I celebrated my recent birthday with a trip to Lisbon with my family. While we were there, we visited the Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology.
As a family, we are all interested in design – indeed, one of my sons is studying it and another has made it part of his (portfolio) career. We found a lot of things to think about in the galleries, but one installation particularly caught our eyes.
Presented as part of the museum’s Visual Natures exhibition, Earth Bits is a fascinating collaboration between climate scientists, designers, technologists and artists that seeks to communicate the scale of climate change.
In a huge room with massive video screens, images of the earth are overlaid with satellite imagery and data showing wind patterns, global temperature change and ice sheet melt over time. It’s a compelling and inarguable illustration of the correlation between rising emissions and the increased prevalence of disasters such as forest fires, droughts and floods.
I was convinced of the need to act on climate change anyway, but nothing I or my sons had seen previously had made the case so directly and persuasively – or so creatively.
I found it to be a striking example of how design can be used to communicate and educate on complex subjects, and, beyond that, to connect emotionally and instil a feeling. It made me think more about the vital role of design and creativity in our industry.
Brand strategist and author Bernadette Jiwa’s statement that "whoever gets closer to the customer wins" has become a central tenet for software developers – and visual design is a huge piece of the puzzle. A good example is in the consumer banking sector, where app-based challenger banks such as Monzo are taking market share with design-led approaches that align with the needs and aspirations of their customers.
On its launch, Monzo’s bright coral cards stood out dramatically against the business-like grey and navy of the incumbents, speaking to its disruptive intent. In its young and tech-savvy target market, a Monzo card became almost a status symbol.
Monzo’s streamlined app quickly made others feel dated. Compared with traditional banking apps, which are awash with features but much more functional in their design, Monzo’s app is vastly easier and more pleasurable to navigate, and generates a much stronger emotional connection. Simple features such as the ‘round-up’ savings function and the ability to create pots for different purposes meet previously challenging user needs in a frictionless way.
In recent conversations, I have noticed that advice businesses have become more concerned about new entrants to the market. A 2021 Dynamic Planner survey backed up this anecdotal experience, with larger businesses particularly likely to express this worry. This makes sense. From transport (Uber) to tourism (AirBnb), modern, design-led, app-based approaches are biting off pieces of the pie across industries. And robo-advisers have a similar goal.