Adobe and AIGA – An Exciting New Chapter for Design
There’s never been a more exciting and transformative time for designers.
Design has evolved significantly over the past half-century — from the advent of the computer and desktop software, to the birth of web design and the multiscreen era, and to today’s era with a rising appreciation of “design thinking” as well as new challenges with machine learning, augmented reality (AR), and voice technologies.
Adobe has felt this shift. In my nearly 13 years at Adobe leading large-scale design efforts, I have never experienced such a time when the voice of my team is wanted in so many places. Design lies at the forefront of everything we do at Adobe.
As I reflect on our rapidly changing profession, I recognize there isn’t a more opportune time to be part of the change. This is why it’s an honor for me to share that I am joining the national board of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), the professional association for design. Adobe and AIGA have been working in parallel for years. Those parallels are critical as we look ahead to where creative design must go, and what’s essential to develop exceptional design talent.
Training the designer of 2025
Both Adobe and AIGA face several critical challenges ahead and, frankly, they will require a new breed of designer — a designer who takes a much more holistic view of design to become a deeper problem solver. First, we must expand and enhance our skill sets to master emerging technologies such as AR, artificial intelligence (AI), and voice interfaces, among others. This is essential to help brands and organizations tackle the exciting opportunities and critical challenges that come with these exciting technologies.
Already, we’re beginning to order groceries and other consumer goods simply by commanding a smart speaker or device. In the future, we will use AR overlays to navigate directions on a GPS. As designers in today’s digital world, we are expected to provide fresh design ideas and concepts to deliver the simplicity, surprise, and delight that cutting-edge technologies promise.
Our design schools and design studios must provide the curriculum and resources to help tomorrow’s design leaders embrace uncertainty and move faster than ever to stay ahead of the innovations and opportunities. Already, we are seeing students emerge from some design schools with far more skills than five years ago, including UI/UX design and prototyping. We need more of that foresight.
We also must equip the professional designers today with the skills to adapt. We’re striving at Adobe to address this opportunity through AI technologies such as Adobe Sensei that promise to help designers tackle deeper problem-solving and creative opportunities while lessening mundane and tedious production tasks.
Yet, new design skills alone aren’t sufficient. Designers must become more business-savvy. They must acquire business-related skill sets from basic P&L and other financial concepts to data analysis, long-term strategy, and risk assessment. This blend of design technology and business will prove essential.
In essence, we must define and prepare the designer of 2025. As an AIGA board member, I hope to help determine what our next-gen designers need to succeed and then help train them. A few of us in AIGA already have been talking about it. We hope to partner with other design organizations and establish a path to support today and tomorrow’s designers.
Doing much more on diversity and inclusion
Another critical issue for our profession demands that we eliminate the disproportionate barriers for women and people of color as they pursue creative careers. Systemic challenges abound. Adobe’s recent “Creativity’s Diversity Disconnect” study, as well as other studies by AIGA and the National Endowment of the Arts, illuminates how bias and exclusion stall women and people of color. This, of course, impacts the work we produce and the advancement of our industry.
Findings of the AIGA 2017 Design Census, which surveyed over 13,000 people, underscore the extent of the challenge. Among respondents, only 27 percent are nonwhite, including just 3.4 percent who identify as African-American, and 8.1 percent who identify as Hispanic/Latino.
As partners and contributors to the creative community, Adobe and I are committed to inspiring the next generation of leaders from different genders, races, and ethnicities to convey new designs and innovations that appeal to an increasingly diverse customer. I am proud of Adobe’s strong shared values and inspiring, supportive culture that ensures every designer has a voice at the company.
As an AIGA board member, I look forward to helping expand on the initiatives the association already has underway to combat gender and racial bias and discrimination. For one thing, I wish to empower leaders at local AIGA chapters to be more vocal in the challenges and needs in their specific communities and to lead change. This is vital because we cannot take a singular approach to solving and training this new workforce of designers.
In many ways, design is at an exciting crossroad, which is why it is an honor to join the AIGA board to help navigate our path ahead.