As the principal designer at the software company Adobe, a former digital design director for The New York Times and the writer behind the popular design blog Subtraction, Khoi Vinh knows more than just about anybody on the art and business of design. For this week’s podcast, Vinh – who Fast Company named one of “the 50 most influential designers in America” – talks to ProPublica’s design director, David Sleight, about the role of design in the newsroom, how the industry has evolved over the past decade, and where it’s going next.
Edwin Torres for ProPublica
Highlights from their conversation:
On the increasing importance of design among consumers: Vinh: I think what we see today is businesses that are really predicated on whether or not the design is successful. … If you look at Instagram, for instance, it's an amazing product, and there's tons of great engineering that went into it, but there wasn't really any new tech that was brought to bear at that point. What was new was a really wonderful, incredibly canny sense of product design. (3:28)
On the intersection of the design and business of news: Vinh: The big opportunities around news are still most fundamentally around the business case: how to make news profitable, and how to do that at scale. That's still a very difficult question. The industry is still quite turbulent, and so any kind of design innovation that's truly going to add value needs to be sensitive to the business question. (5:32)
On the influence smartphones have on the future of design: Vinh: When people interact with organizations now through apps, they have developed this high expectation for very rich, very robust interfaces with a lot of motion, and interfaces that respect the state that a user might be in and the time that the user might have spent in the app already. … [Now in design] we’re talking about the ability for a designer to express their intent for how an interface should behave, how it should move, how it should change over time, how it should react to a user's input. (6:32)