Technology in Design
Due to a phenomenon known as Moore’s law the speed of technological advancement is gathering pace exponentially. We only need to look at the speed of development of smart phones and smart appliances to understand how quickly yesterday’s science fiction is becoming today’s reality.
As a designer, I am always looking for new ways in which technology can improve our methodology or provide important tools to streamline our workflow. More importantly, I am interested in how technology can be embraced and woven seamlessly into our design schemes to improve the working environment and the workplace experience for our clients.
Although the use of technology can provide results in the short term, I have outlined a few ways in which I believe a precautionary approach should be considered when specifying new products or systems. Whilst technology can dramatically improve the aesthetic of the modern working environment, in this blog I want to focus on the practicality and productivity that new solutions can achieve.
As the rate of technological advancement far outpaces the natural refurbishment cycle, it’s important for designers to try and avoid ‘hard-wiring’ technology into our schemes. Anything that is fixed can become outdated quickly or even obsolete, proving difficult and costly to replace. By focusing on flexible, mobile or lightly fixed solutions these future replacement costs can be minimised. A good example of this can be found in the development of ‘third space’ solutions offered by many furniture manufacturers. Often these solutions offer alternative ways for users to connect their current technology to a digital display providing opportunity for ad-hoc meetings or huddle spaces, while also acting as breakout spaces away from the desk. When user hardware such as laptops and iPads come to the end of their natural useful life, these elements can be replaced and upgraded without affecting the connectivity to the display. With trends in workplace behaviours moving towards encouraging working away from the desk, these elements also provide touchpoints for mobile working.
When specifying new technology, a designer should always be aware of products that are currently available on the consumer market, as these products can often provide cheaper alternatives to specialist solutions.
A good example of this over the past decade is the widespread adoption of ‘smart boards’ in the education sector. Fixed and often expensive, smart boards are usually proprietary systems offered by specialist companies that can become outdated quickly or incur ongoing life cycle costs for software updates.
With the growth of the consumer technology industry, often cheaper alternatives can be sourced, which are updated regularly to keep pace with software developments and consumer use requirements. A great example of this can be found with the Apple TV. Primarily designed for media playback, the Apple TV can be linked to a relatively low cost TV and be paired wirelessly with a PC, Mac, iPad of iPhone – a powerful teaching aid in the classroom that negates the need for expensive smart board and projector combinations. As the products are designed for widespread consumer use, installation and user interfaces are usually simple and intuitive, avoiding the time and cost of bespoke product and software training programmes.
As products are becoming increasingly lightweight and wireless, the need for cabling and cable management solutions also can be reduced, adding to the flexibility of the workspace. We have recently refurbished our head office at SoVibrant, and instead of opting for hard wired solutions for our collaborative displays in the meeting areas and offices, we have instead installed Google Chromecasts to each digital screen. At only £30 per unit, the Chromecast is a low cost solution that allows any one of us to send content or share our PC screen with the display from anywhere in the office, without the need to connect directly to the display. Furthermore, recent advancements in wireless charging capabilities mean that in the near future our mobile devices will be able to be charged over the air without the need for a direct connection to an outlet, freeing us from the confines of fixed working positions.
The workplace has changed dramatically over the past decade as a result of the advancement and adoption of technology and, as the pace of change continues to increase exponentially, the workplace of the future will be almost unrecognisable compared with today’s.
As a lover of both design and technology it’s a future I’m very excited to see.