The ascendance of design – a key trend for 2016

Read an extract from the Econsultancy co-founder Ashley Friedlein’s 10 digital marketing & ecommerce trends blog post.


One of my three digital marketing mega trends for 2015 was the return of creativity and design. Then I focused on creativity.

This year I want to highlight design. More specifically, digital product/service design.

It is always helpful with trends to look at the jobs market and see which roles and expertise are most in demand.

Great developers are still gold dust but in the last six months or so the question I keep hearing is ‘does anyone know a great (digital) designer’?

That special person who not only gets the big idea, the brand, the look and feel, but can also do information architecture, gets UX and UI, appreciates the customer journey, obviously knows responsive inside out, is current with this morning’s latest trends in iOS vs Android transition effects, and is working on conversational interfaces in his/her spare time.

And, like good childcare or a great plumber, if you do know this person you sure as hell are not giving their details to anyone else.

Speaking to a few agency creative directors recently they admitted they were starting to feel out of touch with aspects of their craft.

In particular, prototyping and app design/concepts. Talk to startups and product managers/designers and you will hear about Sketch, Invision, Marvel and the like.


The corporate world is catching up. Indeed Adobe’s imminent launch of Comet must be its response to this need.

Expect a lot of activity in this area, both tech, talent and techniques, over 2016.

Also indicative of underlying trends is what is happening in mergers and acquisitions. Here are some headlines that tell a story around the ascendance of design:

• Accenture bulks up design capabilities with Fjord Expansion.
• Consulting giant McKinsey buys itself a top design firm.
• Agency acquisition frenzy: Now Deloitte snaps up UX agency.
• EY UK looks beyond audit with digital design purchase.
• PwC completes asset acquisition of digital creative consultancy BGT.
• Cognizant acquires Cadient Group.
• Wipro to acquire Danish firm Designit.
• BCG Digital Ventures acquires S&C, an award-winning strategic-design firm.
• You get the idea…

All the major consultancies, both management and strategy, as well as the systems integrators are investing considerably in design services.

Indian outsourcing companies recognise they need to beef up their design credentialsand I expect we will see Chinese businesses buying their way into this space too.

Let us not forget that IBM Interactive Experience last year announced a $100m investment to expand its interactive design business, acquiring talent and opening interactive experience labs and studios around the world.

Indeed even in 2014 IBM Interactive Experience was named the largest global digital agency by AdAge and in 2015 IBM IX came second only to Sapient in Econsultancy’s Top 100 Digital Agencies.

Perhaps the most interesting acquisition in this area was at the end of 2014 because it was a major financial services brand buying a leading product design consultancy:Capital One acquired Adaptive Path.

In 2016 it would not be surprising to see more brands make design acquisitions or acqui-hires.

At the very least expect to see design and product people become part of senior leadership teams e.g. Mike Bracken’s hiring of his former Government Digital Services’ colleagues to The Co-Op Digital Service includes a Digital Services Director and Group Design Director to help lead the Co-Op’s digital transformation.

Finally, whilst the big tech companies may have been focusing on data and digital marketing platforms and services to date, expect to see much more focus on design this year e.g. with Adobe’s launch of Comet and Google (behind Material Design of course) set to further empower designers with Google Web Designer.

This blog post was originally published on Econsultancy.

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