Insights | Business

2021, year of promises. But what are they in studio geek-world?

01 January 2021

Predictions for a new year in a new age

Whilst 2020 is a year many of us would rather forget the majority of, it has brought with it some incredible things it would be remiss of us to forget.

But what for 2021?

Computer says no

For starters, it really feels like we’ve reached ‘peak computer.’ Depending on your ecosystem, the various form factors of computing have largely blurred into one. I never thought I’d see the day where I could send a text on my phone and pick up the reply on my laptop, then shut the lid on my laptop at the end of the day and still access all my files on my phone.

But the day came and went. Apple’s M1 announcement really marked the end of personal computing as we know it, as Intel is finally drop-kicked after years of dutifully powering our creative devices. So as it all blurs into one, I think the market is ripe for a new computing paradigm to emerge.

Will it be via audio-driven interfaces? Augmented reality via HUDs, glasses or contact lenses? Or something else entirely? But most importantly, what will it mean for creatives when they’re no longer designing for an opaque and rectangular viewport?

Of that I’m not sure, but the thing I’m certain of is that there has never been a more important time to focus on creating beautiful user experiences that are multi-sensory, purposeful and intelligent.

You think you’re pretty smart

Talking of intelligence, if there’s one thing the Dyson 360 Heurist Jon got for Christmas has taught me it’s that we’re not there yet on the artificial side of things. Great machine, highly recommend, but prepare to train and tweak the thing to within an inch of its life.

Thinking more generally about AI it is, of course, incredible what we’ve managed to achieve. It felt like 2019 was the year where we’d all switch to intelligent chatbots, opening the door to a new text-based conversational world of interacting with big computers managing things like our mobile phone and electricity accounts, freeing many a call centre worker whose job has increasingly become to act as an audio to computer interface.

But whilst there are some incredible examples out there, intelligence hasn’t yet happened. Honestly, I’m not sure it ever will whilst we’re using the types of processors and instruction sets that our world currently hinges on.

But quantum computers are quietly advancing, and the latest news around error correction shows that we’re edging closer. Expect systems to double in power next year, and start thinking about what the implications of such unbridled computing power might be. From the questions that are so big we can’t comprehend what they are right now, yet alone what the answers might be, to awareness and intelligence itself.

Work from anywhere

I really struggle with this one, because clearly we all have to work from somewhere, and there’s nothing particularly amazing for the human race about working from home, a hotel or the airport. If we ever see the inside of an airport again, that is.

The challenge with all of us being increasingly scattered is going to come in terms of people management (resource management) and client-facing expectations.

We have an incredible studio on Canterbury high street. The lion’s share of our time spent there is working, and that work could be done from anywhere. But a huge part of what makes us successful is the meetings and creative sessions we hold, between ourselves and with clients and stakeholders, sometimes planned and sometimes spontaneous. If we’re not ‘just there,’ then there’s a whole layer of additional management to ensure everyone’s in the right place, and ad-hoc travelling as people come and go throughout the day.

2021 has the answer, you ask?

Well, given that we’ve inadvertently created a huge problem for ourselves during 2020’s WFH culture-shift, it stands to reason that an answer more elegant than Zoom is on the horizon. Some businesses will need to make a choice between a physical front of house and a digital one. For others, perhaps it’ll be about offering both, or investing in physical spaces to the extent that digital technology is good enough to let people truly collaborate even though they’re in different physical locations.

I’ve already heard of ‘always on’ video calls that essentially run all through the work day and help people feel more connected to their colleagues. But that spontaneity is only part of the problem; if someone walks into our studio in Canterbury to see me and I’m not physically there, how’s that going to work?

Something’s going to give. I can feel it, and as ever it’ll be innovation that saves the day.

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Published by

Ben Fitter-Harding

Studio Director