From new apps to products, design was critical to their success in 2012. It was a year when people finally grasped the value of intelligent design in organising information and shaping behaviors. From 2013 onwards, design will no longer be taking a back seat in decision-making and every boardroom will be looking for someone who understands design and its role in business.

The design bug is catching on in a big way in Asia, with even governments embracing the role of design in policy. With rising wages and increased adoption of technology, more Asian companies understand the importance of design in moving up the value-chain. Hospitality in the region has been transformed by well-designed boutique hotels. Even budget airlines like AirAsia rely on design to make a difference. The challenge is for Asian designers to cast off decades of low-self esteem, stop being contractors and take a bolder step to lead and push for amazing work. Here are two photos to sum up 2012 and 2013 and our thoughts on how designers should evolve as we enter 2013. 

A picture is worth a thousand words

By Edmund Ng

A significant photo in 2012

Hurricane Sandy power outage in lower Manhattan (Photo: Lisa Bettany)

Although 2012 left behind trails of destruction like Hurricane Sandy, the catastrophe also inspired the synergy between digital photography and social media. The ease of photographing and sharing greatly increased the speed not just among public communication, but also with public services and government agencies.

This marriage has brought both parties to new heights, which brings one to think, what is lined up next in photography’s evolution?

A photo to keep in mind for 2013

Photo of a cancerous cell. (Photo: Kristian Pfaller)

A healthy cell turns cancerous when its DNA is compromised, causing it to lose its specialised function, be it to circulate blood or to regulate the sugar level. Similarly today, when organisations are exposed to a myriad of problems especially with respect to profits, they start to deviate from their original DNA. This dilution of purpose will steer them towards an innovation and identity entropy.

With rising standards of visual aesthetics, the deeper meaning behind each design and the ability for the design to connect emotionally with its audience becomes the new measure of success.

Edmund Ng is a Design Consultant at Consulus. He is responsible for visual identity development and environment design. A photographer in his free time, Edmund has been featured in art exhibitions such as Noise Singapore.

Designers. Time for a reboot

By Yunita Lestari

In 2012, we saw many hints that technology has become the norm as companies start to embrace the opportunities presented by it. There isn’t a better time than now to realise that design is the crucial difference that contributed to the success of many recent start-ups such as Kickstarter, Tumblr and Instagram. It is a year of change but it is also a year where designers stepped up to redefine what design means to the masses.

With so much hype around the evolution of digital-based design, we know that it is high time for design generations bound by technical skills and qualifications to embrace the change. Does Newsweek’s decision to move into a digital-only format after 80 years of its glorious print edition signifies the end of print – and the designers behind it? There is also the ongoing debate of whether or not web designers need to learn coding.

These are just a few glimpses of the sign of times, but they’re enough to instill a sense of fear and insecurity in this generation. As we begin to look towards 2013, I believe we need to turn our fear and insecurity into catalysts that will propel us forward.

First, we need to realise that the future belongs to the designers who are willing to adapt. The fact that businesses move into web and social media landscape doesn’t mean there’s no chance of survival for the print designers. Although the medium continues changing, there’s happy news for print designers – the process and principles of good design remain the same and their current skills can still count as an asset. Contrary to the belief that the value of a designer is undermined, it’s still the best time to be a designer now. This is the world where Jonathan Ive, Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple, is entrusted to oversee the overall experience design of both software and hardware for the world’s biggest consumer electronics company. Designers have taken the wheel.

The digital economy changed everything, including the direct access and global reach that designers now have over their input. Designers need to climb up the ladder and upgrade themselves with relevant skills or else stick to their core strengths and find people who are experts in their disciplines to collaborate with.

The second is the need to be more thoughtful when designing. Faced with the success of Apple, many companies are struggling to out-design their competitors. It’s easy to design a more attractive smartphone or interface in the world rife with information and inspiration. However, we need to dig deeper into the root of our problems. Innovation needs to arise from honest observations rather than using cookie-cutter solutions and constant questioning of the status quo: “How do we transform the inherent value that a company has in order to shape the culture and communities surrounding it?” We need more designers that pay respect to their roles as visionaries and influencers of the future world, not as executors of someone else’s vision.

Thirdly, designers need to continue to collaborate. We cannot expect a successful project to result from different departments working in silos. Designers need to let go of their egos and communicate with other people on the team to solve the problem, be it with developers, photographers or copywriters. The more open we are to collaborating with others, the more likely we are to deliver innovative solutions.

Come 2013, there is no question that design will play a vital role for businesses to grow and make an impact in the world. Almost every university and think tank agrees that design value is crucial in contributing to the success of any business.

Yunita is a Design Consultant at Consulus. She is responsible for visual identity development, packaging design and online experience design. To date, the identities that she has worked on have been launched in Singapore, Brunei and Dubai.

This editorial is part of The Columnist, a newsletter by Consulus that offers ideas on business, design and world affairs.