The New Definition of Design

Communicating through visuals. Simple. But today, as the number of communication channels continues to expand, we are coming to understand design in new ways.

The evolution of digital access is the biggest change in communications since Gutenberg. Change is difficult, but designers are adjusting, adapting and creating a new vernacular—just as we have in the past.

When website design first came on the scene, the scope of design was narrowed to an      11” x 8 ” landscape page. As far as design transitions go, that one was pretty easy.

Of course, things got more complicated as digital technology expanded. As search engine optimization became critical to being found online, the emphasis turned to words. Visual design has taken a back seat to key words and verbiage. But I predict that there will be an aesthetic backlash.

The greatest opportunity for designers in the digital age to reintroduce the power of visual communication seems to be in the arena of app development. It’s almost as though we are reaching back to remember the emergence of multi-media design for CDs, where successful design meant presentations and stories with a beginning, middle and end told in a graphically pleasing and meaningful manner. Today’s storytelling design must incorporate an added dimension: interactivity.

If you want to identify the leaders of the trend toward interactive design, look to the publishing industry.

Great design is appearing as static books and magazines are translated into dynamic, interactive multi-media presentations. Publishing is breathing life into stories told with words and pictures, by creating customized outcomes that are individual to each viewer.

Our challenge, as designers, comes from the fact that these stories are best witnessed on an iPad, laptop, computer or TV. Mobile devices, by their very nature and small scale, present designers with a narrowed design scope—micro-design. But this challenge is also a fresh visual opportunity.

In the digital age, design has been sacrificed to copy, programming and development. But the backlash against poor design has started. I’m excited to see how the well-designed apps coming out of the world of publishing will influence micro-design in advertising.

Dave Kuettel

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