Why did I put my design career on the EDGE?

Aug - 18

Why did I put my design career on the EDGE?

We develop technology for solving daily life problems. Products are the result of available Technology. Many times, Products are visualized, dreamt of in storybooks, movies, Like the submarines, or even mobile phones; and appropriate technology tries to catch up over time to fulfill the dream. Designers have a dual role of either using the technology appropriately to solve current problems and sometimes dream of products and services which give rise to newer technology.

I think the history of Design can not be separated from the history of Technology.

Here is a very thin slice of the history of technology that builds products. I am also establishing how designers modified their 'Design ways' and sometimes 'Design titles' to deliver value to the products and services. Yes, today a 'Service' is also a Product. (and vice versa.)

(Please Note: The steps mentioned below are: purely based on my personal understanding and limited by my experience. These are very far from being exhaustive.)

1. Artisans and Craftsmen: Products before Industrialization

Before industrialization, Artisans and craftsmen created objects themselves and sold to the buyers. The craftsmen themselves were the producers, and designers and marketers of the product. As time passed by, especially after industrialization, manufacturing of products became a collaborative, industrial process. For increased efficiency, industries needed to engage specialists for performing specific tasks. This increased the efficiency of the industry as specially trained people took care of specific tasks.

2. Industrial Designers: Products post Industrialization

Around the same time when industries were growing, Industries started looking for a design specialist who will only focus on the design of the product. Industrial designers focused all their knowledge and expertise around how the users used the products, and how to make the product better than the competition. Formal education in industrial design was quite different from Architecture and Graphics design. (Architectural education is by far the most matured design education system in my opinion simply because of its existence for many many decades.)

3. Product Designers and Service Designers: Complex product systems

As the products started becoming more complex, modern products or solutions are more like systems, where multiple elements of the system need to work together to complete the experience of one product or service. Take an example of your favorite mobile app, for food ordering. The app is an interplay of multiple things like the GPS, Google Maps, Calling capability, payment gateways, connection with different logistics and accounting systems of individual restaurants, to name a few.

The role of designers becomes very critical as there are many stakeholders of the system to design for, using a variety of devices, and real-life objects to fulfill their individual tasks.

4. Digital design experts: Digital Transformation for organizations:

Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. It's also a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with failure. [https://enterprisersproject.com/]

The journey of digital transformation for any industry or organization needs a variety of touchpoints like web sites, web portals. Web Designers, web portal designers make the web portal, very easy to use. Ease of use, Learnability, and users satisfaction were the top keywords to achieve a better conversion of visitors to consumers and consumers to loyal customers.

All web portals, be it your company web site, or customer information portal or an eCommerce site, aims are increasing the output of the funnel throughout the customer lifecycle, namely Acquisition >> Engagement >> Conversion >> Loyalty.

Designers can impart a great deal of value across all of these 4 stages of the customer lifecycle, by improving the customer experience at every stage of the customer lifecycle.

5. Product Experience design: From feature led to Experience led products

Software interface design, User experience design and so on.

Web tools, services, and Rich internet applications are evidently the highlights of the digital transformation of most organizations. User experience designers have matured their "User-Centered Design process" so as to create usable and delightful experiences.

The focus of 'Product design' has today shifted to 'Experience design' because the experience of the product is the most prominent USP of any product. People do not mind paying more for a better experience. and avoid products that have Bad, or not so good experience. 'Experience Designers' are quite in demand now. Most Information and Communication Technology (ICT) product companies today have very matured design departments which engage a variety of design skill. Experience designers, Information Architects, Interaction designers, Visual experience designers, and so on.

6. Service Experience Design: Cloud computing Solutions:

Cloud computing is the on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage and computing power, without direct active management by the user. (Wikipedia)

With more and more companies opting for putting their infrastructure, and even software solutions in the cloud. The more complex the service blueprint becomes, the more stakeholders and roles use the products. More and a variety of experiences need to be looked upon.

In this world, the designers need to understand, Customers sometimes, get to use the service before buying. Users get to use the product first, and if satisfied, opt to buy the service. This is very different from the old world of perpetual licensing, where enterprises used to buy the license first, and subsequently, spend a lot of money for training the staff, and users are trapped into the product for a lifetime. Experience design becomes much critical in this competitive world because a smoother, learnable, easy to use and delightful experience is a must before the buying decision.

Concepts like 'First User Experience,' handholding the users to complete the desired tasks becomes utmost critical in this world. Most cloud companies have 'Customer Success teams' to handhold the customers, even prospective customers and make them successful.

