A few weekends ago, I attended the IDSA Hybrid conference in Portland, Oregon. I have been a member of the IDSA for a few years, though I have never attended a conference. Based on the minimal impact the organization has so far had on my career, I wasn't expecting much.
But, I was wrong...It was packed with talent. From pros like Facebook's Joyce Hsu, Artefact's Markus Wierzoch and RKS founder Ravi Sawhney to name a few. To academics like WWU's Arunas Oslapas to all the Student Merit presentations. I was encouraged and inspired by the willingness of the organization to avoid cowering in the corner as it faces a sort of identity crisis. What is Industrial Design today anyway? As the conference title suggests, it is becoming a Hybrid of the digital and physical.
If you were to believe most job listings these days you would think Industrial Design is dead. The truth is that, it is very much alive as a practice, but it is losing a battle of names. UX seems to be king at the moment and yet what any Industrial Designer will tell you, is that we are the original user experience designers. The real issue at hand is who leads in bringing together the digital and physical. For Industrial Designers, we need to be versed in both.
Markus Wierzoch spoke well on this topic and made the case that as a designer, if you do not embrace the digital landscape as part of your design practice, you will quickly become irrelevant. He would call you a "designasaur". Our objects are becoming smarter and more connected each day, so there is the end product to consider. But, just as important, are new tools to communicate design initiatives within organizations.
AR and VR are quickly becoming a powerful part of the design process. My favorite example of its use from MW was how he brought a group of stakeholders into a tiny interior space with VR. Each person had the benefit of standing in exactly the same spot...Real surreal!