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Design predictions 2021: This is what our iF jurors say

Will service design see a rise? What’s the power of local crafts and materials? Our iF jurors forecast the year ahead.

It’s hard to imagine that we are living in 2021 without design products which delight our eyes and whet customers’ appetites. We asked our iF jurors to respond to the key challenges and trends in the year ahead.

The Covid-19 pandemic deeply affects design studios and companies. Everyone has to deal with the risk of drastic economic consequences such as sales losses or planning uncertainty. However, dreams and hopes keeps this world alive as this crisis is an opportunity for a change in design thinking and technological approaches. Let’s start the new year with some predictions about the design industry.

"We have an acute social responsibility to design solutions that no longer constitute 'intelligent litter'"

Dave Brown is co-founder of Brown&co The Brand Collective, a virtual branding agency with extensive know-how in the fields of brand strategy, design, interactive media and brand management. The agency is based in London, United Kingdom.

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Consumer waste from high street packaging continues to exacerbate the negative impact on our environment and planet. Our oceans and rivers are teaming with plastic waste and unnecessary resources are heading for landfill (paper coffee cups being one prime example).  As designers of packaged consumer goods, we have an acute social responsibility to design solutions that no longer constitute ‘intelligent litter’, that pollute our oceans, impact negatively on precious plant and mineral resources and add to harmful environmental carbon emissions. We need to apply our creative intelligence to work hard to repurpose single use plastics and look for alternative sustainable solutions which add value to the product and pack without putting stress on our precious planetary resources.

A 'less is more' approach to design and visual brand language, where premiumisation still continues to be a trend in the market will continue through 2021. Material substrates will express a raw honesty, reflecting a more natural and human tactile feel to packs. We’ll continue to see the decrease in use of non-recyclable metallised foils and laminates in design, being replaced by new smart printed ink technology solutions which can now replicate foil effects – see Eckart illoom pigments as an example.

Post COVID-19 we’ve seen an explosion in demand for online shopping through e-commerce channels, so brands will need to continue to flex to be fit for interactive media first and the high street retail channel second. This is a great opportunity to leverage the multi-media potential offered by online media. So, now a dual purpose for off to online branding, where visual brand language plays a far more impactful omni-channel purpose and role in growing brands.

– Dave Brown

"Service design strengthens the entrepreneurial capacity for development, innovation and survival"

Isabelle Goller founded Nea Design, an agency with a special focus on service design and business development. The agency is based in Vienna, Austria.

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What I experience in my work is that the explorative, iterative and co-creative way of working of service design makes people curious, but at the end of the day there is often too much respect for applying service design holistically and strategically. This leaves the use of service design on a project basis and in the operational, limited to selected touchpoints and areas. How much is due to the fact that organizations are built on continuance and preservation and not on renewal and change? It is not surprising that the interest in design process and methods are there, but the soft stuff is missing out – the mindset, the culture and the sustainable social change.

Innovation is founded on broad knowledge. And that's what service design is particularly good at. We look at the organization, search for weaknesses and potentials. At the same time, we look outward, deal with trends and the environment. We take a particularly close look at people's everyday lives: What do they care about? What are they missing? What do they need? What are their (real) problems? What do they think and what do they carry in their hearts? The intensive exploration of these questions leads us to value-oriented solutions.

My forecast for 2021? More than ever, we need innovation. Service design is an important driver for this approach and can make a valuable contribution to strengthen the entrepreneurial capacity for development, innovation and, in some cases, for survival. This requires to put service design on a strategic level, leadership and, above all, system awareness. After all, every innovation must create value and benefit – not only for customers, but also for society and ecology. This is the way we deliver real innovations into the world, for a better tomorrow for us all.

– Isabelle Goller

"In Situ manufacturing is a good example of how to reduce waste and CO2"

Marta Alonso Yebra is co-founder of Mayice, a multi-disciplinary studio with its headquarters in Madrid, Spain.

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I imagine 2021 as a year when interiors are full of nature as it is important for humans to be connected with nature. Biophilic design buildings incorporate natural landscapes features, natural lighting, ventilation, natural materials are used for creating a more productive and healthier environment and atmospheres for people.

Designers must act sustainably by fostering the dialogue between craftsmanship and technology. In Situ manufacturing is a good example of how to reduce waste and CO2 since it brings together ways for dealing with local materials and crafts from different cultures. As for our work at Mayice, we are now collaborating with the Suzhou Silk Museum in China, using millenarian embroidery techniques to develop contemporary pieces. During this process, we have learned about the history of silk, its techniques and their passion for perfection in the details. It’s an approach to work that has pleasingly surprised us.

I think at this difficult time, companies and creatives must think deeply about their responsibility, analyze what is really important for our world, nature and societies and work on extraordinaries projects. Less quantity and much more quality in design is needed. In this context, Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance’s project “Made in Situ” or Lucas Muñoz’s interior design restaurant “Mo de movimiento” in Madrid are really inspiring to me.

As always, I hope to see objects, spaces and atmospheres full of emotion and beauty from those designers capable of sensing what’s going on in the world, transforming it into functional, aesthetic solutions. Solutions that respect the soul of the materials used in day-to-day life, pieces on the border between art and design, and designs that help to make technology and technological advances approachable and within everyone's reach. Good design, good thinking and great ideas will change the world.

– Marta Alonso Yebra


(published in January 2021)