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The 21st century clearly belongs to designers: just look at the way new technologies, new techniques, and new platforms for expression have made it easier than ever to create great work and share it with the world. But as the design world has grown, so has the number of challenges designers face.

At Adobe MAX, designers and design champions come together to talk about the problems they confront everyday. We asked some of them to share the biggest challenge they think the industry’s facing, right now:

Combining ‘design’ with ‘business’

beard-smDesigners need to start learning how to make an impact in business as well as design. We need to move past the outdated ‘skill’  based way of thinking where we hope to have success by simply learning applications or technologies.

We are in an era where companies value design like never before. In order to take advantage of this we have to position ourselves for long-term success by focusing on how to combine design with business and strategy. Doing that moves designers from a commodity that creates a design, to a critical asset that is able to combine technologies, design, customer empathy, and business strategy to create a more impactful big picture experience.

~Stephen Gates, Global Head of Design, Citigroup Inc.


Dealing with growth in all directions

smile-smToday, I think the biggest challenge facing designers is growth. As companies, agencies, competition, and customers grow, there are more expectations to do more, to do it faster, and to do it better. A designer must figure out how, why, and when to add features, sizes, platforms, and languages to the product. Products must now be accessible, scalable, and international.

These demands on a product can cause a design specialist to become more of a design generalist: they are forced to take on the roles of designer, production designer, prototyper, writer, and researcher. This results in less focus and depth in all of the roles due to less time and attention for each.

One solution is extending the workday or workweek to provide more time for much needed roles and tasks. Another solution is to hire more designers. But the best solution is to hire and build a team of specialists that can provide the focus and execution of key tasks to grow the product – and the company.

~Ariem Anthony, Production Design Manager, Airbnb


Designing for emerging markets

nancy-smIt’s easy to design for life in the United States and other western counties, but so much of the global market is outside the developed world. It’s a major challenge to remember this: we like to create with the idea high speed internet and unlimited access to electricity is global. In fact, there are more countries that don’t have reliable telephone access or electricity than those that do.

I had my eyes opened on a trip to East Africa last year. The country I was in had a monopoly on its cell phone network. I used my phone like I was in the U.S., and ended up with thousands of dollars in roaming charges. I realized this is the reality for our customers in that market. Imagine the frustration, inconvenience, and costs they face when trying to use our products every day.

Products need to be adapted for the local environment in order to be effective. Keeping those users in mind is a big challenge, but one with potentially big rewards for designers who can look beyond our borders in an increasingly globalized world.

~Nancy Douyon, Global User Experience Research Lead, Google


Being asked to do more, with more tools

hat-smThe biggest challenge facing designers today is one of scale: the size and complexity of design projects, the rapid change in technology and devices, ever increasing channels of communication, and an exploding market of new creative tools. Being a Photoshop pro is no longer enough.

Designers are also being asked to do more, and with that has come the overhead of building and managing new processes: research, planning, agile development, analytics, user testing. It feels like we barely have time to design anymore!

Yet with all of these new challenges, designers are producing some of the most inventive and varied work in history. Experience design is the driving force behind almost every new initiative, across every medium and industry: mobile, education, medical, virtual and augmented reality.

The best designers adapt their tools and process to fit their creative goals. In any time of rapid change and innovation there will be some growing pains, but designers have the skills best suited to solving the big problems we’re facing.

~Talin Wadsworth, Lead Product Designer, Adobe XD

What do you think the biggest challenge facing designers is? Let us know in the comments below.

Patrick Faller

Patrick Faller

Patrick is a freelance writer, digital producer, journalist, and TV host. His background is news, but he has a passion for music, video games, and that special place where art and technology collide.


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