Design-Led Businesses — Take Advantage of These 5 Trends in 2019

by Michael Stoddart

posted on 12-21-2018

Inspired thinking often starts somewhere else – an idea, an action, a product we’ve seen within our network that sparks creativity within us. This is what Business of Design Week (BoDW) – the premium design conference in Asia – set out to explore, bringing the masters of innovation across design and business to ‘explore – think – collaborate.’

Each year, BoDW gives business and creative leaders a platform to exchange ideas, hit the big topics and become inspired for the next step. Are designers rebelling or embracing the deafening impact of technology? Are business leaders listening to designers, and vice versa?

There’s much to discuss. This year, I was honoured to be able to present at BoDW, and after meeting some inspiring designers and hearing them speak, here are 5 key trends I felt ‘bubbled up’ as something to watch out for in 2019.


Personalisation is driving audience decisions. This important trend is discussed in the Adobe and eConsultancy 2018 report Digital Trends for Creative and Design Leaders, which finds an increased demand on creative and design teams for high-quality content and digital assets. This demand is being driven by the more personalised approach to marketing and customer experience that many companies are adopting. Like other digital professionals, those working in creative and design roles see real-time personalisation as the most exciting medium-term opportunity.

We also know that the majority of businesses need to make content velocity a key focus. With more pressure on teams to deliver, the research makes clear that companies must ensure that they have the right processes and workflows in place to operate as efficiently as possible.

The key to content velocity in 2019 is focusing on designing systems that can scale your production, rather than individual assets.

Data and AI

Design is not production. Design has long stopped being how something looked, and instead describes how something works. This is a key concept for designers and business leaders alike to understand in 2019, as it is the key to content velocity, personalisation and utilising designers to their full potential. Artificial Intelligence, and its impact on all design – systems design, organisational design, process design as well as product and graphic design, is a growing trend worldwide. AI has the capability to help Designers produce more effectively and efficiently, while dramatically improving the delivery of digital experiences. As Shantanu Narayan, Adobe’s CEO has said, AI will never replace creative thought. But it is replacing production.

Design tools will change in 2019 and beyond. Designers can no longer define their value around the tools they have mastered or use. Instead, designer value is in the outcomes. Adobe CTO Abhay Parasnis noted to TechCrunch;

“When one of the very best artists in Photoshop spends hours in creation, what are the other things they do, and maybe more importantly, what are the things they don’t do? We are trying to harness that and marry that with the latest advances in deep learning so that the algorithms can actually become partners for that creative professional.” ****

Bring design into every aspect of the experience

Whilst in Hong Kong at the BODW event, I was lucky to hear Ken Wong, Creative Director & Founder of Australian gaming studio Mountains and who is a mastermind at design for emotional reactions. The agency’s design for ‘Florence’ – a game on young womanhood that’s just won an Apple Design Award – is something he’s dubbed ‘emotional gaming’ in a completely new genre of mobile play.

Wong explained that although this new style of gaming has made waves, one of the key design aspects was that the game could be completed in a short-time space – within a few hours. At a time when other games usually need hundreds of hours of gameplay to ‘level up’ and progress, this short experience has created powerful engagement with audiences across the world.

For senior creative and design professionals, Customer Experience is the single largest priority driving them today. Like Wong’s successes with logistical aspects of gameplay and exploring new genres, businesses that utilise a customer centric drive in all aspects of the journey will see more innovation and creativity.

McKinsey has made it clear – Design is officially your best competitive edge

Overwhelmingly, the trend today is for companies to focus on differentiating their design implementations – from new service-design to expanding product-design.

By quantifying the value of design‘s many implementations, Mckinsey’s report uncovers the business value of design. McKinsey’s The Business of Value Design has found design-led companies are increasing revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate of their industry counterparts.

The McKinsey Design Index (MDI) rates companies on how strongly they utilise design and—for the first time—how that corresponds with the companies financial performance. McKinsey uncovered a distinct correlation between high MDI scores and superior business performance, mirrored across three key industries – medical technology, consumer goods, and retail banking – that include both online and offline offerings.

What’s particularly interesting about McKinsey’s finding is the argument it makes for design’s value in both the physical and the analogue – it doesn’t matter what you’re selling, design professionals and principles have a perspective that can improve the current customer experience.

Design matters to the bottom-line – we now have more data to prove it.

Designing for voice

Of the major technological shifts that designers are constantly being told to prepare for, it is voice assistants that will become the major model for interacting with technology. Voice is imminent, in no small part because it seems the most inevitable.

It’s still to be decided if we’ll soon all be wearing augmented reality glasses or immersing ourselves in virtual reality spaces for hours at a time. But it is almost confirmed that there will be a significant role for a voice-based interfaces in our future. Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri are driving these new experiences, in both digital and plain old “real life”. We are at the very beginning of this new interface, and while the tools for designing applications on these platforms are still primitive, they are rapidly gaining in sophistication.

Khoi Vinh, previously Design Director of New York Times, believes the launch of voice as a design tool is especially satisfying. He is a big believer in the idea that voice is well on its way to becoming an integral part of experience design. This just seems like a foregone conclusion to me – smart speaker growth is already torrid, and voice assistants are becoming a natural way for a new generation of users to interact with technology.

What’s really exciting about this is that voice as a medium is still so young. There are lots of challenges still to be resolved with voice, and its designers who are best suited to forge these new solutions.

Topics: Creativity, APAC

Products: Photoshop, Creative Cloud