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The Human in Digital: A Thinkpiece on the Intersection of Design x Digital

6 min read
Thinkpiece

Executive Summary

The DesignSingapore Council (Dsg) created this thinkpiece to explore trends and opportunities where digital technology and design intersect. It brings together our research efforts as well as insights from interviews with seven industry experts to answer these key questions:

1) What is Digital x Design: How does digital and design meaningfully intersect? Where will digital technology most alter our lived experiences, and how does design add value to that?

The key impact of digital technology can be thought of in two ways: first, it enables us to bridge space and time at scale; we do not only toggle between online and “real life”, but also between different devices and across different platforms. Second, it enables the mass personalisation to the “Segment of One”, where products and services can be hyper-customised to meet individual needs. However, while digital technology is the means or the tool, the design is the process or represents the end-state by which people experience improved function and performance. Designers will play critical roles in the digital space to ask questions around how technological advances can be made without losing human connection and applying design skills and processes to ensure viable options, translate data into needs and meaningful experiences, and close functionality gaps.

2) Where this will play out most in terms of sectors, and where Singapore design might already have a competitive edge?

Our experts and our research show that these are the following sectors whose growth will be accelerated by digital technology in the next five years, AND where design will make a significant difference in the experience, and hence, adoption. They are: teleservices (especially remote work, healthcare and learning); lifestyle and entertainment; smart built enviroment and urban sustainability; e-commerce and aggregator platforms will continue their growth environment and urban sustainability; e-commerce and aggregator platforms will continue their growth trajectory. Undergirding all sectors and designing better for ESG (Enviroment, Social and Governance) and Diversity and Inclusion issues – in other words, a more thoughtful growth.

In Singapore, the opportunity is ripe for design to power our next radical push for digital innovation in healthcare, advanced manufacturing and environmental sustainability. Design can also help incrementally improve the service delivery in e-commerce and logistics. But the main ingredient in Singapore’s design edge is trust – our small size and developed soft and hard infrastucture, coupled with strong governance and emphasis on quality, makes Singapore the perfect test-bed for new solutions that can be exported to the world.

3) What does this mean for designers? What kinds of perspectives and skills would designers need to be successful in this future?

“Design is a strategy for businesses to make better choices.” Interviewees noted that the “nature of asks” of designers had become more sophisticated – moving away from one-off requests, and increasingly framed as problem statements that relate to business outcomes or changes. Clients expect solutions to be “systems of interventions” for success. The “skills” required of designers are presented as three forms: perspectives (how we seek to understand the world and the lenses by which to approach issues and problem-solving), design skills (especially in designing for blended environments and storytelling) and tech skills (especially in areas like Extended Reality and AI) – but even the latter two are more about problem-solving skills than about making everything high-tech. Designers with limited tech experience could start with going low-tech by prototyping and ‘hacking’ solutions together. In a space where tech skills face obsolescence in five years, it is more important to have an open attitude to embrace, experiment and apply these skills for both immediate and future application.

Support the research and receive the full report

We are keen to develop our research into opportunities in the interaction of Design x Digital, especially in exploring more around key capabilities in our local design community, areas for our local designers to grow in competitiveness, ecosystems within both public and private sectors, and how we can plug design into digital.

To answer these questions, we plan to:

  • Seek more data points from the design industry 

We invite you to participate in the industry surveys that Dsg will be putting out periodically, as well as joining a series of Industry Conversations centred around these questions! 

  • Seek insights from businesses and design users

We are keen to unveil more insights by speaking to people in the sectors forecasted as important users of design and growth sectors in digital. Reach out to us if you know of someone we should be speaking to.

Download our digital x design thinkpiece to find out more about Dsg’s efforts to explore new frontiers in the realm of digital x design.

Contact us at research@designsingapore.org

Strategic Futures Team, DesignSingapore Council

Published February 2021

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VISIT
President*s Design Award
Singapore’s highest honour for designers and designs across all disciplines
Singapore Design Week
One of Asia’s premier design festivals that champions design thought leadership
National Design Centre