Design Trends – 2018 Will be the Year of the Human "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs 19 January 2018 True accessibility, Cross-Functional Team, design ops, Product Design, User Experience, Ux, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 1022 Product Management 4.088
· 5 minute read

Design Trends – 2018 Will be the Year of the Human

Every year, the UX design team at Red Badger discusses upcoming trends, and this year we’re taking the opportunity to share our views with Mind The Product readers.

1. Inclusive and Ethical Design Goes Mainstream

Accessibility for all

Accessibility has long been a consideration for our industry, but 2018 will see a new wave of users who demand truly inclusive and ethical services. Many of these initiatives stem from the requirements of vulnerable groups, people with physical or mental disabilities, but everyone can benefit from these developments.

While people with dyslexia and autism have a sensitivity to information overload, we all have a limited capacity for attention. People have started to realise that some UX patterns have been deliberately designed to hold our attention and are becoming increasingly concerned about screen addiction.

Jun Taoka, Red Badger designer (and student of cognitive psychology) explains: “Our attention has a limited capacity. Designers are becoming increasingly aware of information overload, and the neural fatigue it produces. It is necessary for businesses to create products that help people achieve their aims in a sustainable fashion and minimise distraction.”

In 2018, we think businesses will make an extra effort to ensure that their services are designed in inclusive and ethical ways; embracing this will guarantee their licence to operate, and have a positive impact on the bottom line. 2018 has started off with Facebook refreshing the News Feed in favour of “meaningful social interactions” and Apple’s investors demanding stronger initiatives to prevent screen addiction in young users.


  • Make inclusivity and ethical service design a central consideration for any new project.
  • Ask yourself if your product is helping the user achieve their aims, or is unnecessarily demanding their attention. Be mindful that your user has only a limited supply of attention and to take it only when it’s in their interest.
  • Be explicit about how each touch point for your business/service is accessible and inclusive.


2. Design Puts on More Hats


Industrial designers get trained to work with their building materials like steel, wood and glass. In 2018, we see new digital “materials” emerge, such as artificial intelligence and voice-activated systems. Designers must explore how best to design with these new mediums.

The rise in popularity of voice-activated technology, for example, has meant designers need to consider designing without a visual interface. Media measurement and analytics company Comscore predicts that 50% of all searches in 2020 will be voice searches, and 30% of searches will be done without a screen. The challenge for users and designers alike is that we can’t rely on visual affordances to communicate potential actions to our users.

In the design process we need to look beyond the current tools like Sketch, Invision and so on. We will be borrowing ideas from screenwriting, improv theatre and coaching.

In the Red Badger Design School we have been teaching prototyping skills in the form of an improv session with one participant acting as the device, the other as the user. This is useful to better empathise with the user and test systems before they get built.

We see two trends emerging in design roles. Firstly, we see designers acting as facilitators, unlocking collaboration between different teams in the business, being the departmental super-glue. Their key focus is on human needs, how these can be best fulfilled through the services we build and what is required to do so. Secondly, with these broadening roles we see the emergence of specialisms alongside the new design materials, including voice designer or artificial intelligence/cognitive designer.


  • To create positive outcomes for people, apply a human-centric perspective in the design process. Focus on human needs and the context of use.
  • Tap into new resources to rapidly test ideas and unlock collaboration. Learn from new disciplines such as screenwriting, improv theatre, coaching.
  • Play with new tech. When you know what is possible now and in the next few months, you can apply it in the design.


3. DesignOps to Rescue big Enterprises

If your organisation is to focus on customer outcomes, breaking down silos of technology and design is essential. We believe that a decentralised design team helps to create the infrastructure for cross-functional teams to deploy design faster and more efficiently.

Last year, Red Badger helped one client to establish three cross-functional product teams. However, growing beyond this point, to today 10+ teams in three locations, the client started to experience more friction in the way it shared information, agreed on design patterns, and communicated with supporting functions like legal and compliance and copy.

To resolve this, we helped the client to establish a central resource. A small group will take responsibility for the way design elements are used and understand the extent to which design systems or pattern libraries are required. Design operations have the goal of increasing operational efficiency, improving speed and quality and reducing the distance between product, design and engineering.

Well-executed design operations in your business can significantly add value for your customers and stakeholders. AirBNB described design ops last year as ‘amplifying and empowering cross-functional teams.’  It was also a topic of heated discussions at the 2017 Leading Design conference. We believe DesignOps will continue to grow in relevance as more and more organisations allocate design in cross-functional product teams.


  • Support an internal design community and culture.
  • Build the design team that is networked rather than hierarchical, distributed through the organisation in cross-functional teams, and give it autonomy.
  • Establish design systems to create efficiencies in the design work. Avoid repeating work that’s already been done elsewhere, and making mistakes that others have already learned from. Instead build on the learnings of other teams and design with consistency.
  • Track and remove any other organisational or technological inefficiencies in the daily workflow of your team. Quantify the current damages and possible wins.

In Summary

To create tangible value for customers, designers need to understand the user’s struggles and context better than ever, and know to employ the right medium to tackle each need.

Building great services in 2018 will require all disciplines pulling together in a cross-functional way, starting small and nimble and iterating your way forward along learnings from the real world.

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