Weekly Learning: The Future Issue

Synthetic Realities

Deepfake and blockchain are twins.

But unlike blockchain, deepfake is not something new. Synthetic realities have been existed for a very, very long time.

Andy Polaine’s iconic post, Design in the age of synthetic realities tells fascinating stories of how “AI-generated and mixed realities are blurring the boundaries of “truth” and challenging how we value it.”

It’s a very long post, but the sheer number of mind-blowing videos and awesome links to mind-blowing projects is enough reason for you to read carefully and thoroughly. It’s worth it, and do yourself a favour.

What has a designer to do with synthetic realities?

Well, everything:

So, now, we’re nearly at the point where AI can synthesize imagery and content (with tools like GPT-2), generate and test the UI and content at scale. What will it mean for the role of designers if we move beyond design systems and Design Ops and there are 100,000 versions of a user experience out there?

First of all:

One of the biggest spaces for designers to play a part is in designing the tools themselves.

And secondly:

As with other fields of design, the AI+human blend is likely to also be the future role of many designers, guiding, curating and pruning the inputs and outputs of AI-generated content rather than creating it from scratch themselves.

Indeed, future designers are either designing the AI systems that work with people, or working with those AI systems to design other things:

In much the same way that a developer’s library is part of their value (and why Github accounts are often part of their resumés), designers may start to bring their trained AI-assistant with them as part of their toolkit. This may be in the form of trained neural networks, curated for a certain stylistic fingerprint. It may be that this really is some kind of AI-assistant with which (whom?) the designer has built up a working rapport and their human decisions are inextricably entwined with those of the AI.
…the skills of the digital designer (to use an awful phrase that nevertheless encompasses UX, UI, digital product design, and more) will need to include the ability to at least understand AI systems and work with them and with those who develop them, fuelling another decade of “should designers learn to code?” debates.

This is the best (or worst?) of times to become a designer!

Design as/in Business

Hybrids, A Brief History Of Design uses fascinating diagrams to illustrate the shifting trends of design as and in business.

You don’t have to agree with everything said in this short post to enjoy quite a few delightful insights.

Like this one about an emerging future state, for example:

…there is no difference between business and technology. Businesses are digital, the processes are digital. Branding and UX design have merged into Branded UX (BUX). Processes and systems are designed to deliver the best possible service to the user within the strategy and resources of the business. Digital services are no longer designed from a technology point of view, but from a UX perspective. Digital Design, Branding, IT Consulting and Business Consulting are inseparable. To get there, Digital Design needs to Business-up, Branding needs to UX-up, IT Consulting needs to UX-up and Business Consulting needs to Design-up. These are all developments that we can see in the field right now.

Strategic Design

The Tipping Point: Who is best placed to do strategic design? provides a much-needed advice:

Designers — if you think strategic design is a realm reserved just for you, I’m afraid not.
Other professionals — if you think you can just pick up strategic design like any other general skill, then I’m afraid not.

With a few nice diagrams, like this one:

Source: The Tipping Point: Who is best placed to do strategic design?


…the best and most effective use and impact for many people, is actually just to incorporate design thinking techniques into their day jobs. They don’t need to actually start a whole new career.

Understanding design is a great start.

The Passion Mindset Has a Chicken-and-Egg Problem

So, by “You’re Not Meant to Do What You Love,” the author means “you’re meant to do what you’re good at.”

Agree or disagree:

We’re doing people an incredible disservice by telling them they should seek, and pursue, what they love.

For those of you who disagreed, read further here.

Get Real, Be Great

You probably won’t make it to the top by DHH is a sobering and unpretentiously honest debunking of all the success myths that permeate the web and bookshelves alike:

It’s the song we all want to believe. That the world is ours for the taking, and whoever wants it more, will get it, and when they get it, they’ll deserve it.But that’s a shit track, and we really need to change the station. Odds are overwhelmingly that you will not make it to the top. That you will not be the next baller posting champagne shots and private jet pics. Or be celebrated in parades of adoration by your peers. There just isn’t enough room up there, on the top.

But that’s not the point. The point is:

Making it to the top isn’t the game you should be focused on. The top is full of people who hate what they had to do or who they had to become to get there. Even for the people who get there with a clean conscience often end up disappointed by how shallow the satisfaction really is.

Don’t get distracted:

That’s a game worth winning: The one played with yourself for your own betterment. Not the one played against others, measured against them. Screw that game.

And here’s a good one I don’t agree with:

So resist the temptation to focus on where you want all of this to take you, if you can. Luxuriate in the experience and flow of getting better. Stop playing games where you can’t set the rules. Start winning the ones where you can.

I don’t agree with that because life is probably not about winning. The nihilist in me wants to say there’s nothing, but perhaps the meaning of life leans towards the act of trying to win, more than the universal fact that you won.

How Design Makes Us Think (and Feel and Do Things)

How Design Makes Us Think (and Feel and Do Things)

Once in a long while, a great book that explains design to everyone comes to town.

How Design Makes Us Think (and Feel and Do Things) is a great addition to your must-read list.

It’s very accessible, for its “explain by example” approach.

It’s pleasurable, for its high quality visuals and attentive book design, which contribute greatly to a wonderful reading experience.

Even if you already know the design principles and related theories behind the scene, you still get pleasure in the great examples given and the concise narrative engaged. If you don’t already know them, double the pleasure.

Design works in exactly the way it’s said to do. A well-designed book gives you more than the intended knowledge.

Highly recommended!



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