Designing Services for a technological World

In the beginning, the Internet was simply a way of connecting computers. And computers were big and bulky machines. Then came the PC, and it was some time before the Internet finally arrived on these smaller machines. After the PC the mobile phone appeared, and once again it was awhile before the Internet became available through smartphones.

Today, virtually everything else can be connected to the Internet, and we call this ‘The Internet of Things’. This means there is a huge wave of hardware rolling upon us, and finally the long-divided worlds of analog and digital, offline and online will reunite. In a way, everything will be digital. This state of affairs is becoming known as ‘post-digital’. And of course, everything will be online as well.

This post-digital world will be fundamentally different from the era of mass production, mass communication and mass consumption. Not least, it will pose huge challenges for designers, whether they build products or services. (And even this classical distinction is becoming obsolete.) In his talk at NEXT Service Design, Reto Wettach gave a glimpse on what is at stake here.

Imagine driving a car, using only drop-down menus or touchscreens. We have a lot of knowledge in our bodies that is sometimes lost in the way we currently interact with computers.

Many new interfaces are waiting to be designed, and these design tasks are no longer divided between screen, software, and hardware (or product). The whole world is becoming programmable, configurable and even printable – witness the explosion of 3D printing that’s happening before our very eyes. To quote Reto again:

We definitely live in a technological world, and that also affects the way we design services for this world. To design a good service, you need to understand the technology very well.

Reto is the founder and design director of IxDS, and is responsible for their overall design strategy. He is also a Professor at the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam, where he teaches ‘Physical Interaction Design’ and researches innovative, bodily-focused approaches to human-computer interaction. The body as an interface is a topic also addressed by Kate Hartman in her talk at NEXT12.