In our ever-changing digital world, it’s easy to fall behind the curve – both as a professional and as an organization.

Keeping skills and product offerings relevant with what customers want and companies need is difficult not only in terms of technology, but also in the world of design – one that is becoming increasingly customer experience-focused.

The Professional Association for Design (AIGA) recently published a report on Design Futures, and while some design specialties look anemic (a 14 percent decline in print and online publishing with a two-year degree), others are ripe for success (15 percent growth in web design and development, and 24 percent in software design.)

How can those in the field adapt their skills to the future design landscape? How can companies become thought leaders in this design transition, foster ingenuity, and create exciting new ways to enhance customer experiences with modern design practices?

Below is some of what I share with audiences about where design is headed as a practice and how to embrace design from an array of perspectives. These concepts build on the trends identified in the AIGA report.

Designing for An Interconnected World

Our world is no longer one of simple problems. We need to design interconnected visual systems, social systems, and technological systems concurrently to be successful. The design of these systems requires a deep understanding of users, context, and how technology works.

Combining Digital and Physical for Truly Immersive Experiences

People transition across devices, environments, and activities in continuous communication and service activities. Users expect technology to provide seamless, unified experiences, even when moving among messages and services from different sources. In our work, we currently see augmented, virtual, and mixed reality as hot technologies. The next wave of innovation will include huge leaps in the performance, affordability, and mobility of these technologies, along with greater digital personalization.

Authenticity and Emotional Connections Matter

Audiences evaluate organizations based on consistency between their messages and the values expressed in their products, services, and/or social behavior. People connect emotionally with stories that are authentic reflections of an organization’s ethos and show loyalty over time when ethical and humanistic values drive all aspects of operations, including design practices.

Responding to Change and Disruption with Innovation

Successful organizations respond flexibly to change and disruption with transforming how they work and what they work on. Innovation addresses how organizations are configured, the products and services they offer, the delivery channels they use, and how they represent themselves in touch points with various stakeholders. Collaboration and iteration are so important to learn from an early age. Our CX team looks at how businesses support and amplify the value of their offerings in service design, how they represent their offerings and business in the brand experience, and how they foster compelling interactions in customer engagement.

Data and Research-Driven Design

Research informs practice and is an essential activity in many design offices. As a strategic voice in product development, marketing, and service, evidence-based design research has been asked to conform to rigorous standards and be measured by the same metrics as other primary business activities. Designers must justify research in terms of its continuing value, not purely on “see what we found!” (Rick E. Robinson, 2017). Research guides customer-first and human-centered solutions and will help companies evolve with changing customer needs.

With the right data, research, planning, and understanding of what customers crave, well-designed customer experiences can be a game changer. They help customers better navigate our complex world, help companies get better brand engagement, and help designers use their skills to transform what’s possible in new and exciting ways.