7 Themes that Will Add Value to Your Future Designs

Product design is an ever-evolving industry. To maintain success, your organization needs to not only be aligned with current trends, but also contemplate with how these trends will shape the future and what new behavior is likely to follow. As you adjust the approach of your future designs to account for shifting consumer paradigms, take these 7 emerging themes into consideration.

1. FLEXIBILITY

Stay flexible enough to blend into the consumer’s lifestyle.

Products will need to adapt to changing social, family and work environments. Think about the different mindsets of your target consumer. Those who are considered materialists will value flexibility and control. They will demand products that feature built-in adaptability, such as a dual purpose or modularity.

A new breed of post-materialists will be more concerned with autonomy and self-expression. They are more experience-oriented, preferring to “do things,” rather than view them.

2. TRANSPARENCY

Informed consumers will pay attention to all aspects of your product.

Gone are the days when the public didn’t have visibility into the components and processes used to make your products. The rise in post-materialism has driven the need for complete transparency, giving consumers unprecedented access to product information.

They will want to know more than just “what’s in this?” and “where did this come from?” You will need to be accountable for the choices you make. Relying on low-cost tactics that don’t take the environment and social preferences into account won’t appeal to consumers who are taking a broader perspective than price alone.

Companies will earn the trust and respect of the marketplace by offering details on how products are produced and whether the production facilities operate ethically. Honesty and altruism will go a long way to winning over consumers, who now have a greater voice than ever before through social media.

3. SIMPLICITY

Products that are streamlined and make life easier will win over consumers.

Less is more. And that trend will continue, as people demand smaller, faster, simpler products. The aging market will seek intuitive solutions that cut down on clutter. Personal communication devices will need to interface with other consumer goods.

Smart technology already gives you the power to extend the cycle of your clothes dryer remotely using your mobile device. Simplicity will be key for an increasing number of consumers who are interested in products designed to aid multi-tasking. Products that reduce complexity and eliminate hassles will win.

4. EMPATHY

Gaining favor with well-informed consumers will require you to empathize, not patronize.

As environmental and community issues continue to move to the forefront, organizations will need to prove that they have a genuine understanding of what’s going on and want to make positive impact.

Profitability, while always a top priority, will need to make room for social awareness. Brands with a conscience that focus on doing good in the community will appeal to consumers and have a better chance to thrive.

How you come across to the public will be critical. Businesses that put out patronizing messages that underestimate the importance of social awareness will quickly fall out of favor. You will need to formulate a sound communication strategy that expresses your commitment to the community and environment.

5. EFFICIENCY

From how a product is made to how it is used, efficiency will play a significant role in the years ahead.

More time, less effort. Businesses and consumers alike will be seeking ways to boost efficiency. It will have to happen the right way, however. “Responsible” efficiency will have a global impact over the next 20 years.

From your organization’s perspective, implementing new technologies that help to reduce waste, energy use and unnecessary steps will bring efficiency to new levels.

For all consumers, finding products that help accomplish more in less time will be paramount. Materialists will be looking to enhance their lives by earning more income per hour, performing more tasks at once or enjoying more instant gratification. Alternatively, post-materialists will be seeking ways to make better use of both time and natural resources. A new, sustainable attitude to efficiency will arise in society.

6. INTEGRITY

Changing values will redefine status and it will no longer be all about the money.

In today’s marketplace, there are a wide variety of products and services classified as “aspirational.” That label is likely to be viewed differently in the near future.

Price and exclusivity will be de-emphasized. In the same way that a highly popular Hummer vehicle is increasingly viewed as an inefficient gas guzzler, people owning other status products that abuse dwindling natural resources will be seen as ignorant.

This seismic shift in status will only continue, as the affluent opt for environmentally products over luxurious ones.

7. MATURITY

Products will need to evolve to address the needs of the aging demographic.

While previous generation held traditional values, the aging Baby Boomer population is the first to largely think materialistically. This considerable generation will continue to redefine social norms, moving toward greater independence and competence.

Progressive, growth-oriented Boomers want to be self-reliant and do things themselves. They are remaining mentally and physically active, working beyond the traditional retirement age, which is increasing their bank accounts and buying power. Ultimately, more seniors will be able to enjoy longer lives with a higher-quality lifestyle.

This aging demographic will create endless opportunities new design innovations catering to those in their golden years.

As product designers, success lies in thinking a step ahead and understanding which trends will cause long-term behavioral shifts. Adhering to these 7 themes will help you take a closer look at what’s happening now—and predict how it will shape what happens next.

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Antony Stolfo
About the Author
Antony Stolfo
Antony is a passionate creative designer with over 30 years of experience in operational and strategic design leadership. Prior to his appointment as Creative Director at Outerspace Design, Antony was Design Director for General Motors Holden Design, Australia’s largest and most awarded automotive design team. During his eight years of leadership he developed a wealth of local and international design knowledge covering all aspects of product development including portfolio planning, strategic foresight, consumer and trend research, and advanced production design.

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