The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, is driven by advancements in automation, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT). As a result, companies are now producing products and services at unprecedented rates, while consumers enjoy the benefits of faster, more efficient, and cost-effective goods and services.
But with all this technological progress, designers need to keep up with the changes. They must learn how to integrate new technologies into their work and use them to their advantage. In the past, designers used traditional tools and techniques to create their designs. However, in today’s digital world, designers must be proficient in a wide range of software and programming languages.
This new era requires a designer to be versatile, adaptive, and agile. They must be able to work with new technologies and understand how to create designs that are optimized for these new platforms. The challenge is to learn these new skills while maintaining a focus on creating designs that are aesthetically pleasing, functional, and engaging.
In conclusion, the fourth industrial revolution presents both challenges and opportunities for designers. Those who embrace the changes and learn the new skills required will thrive in this new era. The key is to remain open-minded, stay up to date with the latest trends and technologies, and always be willing to learn and adapt.
The Four Industrial Revolutions
The emergence of Industry 4.0 has brought about an unprecedented level of automation and interconnectivity. For designers, this presents a new set of challenges and opportunities. With the rise of artificial intelligence, big data, and the Internet of Things, it’s no longer enough to simply have design skills. Designers must also have a deep understanding of these technologies and how they can be integrated into the design process.
At the same time, Industry 4.0 has also created new possibilities for designers. With the use of advanced robotics, additive manufacturing, and gene editing, designers can create products that were once unimaginable. The metaverse, a virtual universe where people can interact with each other and digital objects, is also emerging as a new frontier for designers.
So, while the rise of Industry 4.0 may have some designers feeling disillusioned, there are also many reasons to be optimistic. With the right skills and knowledge, designers can use these new technologies to create truly innovative and groundbreaking products. As the world continues to embrace this new era of technological progress, designers must be willing to adapt and evolve to stay relevant in the ever-changing landscape of design.
Why should Industry 4.0 matter to designers?
New times, new designer
In the face of new technological advancements, designers are presented with a choice to either embrace change or remain stagnant. The diffusion of innovations model by Professor Everett Rogers divides people into two groups – the innovators and the laggards – in terms of technology adoption. While some may resist or reject the current paradigm, others innovate aggressively and take advantage of emerging technology.
The battle between Netflix and Blockbuster serves as an excellent example of the impact of technological innovation. While Blockbuster was once a dominant force with $6 billion in revenue, Netflix managed to win over customers with their appreciation of internet streaming and ultimately caused Blockbuster to go bankrupt.
Throughout history, designers have had mixed responses to industrial revolutions. The Art & Craft movement and Art Nouveau designers in Industry 1.0 and 2.0 resisted change, while the Bauhaus embraced new methods. Industry 3.0 saw the transition from hand-drawn plans to computer-aided design (CAD) software. In Industry 4.0, designers must choose whether to embrace the latest technologies or stick with the norm.
Levelling up from Industry 3.0
Industry 4.0 is causing a divide among designers, with some embracing new technology and others sticking to the status quo. The innovators are the first to adopt new technology, while the laggards reject it. For example, Netflix innovated aggressively by changing their go-to-market approach and business model, ultimately causing Blockbuster to go bankrupt. In Industry 4.0, designers are choosing to either embrace the change or settle for the norm of Industry 3.0. However, Industry 4.0 blurs the lines between the two phases, and designers often find themselves having to learn new tools and skills. AI and connectivity are key differentiators between Industry 3.0 and 4.0, and AI-powered prototyping tools and 3D modeling are becoming more in demand. There is a misconception that Industry 4.0 is only for designers working in tech companies, but classical, business, and computational designers can all benefit from embracing new technology. Industry 4.0 offers new opportunities for designers to move faster than their competitors, and classical designers can transition into this new era by designing with IOT in mind, dabbling in both physical and virtual worlds through augmented reality, and using big data to inform the circulation of space.
Industry 4.0 is more than just a new industrial revolution. It’s a blurring of lines between two phases as it rides on its predecessor. With the emergence of the internet, access to new information has become extremely easy yet fragmented. While this has led to more rapid discovery and execution of new ideas, it has also created an expansive sea of innovation, each fighting for its own dominance in a melee of tug-of-wars.
Designers are faced with the predicament of having mastered a tool or skill, only to realize there is a newer, better tool out there in the market. The rise of no-code platforms such as Figma and Webflow, as well as new platforms like Canva, has made front-end application design much more accessible to non-designers.
Connectivity and automation are two key underlying differentiators between Industry 3.0 and 4.0, and artificial intelligence will loom over the UX/UI design community. Uizard, for example, is positioned as a rapid, AI-powered prototyping tool used for designing wireframes, mockups, and prototypes in minutes. Demand is also growing for 3D modelling as cyber-physical environments become a reality with digital twinning and IoT sensors.
