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Above the implementation layer.

Christopher Murphy

The last week has been a rollercoaster: designtrack is no more. Meet: The School of Design. I purchased (for a modest princely sum) and it’s in the process of making its way to me, I hope.

The School of Design has fundamentally shifted into more of a ‘Human-Centred Design Thinking’ school. UX +/ UI is now only a small part of it (where at the start of this journey, at designtrack, it was all of it).

We’re focusing on teaching the thinking skills that will be required for designers to thrive in a world with increasing numbers of digital products.

I think the rise of #nocode will increasingly remove a lot of the need for lower end ‘implementation layer’ designers (i.e. people who ‘push pixels’).

Webflow will do for mid-level digital design projects what Squarespace did for low-end brochure sites.

It will remove the need for designers at the mid- and low-ends.

On top of that, outsourcing – to lower wage economies – will make it very difficult for freelancers and micro-studios to compete. The salaries in the US vs UK vs India are vastly different, because the cost of living is vastly different.

A lot of work by large multinationals, that I consult with on strategy, is outsourced to India. User Researchers, Strategists and Digital Product Designers establish the framework of what will be built, then it’s contracted out to India.

It’s hard to compete when you’re competing on price. Someone will always undercut you (and if they haven’t undercut you, you’re the one at the bottom of the stack who has undercut the rest.)

Commodityville is not a pretty place to make a living.

Finally, ML and AI are moving into the implementation layer and machines will soon hoover up most of the low-end, repeatable work. As we’re constantly reminded: The machines are coming and they will replace a lot of repeatwork.

In this kind of environment it’s critical to learn the thinking skills that sit above the implementation layer. That’s what we’re focused on teaching. I can’t thank our first and second cohort of learners enough, they have helped me to understand what’s required.

To thrive, you need to understand the relationship of product design, service design and experience design. All three are increasingly intertwined. You also need to have a grounding in branding, pricing, positioning… and an understanding of business.

Lastly, as if all of the above wasn’t enough, you need to know how to tell stories. Humans are storytellers and the brightest brands understand that.

All of the above – everything above the implementation layer – is what we’re teaching at The School of Design.

If you’d like to know more, our next cohort starts in September. Get in touch and I’ll happily cover what we teach and put you in touch with our students.

About the author…

A designer, writer and speaker based in Belfast, Christopher mentors purpose-driven businesses, helping them to launch and thrive. He’s currently building designtrack, an education-focused startup.

As a design strategist, Christopher has worked with companies, large and small, to help drive innovation, drawing on his 25+ years of experience working with clients including: Adobe, EA and the BBC.


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