7. Design for intelligence: Analytics, AI, ML technologies

In computer science, artificial intelligence (AI), sometimes called machine intelligence, is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans. Colloquially, the term "artificial intelligence" is often used to describe machines (or computers) that mimic "cognitive" functions that humans associate with the human mind, such as "learning" and "problem solving" (Wikipedia)

In the world of AI, Designers need to focus on where the intelligence is needed by the user, and how to surface the same to the users, (UI, Voice) Should the intelligence be personified, named like Humans. Even decide the specific editorial style whether it should be suggestive recommendations or authoritarian decisive. And so on. Should your AI speak up, show recommendations, or elaborate the analytics are few of the questions designers need to tackle.

 8. Designing for scale: BIG Data

"Big data" is a field that treats ways to analyze, systematically extract information from, or otherwise deal with data sets that are too large or complex to be dealt with by traditional data-processing application software. (Wikipedia)

The four main characters of Big data, Volume, Variety, Velocity, Veracity pose a different set of challenges to the UX designers. Firstly showing large datasets in a table is not useful alone. In order to make sense of the volume variety and velocity of data, designers have to explore techniques of data visualization, real-time updates and at time predictive representations of data in the UI.

Problems for the UX here include:

  1. What does it take to represent data mashed up from multiple sources to make business sense?
  2. How easily user could search, filter and make sense out of data. And so on.

The applications of this kind do not produce data, of their own, whereas, these applications ingest Variety of data from Variety of sources, are Variety of speeds and so on. Preparing the data, cleansing, massaging the data, and then playing with the data to make sense for the business benefit.

9. IoT and Edge Computing

The internet of things, or IoT, is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. (Wikipedia)

Edge computing is a distributed computing paradigm which brings computation and data storage closer to the location where it is needed, to improve response times and save bandwidth. (Wikipedia)

Connected technologies are a possibility, as a result of the maturity of multiple technologies. High-speed internet (5G), Computers at the heart of everything a car or a washing machine, or an oil well for that matter. Data streaming at very low latency, the maturity of managing Big data for analytics, and insights, and so on.

Established design patterns: Most matured technologies like Cloud for that matter, there are many established enterprises who have defined how the UI should work, and frankly, there are many established design patterns, designers need to adhere to. Generally, the most successful, most used brand establishes most of the patterns and sometimes they become the gold standard for the rest to follow. Salesforce, Amazon, Microsoft Azure have lead this wave on the cloud side for sure.

EDGE IOT looks like a sweet spot for the Designers.

When it comes to IoT and EDGE, the hype cycle wise, these might be on the top of the hype cycle, or a little past that. But many enterprises, are still exploring how to use these technologies, and there is a lot to do still.

Design patterns are evolving: Unlike the Cloud, the IoT, and Edge space is evolving, and enterprises are exploring how they can use the technology for their business. The use cases are evolving, along with the technology. In the connected world, there are not many established ways yet, even the design patterns will evolve, and there is scope to create new. The design patterns will be influenced by the networking world and the Cloud world for sure, but still, there is a lot to design.

Contributing to the solution, where we are yet to completely establish the business problems which could be solved by the new technology is an interesting place to be. The connected world has thousands of use cases,

Smart City solutions, like Smart road signals, Energy meters, Smart living solutions like Smart Products, connected Cars, In manufacturing domain, connected manufacturing operation, Oil and Gas and Energy: Connected Oil rigs, Connected non-conventional energy farms, to name a few.

The basic design challenges in this world would be the sum of all of the above 8 phases. and a few more. Imagine thousands of heterogeneous computing devices, collecting information from a variety of sensors and input devices (like camera, temperature, pressure, audio and so on.) generating lots of Data!

Managing and monitoring these distributed operations from remote consoles are challenging. Not to forget, there will be typical Big Data analytics problems to solve. In addition, the EDGE enabled devices will also make some quick decisions at the device level, and reduce the traffic and load on the cloud infrastructure. For example, A face recognition software running on devices that control many cameras identifies a face and triggers an action instantly. (instead of waiting for the cloud to analyze and return an action) The IoT EDGE use cases will give rise to many such interesting applications in the future.

Yes sounds exciting!

I have shifted to the world of IoT EDGE (Zededa) from the world of Cloud Data Management (Informatica), and I am loving it.

Designers will need to put their best foot forward in the IoT and the EDGE world.