The Learning Lab | Today + Beyond (Part I)

The Learning Lab | Today + Beyond (Part I)

On 9 April, Tom Jacobs and I were once again guests for Michelle Wempe‘s Contemporary Design Seminar at Kansas State University.1 This is our second year, with the same topic — “What Will the Design Professions Look Like in 2030 and Beyond?” Our hour-long speed-teaching assignment was to help the students begin to envision what could be, as well as what can be done, starting now.

We have all seen remarkable, accelerated change over the past 20 years — a full generation of learning and development. Back in 2000, we looked forward to 2020 as a major marker in our evolutionary path. Instead, it became an inflection point — a collision of dynamic issues that affected us with an immediacy that knocked us off our feet and took our breath away.

Now we have the time and space to look ahead once more. Here are the thoughtful questions that were raised by the wonderful cohort of students (pictured above) —

Media + Mental Health

“How can we traverse the social climate, driven by media?”

How much is too much, and how is it affecting our mental health? [NB: These are questions that would probably not have been raised ten years ago.]

“Gen Z…doesn’t know a world without terrorist attacks and school shootings and the constant presence of everyone else’s perfect lives via social media.”2

Tom pointed out that on 9/11/2001, most of the students were not yet born. The Columbine CO shooting occurred in 1999. Both of these (and more) have had such a major impact on our lives, our schools, our cities, our nation, and our world. Gen Z has experienced a “normal” everyday life that was unthinkable in the USA just over 20 years ago. And back then, how did we learn about these events? Via traditional channels — TV, radio, newspapers, and other printed media — so much unlike our experience today with a myriad of social platforms for 24/7 “news,” information, and opinions.

We talked about moderation — a healthy diet of media — as well as looking for sources of truth, not just information. Tom recommended the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma and also recommended listening to ourselves via mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation. We also commented on the recent focus on mental health and wellness that has evolved through the pandemic, with open discussion in our homes and workplaces, as well as resources that are more easily available (eg, apps, webinars3, etc.).



“How can we, as young designers entering the professional world, begin to question design solutions and challenge companies to develop more inclusive environments in our changing world?”

“What will the impact be of COVID-19, in terms of human cost? How can the profession exert more influence?”

“How can we address equity in decision-making?”

These are all good questions — issues that design professionals have begun to address, and we will all continue to address them more fully over the next several years.

  • Climate Action
  • Equity + Inclusion
  • Health and Wellbeing, including Mental Health
  • Social Responsibility

We observed that change has accelerated in the profession, with the race to enable remote/distributed working, as well as adoption of collaboration methods, technology, and tools. Significant evolutionary momentum has already begun, and now there is an enormous opportunity to go further, faster.

We can already see that is the Millennials and Gen Z that are taking the reins of driving change.

* * *

There’s much more. In our next #FutureFriday post, I’ll share the rest of our guest-teaching experience.
Here’s the link to Part II.

Thank you for reading!

* * *

1 The Learning Lab | Redux

2 Gen Z Won’t Let TikTok Stop Them From Talking About Suicide – Paige Skinner, The Daily Beast

3 In 2020, This Human Moment was created as free online “gatherings to help companies and their teams regain access to their highest capabilities as human beings.”
Every day, we are seeing news and information from The Global Wellness Institute, as well as webinars from design firms and articles in business publications (Harvard Business Review, Strategy+Business, etc.).

4 Read more about ESG and DEI in this article about Stok. – SMPS Marketer

Go to Top