Top 10 digital trends 2016 to watch for design thinking

11 January 2016 7 min. read
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Fjord, the design unit of Accenture Interactive, has unveiled its take on the top 10 digital trends to watch in 2016 for design thinking.

The rise of Digital has in recent years transformed business and society, sparking a wave of technological advancements, innovation, changing consumer expectations and operating models. From disruptive business models such as Uber or Airbnb, to overhauls of market structures and value chains, it has become undisputed that digital technologies are ‘here to stay’. The potential is according to several researches massive, with for instance an Accenture study showing that digital is likely to add a combined $1.36 trillion to the GDP of the world’s top 10 economies by 2020 alone, while another study by McKinsey & Company on the value of Internet of Things (IoT) – a domain in many cases related to / dependent on digital developments – estimates that the total economic benefit of IoT could hit a staggering $11.1 trillion in 2025.

Fjord Trends

Underpinning the digital wave is the continued drive toward constantly changing services, also known as ‘living services’, dynamically responding to user requirements and context in real time. The impact of digital is however not confined to technology alone: it is triggering changes across the full spectrum of business and management, from organisational structure to processes and leadership, as well as wider social and cultural changes in society.

Design thinking
One of the areas impacted by digital is design thinking, which along with digital has been earmarked as one of the key trends gaining momentum in the corporate space. As a result of all the digital disruption the urgency for innovation has reached record heights. Organisations are therefore putting more emphasis on the experience of the end user – elevating the importance of the functional area known as design. Giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM, PepsiCo and General Electric have been fast movers in the landscape, yet 2016 is forecasted to be the year when design breaks through its tipping point towards large-scale adoption. 

Since 2008, design firm Fjord, which was acquired by Accenture in May 2013 and now is part of Accenture Interactive, conducts research into the most significant emergent digital trends expected to transform design thinking. Its latest study (titled ‘Trends 2016’) looks at the expectations for the current year, drawing upon the collective thinking of Fjord’s 750+ designers and developers around the world, based on first-hand observations, third-party research and client work. According to the authors, ten digital trends expected to shape the next generation of experiences can be distinguished:

Wach IT Listens - Services with manners - B2WE

1) Watch. It Listens. Today, many of us use devices that encourage us to run farther or eat better. Whether wearables or nearables, the latest crop of devices now listen and respond. Whether it’s literally listening to voice commands or to the streams of data we create, they are learning from users and responding in real-time through intent-driven, increasingly effortless, “micromoments.”

2) Service with Manners. With the surge of big data comes extraordinary responsibility. The most successful organizations appreciate that digital trust must be earned. “Privacy by design” is being embraced at companies like Microsoft that are embedding privacy standards into technology and product design from the start.

3) B2We. Liquid expectations are spilling over into our work lives, as workers expect the same best-in-class consumer experiences to converge with the workplace. A new emphasis on employee experience (EX) design is reimagining workplace processes, structure and culture.


4) Disappearing apps. The glut of single-use apps in our daily lives will disappear into platforms as they become “atomized,” or super distributed, across platforms and third-party services. The next wave may not even require human interaction to activate.

5) The Flattening of Privilege. Digital experiences have democratized luxury and elevated our standard of living -- bringing luxury services like personal chauffeurs (like Lyft) and virtual assistants (like Facebook M) to the masses.

6) Approachable Government Design. Governments are rethinking the citizen experience from a one-size-fits-all approach to finely-tuned services tailored to individual needs. Both the US and UK’s digital government departments have even published meticulous design style guides.

7) Healthy is the New Wealthy. Self-monitoring is no longer the domain of a small, tech-savvy customer segment. Newly empowered consumers are embracing health tech to measure their wellness. Even insurers like Kaiser Permanente and Aetna are opening up their platforms to third parties to enable the building of Quantified Self services on top of their data connecting third-party wearables, apps and services.


8) Virtual Reality’s (VR) Dreams Come True. No longer a futuristic fantasy, VR will make its mainstream debut in 2016 with the first consumer versions of Sony, Oculus, and Samsung products expected to hit the market. Expect designers to think beyond gaming and put VR to novel use in everything from scientific studies and virtual tourism, to immersive learning.

9) Taking Things off the Thinking List. With rapid speed of innovation comes a never-ending cycle of decisions and choices. Services that can anticipate needs by suggesting options or automating low-maintenance decisions, such as Google Now, can be a welcome part of consumers’ lives.

10) Design from Within. Corporations are embracing design thinking to catalyze change for their customers and employees. By taking a human-centered approach, these companies are using design as an agent for problem solving across the entire organization; but it’s an emphasis on design doing that will bring the promise to life.

“As the digitisation of everything alters what we think of as a service and the physical world becomes more connected, organisations will need to understand these new battlegrounds to adapt and convert change into opportunities,” says Brian Whipple, Senior Managing Director at Accenture Interactive. “We believe these ten trends will inspire but, above all, provide actionable insights into designing for the rapidly evolving world of experience.”