Designers discuss originality, diversity and ethics in Doberman’s new film

Leading product, graphic and service designers from Google, Sonos and Wieden + Kennedy share their thoughts on the future of design and the challenges facing the industry

Richard Turley at Wieden + Kennedy’s offices in New York. Image: Doberman

New York and Stockholm design firm Doberman has interviewed 20 leading creatives for a 30-minute film that ponders the future of design and the major challenges facing the industry.

The Frontiers of Design will be released in June to coincide with Doberman’s 20th anniversary. The agency has been sharing teaser clips online over the past few weeks at frontiersfilm.com.

In one video, Richard Turley – the former creative director at Bloomberg Bussinessweek and ECD at ad agency Wieden + Kennedy in New York – claims that design has become homogenised and unoriginal and suggests that perhaps what’s needed is a little more personality.

I don’t see any design out there that I would consider to be original

“I don’t think we’re living in a particularly original world at the moment. I don’t see any design out there that I would consider to be original,” he says. Commenting on the ‘Apple-ification’ of design – the emergence of a stripped-down aesthetic pioneered by Apple – Turley claims that the design of digital devices has become “totally subservient” to the product. “It’s all about the machine,” he adds. “It’s like a templated design system.”

Turley’s designs for Bloomberg Businessweek were famously bold and playful. Working with editor Josh Tyriangel, he oversaw a radical redesign of the magazine, borrowing from pop culture and the visual language of the internet to create spreads that were funny, surprising and visually arresting. In the film, he praises the magazine’s editors for embracing this daring approach and says “people are much more open to provocative design than I think we allow them to be”.

Turley also warns against worrying too much about what other brands are doing and suggests that designers put a little more personality into their work. “I think what people miss is that we want personality in design work,” he explains. “We don’t want a sort of templated world and I think sometimes when you put yourself entirely at the feat of the client and their needs and the needs of their brand … having a little more personality in those decision-making processes and putting a little bit more of yourself inside these decisions is probably for the better.”

There’s an intense lack of diversity

In another film, Lauren Currie, Head of Service Design at Good Lab in London, criticises an “intense” lack of diversity in the industry – particularly at creative conferences where speakers are mostly older, male and white. Currie stresses the need to have a more diverse group of designers on stages, in creative teams and in boardrooms and says she would like to see less “high five-ing” and more critiquing in the industry, with designers really questioning the value of their work.

Adam Diehl, Lead Product Designer at mindfulness app Headspace, raises the issue of design ethics and the responsibity that comes with designing digital products and apps.

Diehl discusses the need to find the right balance between benefitting organisations and individual users and says design should be less about “forcing somebody down a certain path” and more about “guiding and nudging”. As digital apps and technologies become a bigger part of our lives, changing people’s habits and behaviours, Diehl says designers must also think about the potential consequences of their actions and creative decisions.

You can see more films – including an interview with Sonos’s VP of Design Tad Toulis and another with Google Design Director Isabelle Olsson – at frontiersfilm.com