A Digital Design Manifesto on Innovation & Dinosaurs

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Article-image2-DinoInnovation. The word seems to have a different meaning based on who you ask. So why should you even read this? Perhaps you are on the same page as I am. If so, together we can contribute to rebooting the existing perceptions of how we approach creating engaging digital experiences.

Let’s take a scenic tour through digital’s history, as I date myself in the process. The dinosaurs will come later…

The Age of Exploration
The mid 1990s. It was a great period of exploration for digital design, both online and offline. Then called multi-media, we saw the evolution of the term from new media to interactive, then eventually digital. In a true renaissance-sense standards were undefined lending to more freedom to imagine the ultimate frontier and make a stake. Largely thanks to new technologies and tools from like minds. In this start-up galore, as some chose decadent galas, the diligent and dedicated earned founding status. The best of their explorations became standards. Even the use of Flash technology became one. “Digital Convergence” heralded as the ultimate innovation was hindered by bandwith infrastructures and policies until the mid 2000s. Either way, innovation was afoot.

The Age of Standards
The Web 2.0 era came with the push for online standards in the early 2000s while rethinking established approaches to digital canvases and bringing more structure to them. If you asked a designer, it was the “age of creative throttling.” If you asked a developer, it was the “age of awesomeness.” They finally got to tell a designer what they wanted. Something along the lines of…”Here’s a template, and you can code the front-end while you are at it… and yeah, don’t use Flash.” Even Steve Jobs didn’t want Flash! Divine comedy aside, best practices truly evolved here leading to a very usable web, furthering the foundation for future innovation and accessibility – as much as it pains me to admit.

The Age of Entrepreneurs & Users
As social networks and app development came into vogue towards the mid 2000s, the start up model rebooted. However this time on the terms of the digital product’s drive for monetization or social currency. Primarily boosted due to a digital savvy user base demanding custom experiences for their lifestyle and convenience. In order to meet this demand, digital products “with a twist” using the same frameworks emerged. In short, every new photo app or game app was an innovation making the term just another buzzword. Any true innovation was overshadowed by the race to stay on top of the most downloadable list. Digital canvases started to get further streamlined or held back in court rooms due to patent infringements between the mighty tech giants.

The Rise of the Undead
Just checking to see if you are still reading. Although we really did see a rise in movies and TV shows related to zombies. Thank you AMC! Moving on…

The Age of Big Data & Devices
2010 to present day. Prior periods defined standards, segmented talent to fit a digital pipeline and even developed frameworks to contain efficient information systems. Devices finally brought in new form factors to create for, resulting in responsive design as another innovation for accessibility. However, is that all we are limited to? Even HTML 5 seems to be producing sites that have the essence of Flash-based interaction methodologies from the 1990s. We have “big data” and so called innovative ways to search, analyze and interact with it. Yet we are too focused on not being the first to truly “redefine” the way we access and engage with information – from a digital design sense.

The Age of Collaboration & Convergence
Present day. Enter emerging technologies and new digital tools – a whole new canvas for digital experiences! Being a visual-effects hobbyist and an ardent follower of SIGGRAPH, I regularly visited its emerging technologies gallery. I remember seeing touch-screens even before they were mainstream. I’ve tasted digital food (yes, “Google it”) and even though it wasn’t filling, it was the concept that could be furthered on a digital canvas that intrigued me. We are there! The introduction of natural interfaces, augmented reality, virtual interactions, wearables, voice control as interaction methods are still young and in the “gimmicky” Siri-like or prototype phases.

The recent acquisition of Oculus Rift by Facebook makes you wonder if the next generation of “chatting” will be a true virtual and close-to-holographic experience – I think so. Google Glass makes sense, but will the laws hinder its progress? Connected homes…are they secure enough? New device forms for digital consumption are changing the ecosystem – true “convergence” is here! How will the users adapt to more change? Will brands want to stay with traditional digital alternatives? Where is my jet pack and flying car? The bigger question is how will we adapt as digital thinkers to bridge that gap on our canvases? How can we contribute to these new developments in technology, help innovate beyond the device, while staying true to the brand message and user needs?

Collaboration is the key! Not just any kind, but ones between strategists, UX, writers, designers, developers, technology makers – including bold clients ready for that leap for that extra ingredient of “change,” propelling us forward into a new age in digital. I am happy to continue to be in this industry, at this point in time, working with a talented bunch. Why? Because there is a second renaissance in the air and it is exciting!

Finally the Dinosaurs on Innovation
So what do prehistoric creatures have to do with innovation? In 1993 a historic movie with dinosaurs redefined an industry, and elevated audience expectations. It was all because of a group of collaborators who had this ingredient to redefine the established industry norm. Their moment is truly inspirational!

In conclusion, innovation is a timeless trait practiced by the diligent and the dedicated – not a buzz word!

Ready to innovate? LET’S TALK.

 This blog post was written by former Rhythm UX Designer, Dinesh Daewar.

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