“How are designers feeling right now?”: Michael Bierut, Bráulio Amado and more unpack with Porto Rocha report

Felipe Rocha shares four findings from a new interactive design report, which covers everything from the politics of good taste to AI insecurity.

Date
30 November 2022

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Announcing its latest report with Float, Porto Rocha points out that design trends forecasts are multiplying year on year, though most focus on the visuals. Instead, Design Threads unpacks “the state of design today”, addressing “the most urgent conversations from designers” through an interactive online report. It features insights from 30 designers, including Bráulio Amado, Veronica Fuerte, Shamma Buhazza, Brian Collins, Khyati Trehan, and Michael Bierut; 70 images and memes; and 250 responses from the global design community. With Design Threads covering a dizzying number of areas, from infographic activism to the emojis that best represent design today, we caught up with co-founder Felipe Rocha, who has picked out four crucial findings for us.

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Porto Rocha / Float: Design Threads (Copyright © Porto Rocha / Float, 2022)

“Taste reflects power”

Design Threads demonstrates that the subject of good taste, and therefore good design, is still dominated by European frameworks. Though, in an Design Threads survey, the report also shows that in the world of time honoured tastes versus innovation, 82 per cent of respondents (1266 people) picked trend over tradition.

Felipe says: “It is impossible to define ‘good’ and ‘bad’ design without acknowledging that it was taught by predominantly white, Western systems and legitimised by the elite few. That designers are challenging the validity of a universal taste gives us hope for plurality within design [...].”

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Porto Rocha / Float: Design Threads (Copyright © Porto Rocha / Float, 2022)

“Originality feels like a losing battle”

The report also unpacks the negative effect of visual borrowing on design. Citing Elizabeth Godspeed’s “moodboard effect”, it also suggests that some of this comes from the “hamster wheel” effect of endless work in the industry. In fact, 60 per cent of open survey respondents picked creative over financial fulfilment on projects, suggesting the complexity of the issue.

Felipe explains: “Lightspeed productivity and performance marketing have led to a “copy-paste” mentality where designers are expected to create more of the same. Designers feel pressured to give in to clients’ desires for data-proof trends, because their work’s success is based on likes, clicks and views [...] Apple (our #1 cited inspiration by clients) didn't get anywhere by following a formula; sometimes true creativity cannot be measured.”

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Porto Rocha / Float: Design Threads (Copyright © Porto Rocha / Float, 2022)

“With great design comes great responsibility”

Felipe picks out one response from the report’s open call to outline the idea of design responsibility: “The context of design is not really fulfilling because it's just a way of selling things. I have this internal battle over what design is a tool for… can it structurally solve problems?”

Design Threads looks into the importance – and possible negative effect – graphics can have on social movements (listing the negative impact of Blackout Tuesday on the Black Lives Matter movement as an example, alongside design’s crucial role in social movements like Act Up).

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Porto Rocha / Float: Design Threads (Copyright © Porto Rocha / Float, 2022)

“Technology is anything but neutral”

The report also touches on the uncertainty designers and the public are feeling about tech and creativity; the open survey shows 72 per cent of respondents are anti-NFT. Felipe directs readers to this anonymous quote from the report: “What worries me is the assumption that anyone can be a designer if given a tool to do so.”

The co-founder summarises findings in this area stating: “Designers want to lower the bar to entering the field but fear what happens when the bar gets too low. Emerging tools create opportunities to design without a degree, but some fear that they are devaluing the craft or could put them out of a job.” Though Felipe finds that, ultimately, there is a “cautious optimism surrounding the democratisation of design”.

Find the full report, complete with interactive design elements and further resources, here.

GalleryPorto Rocha / Float: Design Threads (Copyright © Porto Rocha / Float, 2022)

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Porto Rocha / Float: Design Threads (Copyright © Porto Rocha / Float, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating from the University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, Indie magazine and design studio Evermade.

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