Must-read! By designers and for designers Design Threads is a collaborative report that unravels the state of the creative industry today
“What is good design? Who gets to decide? How are designers feeling? Are they tasked with too much? Are they doing enough? Where do we go from here?” Questions to kickstart a long-overdue conversation about the state of design today aplenty, Design Threads is a collaborative report available to all thanks to the collaboration between Wix Playground, PORTO ROCHA, and float.
“In an attempt to gut check the social, economic, and political realities we design within, our report unraveled more questions” reads the intro of the report made by designers, for designers. “Our goal was to go beyond surface-level discussions to talk about the social, economic, and emotional realities of what it means to be a designer today” explains the team.
“The state of design is impossible to define, and this report doesn’t come close. Instead, this project brings together a series of threads—interwoven questions, themes, provocations, and shared feelings—that emerged from conversations and research with and for the design community. Some are expected, others unpredictable, all evocative of what it means to be a designer today” they add.
Design Threads is not about answering the questions mentioned above but rather “an invitation to start unraveling them together — pull out a thread, see where it takes you, and leave one of your own.”
The project is a collaborative, non-commercial initiative from PORTO ROCHA and Float commissioned by Wix Playground aka the leading global SaaS platform Wix’s web design initiative.
Aiming to start a dialogue about the state of the creative industry in times of social and economic upheaval, WP commissioned Brooklyn-based design agency PR, who worked in collaboration with research analysis hub float, to release Design Threads.
The report explores the state of design through conversations with 30 design leaders and 250 responses from the design community. Both the digital report and its accompanying physical exhibition that was launched in New York City this past September, address some of the most urgent questions and shared feelings among designers today.
Weaving together interview and survey responses, cultural research, visual content (image submissions, memes, video), and live interactive elements, Design Threads is available to the public as a web-based digital report. The report is organized into four different threads, each dedicated to a theme that came up frequently across the collaborative research process.
With the goal of considering urgent questions and prompting further dialogue, the report starts to unpack some of the realities of being a designer today: from unlearning the canon to the “moodboard effect,” infographic activism to coping with info-overload, AI-insecurity to the future of democratization.
As noted the research process included live interviews with 30 designers (primarily working in graphic design, 3D, art direction, web design, branding, and advertising, among others), and 250 responses from the design community gathered through an open and anonymous online survey. Interviews were conducted with both emerging and established designers working today, among them: Bráulio Amado, Veronica Fuerte, Shamma Buhazza, Ohni Lisle, Leandro Assis, Brian Collins, Iyo Bisseck, Khyati Trehan, Elizabeth Goodspeed and Michael Bierut.
“As a design-first tech company, the Wix Playground is proud to commission research that sheds light on the topics designers today are facing,” said Hagit Kaufman, VP of Design at Wix. “It is essential for us to stay up to date on the social and cultural changes affecting the industry, particularly from the perspective of designers. We chose to work with PORTO ROCHA because their vanguard approach to design has an influence on current shifting trends. In this report, we see that creatives today are facing a historical crossroad, and their actions will shape the future of the industry. Through our activities at the Wix Playground, we will continue to strengthen our relationship with the design community and promote unique initiatives that support the personal and professional development of the next generation of designers.”
“There are a few reasons why Design Threads was made,” says Felipe Rocha, co-founder and Creative Director of PORTO ROCHA. “First, design reports are rare, and when they do come out, they are often surface-level: visual trends, Pantone color of the year, and so on. We wanted our report to go deeper than that — an open-source resource, by designers for designers. From new technologies to ways of working, so much has changed that it felt like a good time for pause and reflection. We were curious to hear what other designers had to say, what was on their minds and how they actually felt about the state of the industry. We interviewed several experts and gathered hundreds of responses from designers around the world. Critical and urgent questions came up, and it became clear to us that these conversations need to happen more often.”
“I think the most challenging aspect of this report is also what makes it compelling: that it sits with its own contradictions,” says Claren Walker, Associate Strategist at PORTO ROCHA. “A lot of trend reporting results in definitive predictions or clean diagnostics, but our approach in this project was more about staying with the messiness of our moment. It's obvious that the questions designers are grappling with right now don't have simple answers. So rather than focusing on resolutions, Design Threads starts to surface how a lot of different designers are thinking and feeling about their field — in relation to each other and this knot of issues that we're all faced with. Less diagnosis, more group temperature check.”
“Design Threads is about reshaping the role of designers and, as an interviewee puts it, what they have to offer in a world on fire,” says André Alves, co-founder of float. “At float, we're deeply invested in uncovering behavioral and cultural shifts. We do this through questions that are simple and are often rarely asked. When we decided to investigate the design community with PORTO ROCHA and Wix Playground, we felt it was essential to understand what seems urgent to ask of Design today. And we found out that if the relationship with work feels broken to many of us, designers feel at the epicenter of uncertainty. Many feel overwhelmed and burned out, while others even question themselves about the meaning of being a designer in the turbulent 2020s. But above all, several designers are asking where their work field is going—and what are the new paths forward.”
Typeset in ABC Simon Mono Regular and ABC Marist Book by Dinamo with creative direction by Leo Porto and Felipe Rocha, explore the many insights and questions that push the creative industry’s realm forward with Design Threads here.