As disciplines converge

We have all been in meetings where the client decides that all their agencies need to get round a table and share/contribute to the common good, namely the brand. The media agency looks over at the digital agency and identifies what piece of their pie they would like. The branding agency looks at the ad agency and decides, these guys need templates. The PR agency is wondering “why spend money on advertising and why have a digital agency, when they can handle everything through social?” And the ad agency wonders why the client isn’t only listening to them. So in the Marketing world there are no boundaries anymore. No clear division of tasks. And the big integrated agencies are on the rise.

Design is no different.

There’s a convergence of service, business, industrial, product, UX, customer experience, graphic, packaging, motion, web and brand design. Key to this is the app world. The creation of apps draw on skills from all these disciplines, so convergence is no surprise. Multidisciplinary teams in the app world are the norm.

ICAD recently hosted an evening in the Sugar Club entitled 2X. Umesh Pandya of ustwo spoke about Wayfindr, an amazing open source system they designed which gives audio directions to visually impaired people to help them navigate the London underground on their own. In order to deliver a solution like this, there was a team of a range of skills required, all coming from the design agency. Check out their video on YouTube. Terry Stephens of global design group Moving Brands spoke about how they use motion design (video + animation) to set a brand mood before a designer would even lift a pencil or mouse. Moving Brands is responsible for the new Eir brand. Love, hate, or care less about ‘life on Eir’ the way they have taken the standard mood board to a new level was quite exciting. They considered how a brand lives and feels in the real world, rather than starting with an identity. An in-house multi-skilled highly collaborative team was key to the process.

The Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI), led my Marc O‘Riain, represents over 800 designers from a cross-sector variety of interests. The convergence in the industry is also reflected by designers seeing themselves as a community, industry and ultimately a lobbying body. Yes, a return to prosperity always helps industry bodies but national initiatives like Year of Design are definitely helping the industry’s PR. IDI have also just introduced The Register of Irish Designers. 
The term Registered Designer will be ‘a mark of quality assurance for the design industry, to its clients and the public as a whole that they adhere to the highest international design professional and ethical standards’. So Registered Designer label, rather than specific graphic designer or product designer, may become the new norm in business in Ireland. The Design Business Association in London hosted an event entitled ‘New horizons: what’s the real impact of design in business?’ The sessions, all of which proved most absorbing, explored the rise of those with design authority in the boardroom, the role of design thinkers and design doers, and the rise of strategic innovation consulting.

Call it what you will but design skills, the thinking bit, has now become valued more than ever. The ability to think like a designer is now highly sought, whatever their specific design discipline. The corporate world does not foster this skill set although badly needs it to solve problems, capitalise on opportunities or communicate complicated ideas. Simplification is the ultimate goal of design. Convergence means simplification – a simplified briefing for clients, a simplified customer journey based on a multidisciplinary approach. Great simple thinking that makes things better.

Finally, some important design dates coming our way should be noted in diaries. Design Week runs from November 2nd-8th, while the IDI Awards night is on November 26th.

This article was first published in in October 2015.