Despite the common misconception that technology trends only apply to technical people, transformative inventions can ripple across industries as a movement. The transformative power of Industry 4.0 is not just for designers working in tech companies or dealing with digital technology. Classical designers, business designers, and computational designers can work together to move faster than their competitors.
Users are also uniquely positioned to create their own content easily and are accustomed to speed and rapid change. They are early adopters of mobile technology and interoperable across physical and virtual environments. However, we should also consider other stakeholders that shape and influence design in a given context, such as politicians, market leaders, communities, regulators, and ethical and environmental bodies.
Through the eye of a well, the designer looks up and sees a narrow view of the sky. Only by venturing out of the well would the designer see the entire spread of the horizon.
At one point, well-known Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan contributed to the modern digital ecosystem based on these words:
“If words were ambiguous and best studied not in terms of their “content” but in terms of their effects in a given context, and if the effects were often subliminal, the same might be true of other human artifacts, the wheel, the printing press, the telegraph, and the TV.”
I often wonder how differently we, as designers, view Industry 4.0 if we had played a little game by switching around the words we attribute our understanding to. What if Industry 4.0 was reframed as Design 4.0 for designers? Retaining the full context of the current world we live and work in, could we rethink our current understanding of design?
4 ways to become Designer4.0
Design is an ever-changing industry, and to stay ahead of the curve, designers must constantly push boundaries and challenge the status quo. Here are three tips for designers to stay ahead of the curve and innovate in their field.
Firstly, designers should look for design innovators on the fringes. It can be easy to stick with the current design tribe, but this can lead to becoming a laggard in the industry. Instead, designers should seek out people who are actively experimenting and having conversations with innovators in other fields. Exposing oneself to non-design forums and conferences may increase the chances of finding these innovators.
Secondly, designers should call into question the Design 3.0 standards. By asking “What does it mean to be a designer?” designers can extract their current worldview and qualms about themselves. Reframing this worldview can help designers become more nimble in a changing environment, and may lead to the exploration of new media and art forms.
Lastly, designers should be good with what they know but be better with what they don’t know. Ambidextrous designers pick contrasting skills that fit their current role. This involves picking two divergent skills and having the intersections in them, a concept known as X-shaped thinking.
By implementing these tips, designers can stay ahead of the curve, innovate in their field, and ultimately provide better solutions for their clients.
Be a scientist: experiment, learn and repeat
In the spirit of experimentation, the person who tests their assumptions rigorously triumphs. Rather than cowering from the challenge, we can learn to embrace and adapt to changing requirements. Instead of being preachers, prosecutors, or politicians, we can be scientists, as described by Adam Grant. The trait of being a scientist is to develop a sense of intellectual humility by treating your current ideas as a hypothesis worth testing continuously.
We often see programming as an endeavour to build an application fit for its intended purpose in an industrialised setting. In the age of Industry 3.0, large clunky computers were costly and housed in research facilities. As a result, early computational work focused on producing utilitarian outcomes. It was through one technologist by the name of Vera Molnar that the hypothesis of computing being a form of artistic expression was formulated. Her work sets the stage for the future of computer art and generative art. It paved the way for the future generation to redefine computer art in Industry 4.0. One such upcoming new media designer is Refik Anadol. Through his exploration of aesthetics and machine intelligence, he has derived a radical art form that exploits the power of artificial intelligence onto a large interactive digital canvas found in architecture. He became a technologist, an artist, and a scientist all at once, possibly a representation of the prototypical Designer 4.0.
Come full circle, Allen’s proclamation of A.I. winning is a distant echo. Surely, whilst new technology can be exploited, or even rejected, it can also be harnessed as a new enlightened form of design. As designers in Industry 4.0, let us remember why we are designers — imagineers of any given medium. The call to become more transdisciplinary is imminent, but as John Maeda concludes,
“Computation is made by us, and we are now collectively responsible for its outcomes.”
Roost, Kevin. An A.I.-Generated Picture Won an Art Prize. Artists Aren’t Happy. New York: The New York Times, 2022. Online.
Rogers, Everett. Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition. New York: Free Press, 2003. Print.
Maeda, John. Design in Tech Report 2017. Online.
Marchand, Philip. Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and The Messenger : A Biography (Rev Sub ed.). Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1998. Print.
Grant, Adam. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. New York: Penguin Publishing Group,2021. Online.
Maeda, John. Why we shouldn’t forget that the world’s first computers were humans. Online.
Lissitzky, El. Proun. Chicago: Art Institute Chicago, 2018. Online.