As another tough year ends and a new year begins, we wanted to look to the future with an optimism that 2022 could be better than 2021. At Eye on Design, we believe that designers are critical in shaping the future, and we wanted to find out what futures designers are hoping for next year. In that spirit, we asked some of our friends (who also happen to be some of the smartest designers, educators, and writers we know) about what they hope to see in 2022. From more rest and kindness to focus on sustainability and ethics, greater experimentation in digital design to disrupting the historical canon, you can read their wishes below.
In 2022, we see kindness and grace as positive traits in professional settings. We reduce our reliance on things and prioritize our relationships with people. We are generous with our time and the love we share. We embrace our own beauty as works of art, our imperfections adding to our uniqueness and value. We bear witness to injustice and use the power we have to speak up, in big and small ways. We invest in renewable energy so we can travel our beautiful planet without causing it to become sick. We value other species as equal inhabitants of this earth.
Designers will snap out of silos and scrutinize the chain of events that results from their work. For all their giddy optimism, designers will reckon with how their efforts can sometimes contribute to defunct or damaging systems. Already, this is happening with initiatives like Clean Creatives, where studios vow to decline business from the fossil fuel industry. I suspect this kind of interrogation will occur across a range of issues. There will be discourse, maybe even brave action, as more designers own up to the idea that they can be agents of progress or peril.
In the wake of IPCC’s AR6 report, I’m hoping that more of my peers will accept the responsibility they hold as the sharp tools that they are. The climate crisis is urgent. It is not good enough to make more nice things. In 2022, I’d like to see studios hold clients to a moral standard. We aren’t perfect, but last year alone we have rejected over $300,000+ USD of work that did not meet our sustainability requirements. If we send a message that pointless, vapid e-commerce (without a science-backed climate initiative) is unacceptable, it will change the culture permanently for future founders that come knocking at our doors.
The things I would like to see in 2022 are also things that I continue to think about and grapple with in order to best serve my students and understand graphic design’s role in our societies:
- A continued commitment to expanding—and, as educator/designer Ramon Tejada says, puncturing—the canon of graphic design in favor of looking at its many contexts, not simply as a narrow aesthetic rubric.
- A continued evolution of the teaching space—working out how we can connect with our students while also leveraging the digital space we learned is possible and saves money and time during the pandemic.
I wish that students, faculty, and staff get more rest. The last two years have been hard with the COVID-19 pandemic and the actions to fight racism and discrimination. So in 2022, may faculty assign less assignments, students not have to do all-nighters, and administrators hold less meetings. May we recognize these acts of “doing less” as creating conditions of care for ourselves and each other. I am known for my work on decolonization. People forget that colonization is about conditions of labor and bodies overused for productivity. Society needs a collective nap. May we design educators lead the napping.
Throughout the pandemic, the world’s ability to adapt to sudden change left us with a stronger mindset and the empowerment to prepare for future challenges. We can adapt this strength in design thinking. I often see designers, including myself, get caught up with user behavior best practices, UX gestures, and following the most practical way to a solution, leaving no room for risk-taking. As we adapt to change, so should users. As designers, we should take the next year to not fear failure, but rather, fear the missed chances.
I would like to see web design continue to embrace a more experiential and virtual reality on the web. In a post-pandemic remote society, digital worlds where users can immerse themselves in shopping, communicating, and exploring will be at the forefront of how we live our daily lives. Designers can push the boundaries of web design by taking risks to break out of the 2D and move towards the 3D. Designers should begin to think of their web designs as worlds, environments, and microcosms that are entry points into digital experiences and products.
2022, a key moment, the opportunity to embed new values: better access to education for those that the market denies; more freedom of voice for the disempowered and cowed; better standards of living for the disenfranchised; tolerance, respect, and the embracing of difference for the marginalized.
Brands have a key role to play in this scenario. Rarely has there been such a need to embrace an empathetic brand culture, one where the audience connection is both empowering and enriching. Brands need to be seen giving back, to be recycling passion and trust, to be reinvesting in the quality of people’s lives and unlocking their dreams. I have faith.