International Design Conference 2019

Post utility industrial design: refocusing for resiliency

Significant developments in artificial intelligence, industrial automation and decentralized (individualized) manufacturing are a few of the emergent trends that promise to disrupt the landscape in which Industrial designers typically practice. The precursors to such radical technological advances are abundantly clear, and suggest an unprecedented pace of change for which the new wave of design graduates may find themselves unprepared. It is from this perspective that I hope to catalyze a constructive divergence from conventional thinking on the role of the industrial designer. As physical objects become increasingly entwined within interactive ecosystems, consumer expectations will more closely resemble those of today’s software products: Scalable, reactive and solutions-focused. Alternative ownership models and anticipatory design mechanisms will conceivably alter the relationship between person and object and upset the traditional value-systems we tend to treat as absolute. Where does that leave industrial designers? We are certainly not the only profession that faces existential challenges amidst technological advances. Such advances will, at some point, outcompete human labor efficiency. This commodification of utility may very well result in an inflation of the perceived value of the uniquely human-made artifacts and the intangible qualities they embody. Through abductive speculation such as this, I hope that we may begin to embrace uncertainty as an opportunity for redefinition and resilience.
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