In 1984 I graduated from an advertising art program to become a graphic designer. As we were leaving a teacher told the class that computers were going to be the next big thing in design. My classmates and I all looked at each other puzzled. Our experience with the single computer we all had access to was anything but pleasant, and we only used it for phototypesetting. Of course this was back in the paste-up days.

Back then design was something you had to explain to anyone who was not in the profession.

As digital technology advanced, like other platform evolutions the original focus was on infrastructure, and then came other software, networks, services and devices. Initially the primary goal was to just get things working… so in the early days of personal computing design was an afterthought, a Band-Aid. The expectation of design was limited to making things look pretty in post. This expectation limited the possibilities. We all suffered bad experiences as a result (and still do).

The good news today is that digital technology is pervasive. It’s changed the way we live, socialize, work… experience has become a fundamental theme with design at the center. While we still suffer bad experiences, there is often a choice. Choice creates competition, and it’s good to see competition around experience. It makes us try harder and think more about what’s important.

Tomorrow just about anything will be possible and so design will be the starting place.

MoMA’s senior curator Paola Antonelli made an appearance on the Colbert Report and spoke a bit about design today and tomorrow.