At the beginning of the new year, we at Designsensory, like to share some forward-thinking design, content and technology insights that, hopefully, you can utilize within your branding, business and marketing efforts. This post showcases the multidisciplinary nature of our firm with insights from several Designsensory team members. Names are included within the post so that you can get to know a bit more about them and our collective thoughts on what’s next in branding, technology and design for 2012 and beyond.

Joseph Nother | creative director, principal, cofounder

Overall:

  • Physical and digital lines are blurring and converging. Bringing digital/social information into a physical world will be a growth point. For example, in NYC, a collaborative meeting space key fob is tied in with the individual’s social information and work. Swipe a key fob to enter, then wall screens and settings change to showcase that person’s work, websites of interest, tweets and ambient settings.
  • Distinct work/life modes are disappearing. For example, people will increasingly work personal content access, such as Facebook, into their professional lives, leveraging their own “avatar brand” in their work.
  • An appetite for access to content, anytime, anywhere, will increase as well as the ability to discriminate between good, bad and trustworthy content.
  • Dialogue vs. monologue across all touchpoints enabled by mobile devices will have greater implications for brands. Brands will need to identify and/or plant firm, deep, authentic roots in their positioning, legacy, social advocacy, perspective and mission. These values will, more than ever, need to be clearly express by their culture, people, designed objects and touchpoint experiences to convey a differentiated advantage to consumers.
  • Context + Content are king because devices make consumption instant. This cycle will also be self-reinforcing and have lasting impact on our ability to discriminate, focus and make decisions in our daily lives.
  • For technology, experience and meaning trump productivity as we are focused on adding meaning to life beyond material wealth and being.
  • Across all brands, the novelty of digital gives way to delivery of relevant content, conversations and digitally-enhanced experiences. Brands should now have a greater understanding of what works for them in the digital space. This self-awareness should enhance how they use digital to engage and augment.
  • Shopping and commerce becomes less isolated and segmented, more integrated into the stream of consumer lives. Thus, the concept of “store” is being redefined.
  • Social media continues to democratize societal and cultural influence. Media celebrities stand toe to toe with the “influencers of niche and micro groups” (i.e., the normal individual).

Medium:

  • Print, particularly well-curated and well-designed items will trump digital communication as authentic, real and influential, as digital has become ubiquitous and cheap (i.e., if someone prints something, the individual must believe in it because of the cost of publishing inherent to the medium).
  • Vintage and tangible objects increasing in meaning and/or become luxury items in an increasingly tactile-less digital world.
  • Video becomes more accessible, more easily created and distributed. Since video mirrors the experience of real life, people hunger for more moving images and content creators will continue to satisfy while looking for ways to monetize or capitalize on viewership. 
  • HTML5 adoption, the proliferation of gadets of varied screen sizes and the notion of responsive, adaptive and liquid layouts will continue to push digital design in directions focused on sustainabile, flexible content delivery. 

Culture:

  • Olympics in London might spawn newfound interest in UK and Old World heritage as well as contemporary European culture, styles and lifestyles.
  • A desire to leave the economic and societal negativity of the last few years gives way to a projection of more positively oriented themes.
  • Elections in the fall of 2012 will see a renewed emphasis on personal responsibility, sustainability, economic viability and personal lifestyle choices, as these themes will serve as sub-current to the explicit themes of the election: taxes, economic prosperity in a global world, global competition and cost-reduction.
  • Will 2012 be the end, as the Mayans predict? What would that portend? Regardless, a contemplation of where we’ve been, where we are going and the metaphysical value in our desires, fears and aspirations will be on our minds.

Susan Hamilton | content developer, editor

Among the larger trends I hear frequently discussed are:

  • Fully connect with the community you serve, whether that community is geographic or interest-based. Be an outlet that people in that community trust and rely on for information that serves them and matters to them.
  • Be transparent in all things. That may mean, for some types of information outlet, shedding the cloak of objectivity and showing your passion and concern. It also means being transparent about who you are, where and when you get your information, how you allow a story to develop (in its own time), and what the responses are.

Alison Ashe | senior designer

There are the things we do, and there is the purpose behind the things we do.

What makes people act? Decide? Commit? Exchange their time, effort and attention for the thing that you’re offering, when there are so many other choices available?

Not just the immediate and obvious need. There is always another purpose underlying that need. In the backs of people’s minds, often unknown even to themselves, hiding behind “Will this antiperspirant keep me from sweating?” is “Will this help me live the life I want?” Right beside “Who am I?” and “What do I want to be?”

The strongest brands will make people realize why they get out of bed in the morning and position themselves in harmony with that purpose. Either we have some deeper reason driving every tiny thing we do, or we’re all automatons. Our job and that of our clients is to define the human purpose and inspire action in pursuit of it. Wake people up and engage them on that deeper level. There are probably as many ways to define purpose as there are people. It’s not an easy job, but it’s why we get out of bed in the morning.

Justin Hudson | designer

Back to the basics. Know your brand, but more importantly know what your customers say your brand is. In just the past few months, we’ve seen large companies such as Netflix, GoDaddy.com and Bank of America, to name a few, lose sight of their most important asset, their customers, and their brands have paid the price in customer loyalty.

Matt Montgomery | designer

Look for the popularity of internet-connected TVs to grow as developers continue to build on Android’s SDK (software development kit) for Google TV, and Apple will undoubtedly release a new version of its Apple TV with Siri-inspired voice control and other added functionality. As these products gain traction, a new wave of developers will scramble to build apps and TV-optimized sites for this new platform.

Human Centered Design will be seen as more and more of a competitive advantage as companies seek to offer useful services in the digital age. Services like Simple and Flight Card that utilize technology to help make users’ lives easier by making sense of complex information will outpace clunkier, less transparent services.

Ian Fitz | web developer

Browsers automatically and silently update themselves.

Many of the browsers have always prompted that an update was available, and new versions of Internet Explorer and Safari show up in the list of system updates, but both of those things are easy to dismiss. This has kept many web users on older versions of browsers, making it more difficult for us as web developers to use new techniques and features. When Google Chrome was released, it included a silent auto-updater. The browser would update itself automatically without ever asking the user. Recently, Firefox has included a similar feature, and Microsoft has announced that it will turn on silent updates for Internet Explorer with a Windows update coming this year. This will hopefully lead to more users utilizing the most recent versions of their browsers, giving us as web developers more options when building sites for our clients.

Susan Napier-Sewell | content developer, editor

A business blog can provide very beneficial returns for SEO efforts because of the ease in optimizing posts for keywords. Adding links to pages within a site seems more natural when they are part of the text within your posts. Blog posts establish an ongoing conversation, a relationship beyond the usual. Put yourself out there in thought leadership and differentiate your company from the competition.

Anne Brogdon | designer

My 2012 trend is the end of QR codes and similar tags which offer an inelegant solution for connecting the physical to the online. Better solutions will be found and integrated.

Josh Loebner | strategist

Be Real. Understand and utilize real, meaningful content. Know what real content is. Know how to create real content, and know how to share real content. Most importantly, know that you aren’t the only one creating content. The people who both love and hate your brand create content every day with what they share and do.

Transparency, accountability and trust will continue to shape communication efforts. In other words, branding that builds worthwhile, lifelong relationships will rise above more compartmentalized, on-off campaigns. We are in the midst of an increasingly data-driven culture (whether it’s for personal apps or your company’s website) which pushes analytics and metrics to the forefront of success measurements. Make sure those data points are tied to emotional well-being and trust. Simply ask yourself, how can your brand be more transparent, accountable and trustworthy in 2012.