The start of the new year is a time for big-picture thinking and deciding what our priorities are for the months ahead. The design and tech worlds are on the precipice of major ideological changes and we are facing fundamental questions about our place in the world, and the way we interact with each other. If 2019 was marked by upheaval and unexpected challenges, what does 2020 have in store and how do we prepare for the decade ahead of us?
We wanted some expert perspective on the landscape, so we reached out to a diverse set of creatives to hear what’s on their mind, what they’re excited about, and their take on the issues that feel most important right now. In many of the responses there is a clear focus on getting back to basics and “cutting through the noise,” as Emerline Ji of Creative Mornings put it. There is a palpable sense of urgency, and a push to do some soul-searching about our sense of accountability in a time of unpredictability and flux. Echoing this instinct for action is Rachel Newell of Rapt Studio who put her main priority as simply “show up and do the work.”
Read on to see how some plan to tackle the year’s big questions about purpose, sustainability, and how to balance creativity with compassion.
‘It won’t be enough for startups to just be the hot new kid on the block.’—Emily Heyward, Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer at Red Antler
“There’s a massive shift taking place, with large companies looking to ‘behave like a startup’ and trying to find ways to drive true product innovation and protect themselves from being unseated by all the new players in their categories. With legacy brands looking to stay ahead by ‘disrupting themselves,’ it’s only going to get more competitive and it won’t be enough for startups to just be the hot new kid on the block. Startups are going to have to take even more risks to stand out and reinvent what it means to bring a brand into the world today. Ultimately, the winners will be the companies who find new ways to deliver true value to their consumers, and it will be less about the origin story.
“Related to this, I resolve in 2020 to remove ‘direct-to-consumer’ from my vocabulary. It’s an oversimplification and only captures a piece of what makes new businesses succeed.”
‘Let’s use our creative vision to imagine what the world could be if we could solve some of our problems without creating new ones.’—Ari Kuschnir, founder and managing partner at m ss ng p eces
“We don’t have time for normal social evolution, so we have to do the interpersonal work to show up fully. We have to deal with collective challenges by bringing our creative gifts forward without projecting the worst aspects of ourselves into our creations. Storytelling has been a technology that enables us to imagine new and better versions of the world. Let’s not default to dystopian/utopian narratives or nostalgia, but use our creative vision to imagine what the world could be if we could solve some of our problems without creating new ones. That’s what 2020 is for me–a time to up-level your creative game and create stories that activate new collective possibilities.”
‘The need for grounding and guidance has never been more vital for creativity.’—Rachel Newell, Head of Strategy at Rapt Studio
“In a polarized, fast-paced, and unpredictable world, the need for grounding and guidance has never been more vital for creativity. A sustainable 2020 will require us to not only show up for work, but to ‘show up and do the work’ – on ourselves, and with our clients.
“In 2019 Rapt Studio defined a program for ‘psychological safety’ in our workplace, and we’ve extended this framework to client relationships. 2020 will see a focus on non-linear thinking, helping people to work smarter and embrace the ‘work in progress.’”
‘It’s time to return to the foundational practices of storytelling.’—Emerline Ji, Senior Manager of Brand Communications at CreativeMornings
“It was refreshing to see a handful of companies roll out beautiful and thoughtful editorial content initiatives and campaigns in 2019. We’re seeing more businesses harness the power of generous content to highlight the creativity and genius of their people.
“In 2020, I’m excited to see content producers realize it’s time to return to the foundational practices of storytelling in order to effectively cut through the noise. What do you stand for? What is your unique point of view? Is there a narrative arc? Do the pieces fit? At CreativeMornings, we’re always asking these questions to better serve and celebrate our community.
“This is a reminder to myself and others like me: You are a storyteller first. Never stop learning and experimenting. Protect your inventive spirit.”
‘Reimagining futures and establishing self-reliance.’—Sam Valenti, founder of Ghostly International
“I think 2020 and the decade ahead is going to be watershed for artists reimagining their futures and establishing self-reliance with smart partnerships and nurtured communities.”
‘A more equitable path forward.’—Yancey Strickler, cofounder & former CEO of Kickstarter, author of This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto of a More Generous World
“2020 will be the year that ‘values’ (humanities word) begin to push back against the dominance of ‘value’ (economics word). Over the last half-century we’ve assumed that the right answer to any decision is whichever option makes the most money. This has made people on top cash-rich and society at large values-poor. But this is the year the tide breaks against the dominance of money and we begin to see a fuller spectrum of value enter the consciousness for the first time: the climate, social cohesiveness, loyalty, purpose. New kinds of decisions based on new kinds of metrics will be a growing norm—and a more equitable path forward.”
‘Are there ways in which the democratization of design appreciation can lead to the (responsible) democratization of design itself?’—Monica Khemsurov, cofounder of Sight Unseen
“What’s going on in the world right now feels so overwhelmingly negative and out of control, and selfishness, greed, and inequality have a lot to do with it. Amidst all of these crises, materialism and luxury feel less relevant at best, and problematic at worst. I’m curious to see if that has any effect on the design industry this year. My hunch is that it won’t, since much of the industry caters to the wealthy, and they tend to live in a bubble. Since people are so anxious right now, they need the comfort of beauty and creativity more than ever. But at the same time I feel like we need to be actively involved in enabling change. I’m not sure yet what that means in practical terms.
“Second, I’m wondering if the generic ‘look’ that so many brands have adopted will continue in full force. So many brands and Instagrams look the same right now, and I’m very curious about how that particular pendulum will swing.
“In the next year and in the next decade I’m looking forward to seeing what happens as the trend towards people being more excited about the world of design in general continues to evolve. What if people start spending less on fleeting fashion items and more on sustainably produced objects and furniture they can live with until 2030 and beyond? Are there ways in which the democratization of design appreciation can lead to the (responsible) democratization of design itself? I hope so!”