Designing in Industry 4.0


The rise of “throw-away” culture, shifting consumer habits, and unrelenting audience expectations all mean that now, more than ever, we designers need to understand our audiences, engaging them with work that is more memorable, rewarding and insightful than ever before.

As designers, we need to understand where that leaves us, and how Industry 4.0 is affecting our audience.

Industry 4.0 is a term used to describe the period of vast technological expansion that we are currently experiencing. Having access to a never-ending stream of content has led many to believe that our attention spans are shortening, and has brought about an evolution of our current “throw-away” culture from existing physical habits into our online spaces. We are exposed to more information than ever with the vast majority of online content being designed to exist for only 24-hours.

Research suggests that on average we consume 2,500 ads a day and, though we aren’t necessarily aware of how many logos or brands we are faced with, the amount of advertising competing for our attention is colossal. And if you hadn’t already seen these logos today, we’re adding six more to your daily count.


All of this presents some dynamic opportunities for designers.

As a result, there is an increasing need to develop memorable work so that, in the brief time our audiences are exposed to it, they remember the designs, slogans, and brands they see. The platforms through which we are engaging have evolved to accommodate the momentary nature of this content, and so too must the way we design for them. For example, platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have taken the time to research how their consumers are engaging with content. The social media giants have quickly adjusted to deliver speedy ways to share information, establishing the best UX and UI to make scrolling through content as quick and intuitive as possible.

Instagram Stories have risen in the ranks as the platform of choice for advertisers, big and small. It is now easier than ever to launch a start-up company, with every individual or business now having equal opportunity to promote their brand through social media. The issue here however is that Instagram Stories can be clicked through, there is nothing forcing the viewer to watch the ad. So, what can we do to ensure that the relevant information is conveyed within that fraction of a second?

The key here is to know which information is and isn’t necessary. In a world where we are constantly being bombarded by information, your ad needs to feel like a breath of fresh air. Too much information can become stressful, too little and you might as well have not bothered – you need to discover the Goldilocks of information to ultimately ensure you’ve made a lasting impression on your viewer.

How have other big brands accommodated this shift in audience habits?

Some of the newest trends have seen bright, bold colours being introduced in an effort to capture people’s attention. Apple launched their new range of “iProducts” featuring an unexpected array of sharper, more vibrant colours in an attempt to diversify their output. Admittedly, this was partly in response to consumers critiquing them for their more monochromatic colour scheme in recent years, however, an exciting collection of bold promotional media was produced alongside the “iProducts” designed to stand out in the ever-growing noise of digital marketing. Apple know their audience and know the strength of their brand, so they knew that the only information needed for these bold designs was their logo. Nothing more, nothing less, juuust right (here’s looking at you, Goldilocks).

You’ve caught their eye and they’re listening (sort of). How do you get your audience to truly engage with your design / product / brand?

It may surprise you to know that the answer starts with you, the designer, not with your audience. At the forefront of your design, and at every stage of your process, you must be absolutely clear about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what message you’re communicating. In the new world of fake-news, cynical audiences and fact-checking, a modern audience will see right through your design if you don’t truly understand what it is you’re putting forward. The audience needs to feel involved in the process and as if they are a part of something special.

How do you get your audience to trust what the brand is offering?

Trust can be solidified in a number of ways, but grasping the “insight” of your message is where the design should originate. The “insight” is the tiny nugget of information you garner from your research, it will be at the core of everything and will underpin your design in all ways. It may take some time to locate this key insight but it’s worth investing your time in as it will fundamentally be the backbone of your design.

How does this insight lead to the strategy of how you communicate with your audience?

The path from your insight to the way you talk to your audience can be bold and obvious or subtle and quirky. Take, for example, this advert for Klarna, an online payment company.  The minds behind this campaign did not sit down in their first meeting and decide that a fish going down a slide would be the perfect way to advertise their service, because really, who would? Instead, they took the insight that they had gathered from their research to communicate the message that payments with Klarna are “smooth”. The outcome of their research and their deep understanding of the business offering is what led them to create an ad that seems totally random and nonsensical, but is in fact incredibly memorable because of how engaging and captivating it is.

This era presents a huge opportunity to expand your understanding as a designer, or even a consumer, not just of brand and design, but also of your audience and how best to capture their attention. This is a time to create lasting memories that make your client stand out amongst thousands of other competing companies. Understanding how your audience is engaging with your content is paramount to truly engaging with them on a human level.

This is a new era for brand and for design, and it’s an exciting one.