures – which is already happening to some extent – will lead to unexpected outcomes. The cocktail of references, languages and even humour will surely encourage designers to think differently. I also want to see how emerging technologies like beacons and 3D printing, that currently feel quite sterile, are made more emotive through visual communication. Finally, throughout history designers have always responded to the political landscape. I hope there will continue to be moments that inspire and provoke designers to respond.”

Pali Palavathanan, founder and creative director, TEMPLO


“Who knows what technology we’ll have at our fingertips in 50 years? Who would have imagined the Apple Mac back in 1964 and how it would change visual communication? I won’t try to guess what futuristic virtual tools we’ll be designing on and for in the future, but I do predict print will still have a part to play. The birth of the internet predicted the death of print, but it hasn’t happened yet – in fact print has become a luxury commodity. If you want to let someone know you care, you don’t send an email, you send a card. If you want to impress a new client you meet at a networking event, you don’t get them to look at your website on your iPhone, you give them a beautifully printed business card. I could go on, but what I predict is these little exchanges of crafted print items will become even more of a luxury, even more special.”

Jamie Ellul, creative director, Supple Studio


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