It’s no secret that products are continually evolving, reflecting changes in consumer demand and the techno-economic landscape. But the field of design itself is growing, and designers are thinking about design differently. They’re reconceiving their roles, taking a more interdisciplinary approach, and driving the broader application of design-thinking to deliver next-level results.

At Pivot International, we’re a global single-source product development partner that leverages the world’s top design talent and advanced technology to help our customers successfully bring new products to market. With nearly half a century of experience in product design, development, manufacturing, and supply chain management, we’re at the leading edge of the seismic shifts in design that are shaping the industry and the future.

Over the next ten years, we can expect to see an acceleration in three design trends that are already rapidly underway. These trends have as much potential to drive innovation in product design as well as how businesses operate.

Trend 1: Designers are Becoming Better Business People

Traditionally, product managers have been responsible for understanding the business case for a product. Meaning they have taken the lead on what will be designed, whereas designers have been tasked with determining how it will be designed. But designers frequently want to play a greater role in determining what they design, and this is a common source of tension in the product development process.

This tension is easing as designers are arming themselves with greater business know-how. Designers are increasingly coming to the product development table with a clearer sense of the financials related to resource allocation, process, and time management. They’re also bringing a greater awareness of ways to reduce risk and increase revenue through calculated design decisions. What’s more, designers are becoming better salespeople: they’re better able to articulate the why behind a design proposition and make a compelling case for how their idea will best solve a problem for a user and drive growth for a business.

As designers become better business and salespeople, they’re able to work more synergistically with product managers to drive revenue by strategizing about design from higher up the value chain. With more and more designers expanding their thinking and skillset in this way, we can expect to see a new generation of “growth designers” that employ experimental processes for the express purpose of optimizing business results.

Trend 2: Interdisciplinary Design is Driving Innovation

Many people are familiar with Apple founder Steve Jobs now famous 2005 Stanford commencement address in which he spoke to his passion for calligraphy and the direct role it played in the design of Apple’s iconic typography. This cross-pollination between seemingly unrelated design disciplines is increasingly being recognized and cultivated as a key driver of innovation. Today’s top designers are drawing digital product inspiration from disciplines like animation, themed entertainment design, motion media design, interactive design and game development, and even traditional Japanese arts like ikebana and origami.

As interdisciplinary design comes into greater prominence, the next decade will continue to give birth to a brave new world of product development. This world will be revolutionized as much by disciplines that originate in the distant past as by futuristic technologies like augmented and virtual reality, 3D printing, AI, and SMT.

Trend 3: Design-Thinking Is Finding Broader Application

Just as product development benefits from interdisciplinary design, so too do business operations benefit from design-thinking. Broadly defined, design-thinking can be understood as a systematic method for identifying the “opportunity potential” hidden within a problem in the service of creating a novel solution. Said differently, design-thinking is less concerned with how to improve an existing game and more concerned with how to reinvent it altogether.

In the Harvard Business Review article “Why Design Thinking Works,” Jeanne Liedtka reports on her seven-year study on more than 50 diverse businesses: “I have seen that design thinking has the potential to do for innovation exactly what TQM [total quality management] did for manufacturing: unleash people’s full creative energies, win their commitment, and radically improve processes.”  

As we look forward to 2030, more and more companies will apply design-thinking to business challenges at both operational and cultural levels. Designers will extend their expertise outside of their teams and work cross-functionally to identify and overcome inefficiencies company-wide. This is a case of businesses using design-thinking not only to innovate new products but also to innovate the business itself. From a company’s recruiting practice to leadership development to strategic planning to sales training to project management to the breaking down of silos between departments, design-thinking is a growth technology that can impact a business’s operations and culture as powerfully as it can its product development.

At Pivot, we’re proud to be an industry leader at the forefront of the accelerating design trends that are driving innovation in product development and business operations alike. If you’re looking for a proven partner to help you take your product from design to distribution, contact us today for a free consultation. We’d love to explore with you the difference Pivot’s world-class design talent can make for your business.