Design Leadership in the Context of Emerging Technologies

Design Leadership in the Context of Emerging Technologies

Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch010
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Like never before technology is integrating into our existence. It has well and truly escaped from the confines of the desktop computer to permeate our environment both natural and artificial. As increasing numbers of humans interact with technology for many different purposes, on many different devices and in many different ways, design, in particular digital design, has become of paramount importance. Organizations are recognizing the importance of design and beginning to invest into design as a strategy to promote innovation and success in highly competitive global environments. Practitioners of technology are constantly searching for new technologies and new applications of technologies to make a more efficient and effective world. Not surprisingly then, attention is turning to design leadership not simply for organizational survival but also for fuelling ongoing technological innovation. The field of design leadership, particularly digital design leadership is, as one would expect, in its infancy, and although existing leadership in business literature provides some generic concepts for informing digital design leadership it is necessary to better understand leadership specifically as it applies to digital design. Borne of this need, the main aim of the present chapter is to make some contribution to the understanding of the capacities and capabilities of digital design leaders. To provide some background prior to discussing the capacities of effective digital design leaders, the idea of design is discussed, the role of the digital designer as used in the chapter is defined and some core ideas relating to leadership and design leadership are brought to the fore.
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While the topic of leadership in the business world has received a great deal of attention over the years and resulted in substantial literature, design leadership is not well explored and leadership in digital design even less so. This is troubling. Much of the world continues along the curve of exponential technology growth and emerging technology is becoming the catchphrase of the present time, and likely to be in decades to come. As organizations seek to stay afloat or even ahead of the game in tumultuous and competitive times, they are beginning to turn to design as one important strategy for their survival. Increasingly organizational literature is being concerned with design thinking, design leadership and design lead innovation. Furthermore, technology is now ubiquitous and so design, business and technology intersect such that more traditional design positions are effectively digital designer roles, albeit often under various titles such as graphic designer, interaction designer, user experience designer. Given that business is now deeply engaged in the technology space, whether by virtue of selling/providing goods and services online or marketing, a great portion of designers operating in organizations may be considered digital designers, and with the recognition of design as being of strategic value, digital designer leadership is valued and sought. Business and organizational interests aside, practitioners in technology are keen to explore the technology and how it may serve human needs; they are constantly searching for new means to make a more efficient and effective world. In their pursuit of innovation, design leadership is being increasingly recognized among technology practitioners as imperative.

It is thus purpose of the present chapter to not only make the case for the importance of digital design leadership in the context of emerging technologies but also to add to the understanding of what are the desired attributes or capacities of an effective digital design leader.

To provide some background, the meaning of the term design is first discussed before the role definition of a digital designer is developed by considering graphic design, visual communication, human computer interaction. The impact of technology on design roles is described before attention is directed to a brief discussion of literature surrounding design leadership. Finally, by considering both leadership literature, design leadership and design principles for emerging technologies, some capacities or attributes of digital design leaders are identified.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Emerging Technology: An new technology or an innovative use of an existing technology which makes some lasting impact or change on how a task is performed.

Digital Designer: The role title of digital designer is being used to refer to design roles which are broad and multidisciplinary, and encompass both the elements of visual communication design and of human computer interaction. Alongside these design skills, digital designers are also adept technical skills including coding for websites and mobile apps.

Graphic Design: The use of visual language of images (i.e. drawing) can be used to communicate to individuals, communities and societies. Traditionally graphic designers worked with pen and paper to produce images designed for effective communication of ideas, whether it was for educational, industrial, entertainment or business purposes. The role of graphic designer has expanded with the advent of digital technologies to include technical skills in areas such as web development and digital image manipulation, and the user experience of the interface and interaction with technology.

Transformational Leadership: A leadership style in which the leader establishes a vision and the followers align to the vision. Followers trust the leader, admire and respect them such that they wish to emulate.

Anticipatory Design: Zamenopoulos and Alexiou (2007) propose what they call an anticipatory view of design. From the anticipatory perspective the discipline of design must go beyond merely generating a design solution for an apparent problem to communicating a vision of the future. No longer is design simply about output and an end-point, it is also about envisioning the future and being a catalyst for change and innovation ( Celi & Rudkin, 2015 ).

Design: “Design is seen as the manipulation of visual or tangible aspects of physical matter or information at the point of output” ( Celi & Rudkin, 2015 , p. 61).

Human Computer Interaction (HCI): HCI is concerned with usability (i.e. the ease with which humans are able to interact with a system in order to achieve their objectives) and has subsequently spawned the field of user interface design (UID), user interaction design (UxD), human centred design, and most recently User experience design (UX).

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