Unexpected Twists and Turns at SF Design Week and Beyond

SF Design Week – "Plot Twist"

It’s entirely fitting that this year’s San Francisco Design Week — a time honored tribute to the city’s design community — adopted the “Plot Twist” as its organizing theme. Amidst the tumult we’ve encountered in the worlds of design and technology, it feels like we’ve lived through several era-defining plot twists. And the year isn’t even half over…

Plot Twist – Act 1: Prompt And You Shall Receive
SF Design Week Poster celebrating Plot Twists

In our studio, we’ve carefully monitored the integration of AI within the realm of design over several years. Back in 2020, we boldly ventured to speculate, through articles and talks, how designers might harness the power of AI, equating its potential role to that of a highly skilled intern. These conjectures have largely manifested into reality – at a rate that has outpaced our wildest expectations.

Enter ChatGPT.

So, how have we harnessed this formidable tool? One unanticipated advantage has been the rapid expertise acquisition in domains that previously demanded extensive education and countless hours. Whether swiftly grasping the intricate details of ISO certifications for a specific medical device category, or delving into the potential enhancements of a certain manufacturing process, ChatGPT enables us, the designers, to fast-track the acquisition of otherwise esoteric knowledge, and get us to solutions faster. Let’s be clear: it’s not doing the work for us, but it certainly streamlines the often tedious process of research.

In addition to the clear and present value created by ChatGPT, there has been an explosion in companies developing new AI based products and services. Eventhough the applications may differ, the main user experience across all of these AI products holds a similar theme: Throw it over the wall and see what comes out the other side of the black box. While a lot of the consumer facing innovations over the last two decades have made it easier for us to interact with technology, AI has nothing really new to add to how we interact with the technology but more about what happens before and after the interaction. Ultimately, this emphasis on the outcome rather than the interaction itself defines the true transformative power of AI.

Plot Twist – Act 2: Bringing It Back To 3D
Apple Vision Pro – June 2023

Apple’s Vision Pro announcement earlier this month painted an avant-garde vision of the future and it was a wake up call that there’s a lot of innovation that can still happen around how people interact with technology as opposed to the intelligence of the technology itself. When the Vision pro launched, there was something familiar and understandable about the approach – whereas AI has a tendency to be all about the black box, requiring us to be patiently complicit, The promise of spatial computing is to leverage our knowledge of the physical world in order to produce more fluid and productive interactions. 

As a studio, we’ve done a lot of work designing technology products for the head: from early heads-up display sunglasses for runners and cyclists to glasses frames that communicate with implanted technology inside the eyeball. So we definitely appreciate the amazing industrial design of the Vision Pro. But what’s even more impressive is how Apple has framed the ecosystem for spatial computing. The product has been intentionally launched at WWDC in order to entice the developer community to start thinking about what they would build with this new technology well in advance of the product launching. Additionally, the VisionOS framework that leverages Windows, Volumes and Spaces has the capability to be an aha moment for Spatial computing, the same way that the home button on the first iPhone simplified how people were able to navigate between apps in order to gain mass adoption of smartphones.

Plot Twist – Act 3: Where To From Here?
Humane’s Ted Talk Demo – 2023

So how will this thriller end you may be asking? Are these technologies going to battle for dominance or find a way to coexist within our daily lives? No one knows but my intuition says the latter. If AI assumes the roles of a trusted partner, copilot, and cocreator, while new AR platforms are laying the foundation for computing to be ever present, then it’s natural for these two worlds to come together where AI tools support us in our daily lives. Recent indications of this trend can be observed in a Ted talk delivered by one of the cofounders of Humane, a promising startup based in Silicon Valley. During their brief demonstration, the cofounder showcased an AI voice assistant working in conjunction with a wearable projector, answering queries while also augmenting the physical world by projecting data onto the user’s hands. Other examples of moving AI support into our everyday lives is ChatGPT integration into Siri or a ChatGPT-powered app for real-time knowledge that lets you talk to it all day long through your headphones.

This is still the early days of AI. It will be interesting to see how the story unfolds as companies work to develop new technologies and user experiences that really integrate AI into our everyday lives in the most seamless way possible.

Card 79's "Plot Twist" Projects Win Three SF Design Week Awards

At Card 79, we love partnering with clients who seek and seed plot-twists within their unique categories or verticals, pushing towards the unexpected, the challenging, and the new. So it’s fitting (and very very gratifying!) that three of our recent projects received SFDW awards this year.

We are thrilled to have been awarded with three San Francisco Design Week Awards for our work on Lotza.io (User Experience – Winner), Rapid Robotic’s Rapid Machine Operator (Industrial Design – Winner), and Relish Life’s Packaging (Communication Design – Honorable Mention).

Lotza.io (User Experience – Winner)

Lotza.io takes the traditional product review format and flips it on its head using new ways to create and consume reviews with unique features like sentiment based rating systems. These advancements cater to the evolving landscape of online products, including subscription services and direct-to-consumer offerings, which are gaining popularity in contemporary times.

Rapid Machine Operator (Industrial Design – Winner)

The Rapid Machine Operator disrupts the traditional robotics business model by offering simple and flexible robotics systems, enabling small U.S. manufacturers to affordably utilize industrial robots, regardless of their size as a company.

Relish Life Packaging (Communication Design – Honorable Mention)

Our design for Relish Life’s monthly packaging system takes a new spin on packaging by showing that sustainable packaging can coexist with an emotive and bold brand.

These award honors our efforts to tackle problems – no matter how complex they are –  and turn them into designed products and experiences that people can benefit from.

Our heartfelt thanks to the SFDW committee for this recognition and for uniting the design industry every year to celebrate our city’s vibrant design community. Until next year, let’s see how this story unfolds.