Tomorrow’s services are designed, developed and run on the cloud. What once was science fiction is now readily available for anyone. But technology itself is of little value unless it solves a relevant problem. For designers, this is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Better Services Live on the Cloud

Hyperscale public cloud platforms solve problems related to managing servers, developing software, and scaling services. They provide organisations with benefits such as lower costs and faster time to market.

But the benefits of modern cloud technology are not only about making existing stuff cheaper and faster. They’re about making better stuff.

Going into the cloud is not just about refactoring — it’s about reimagining.

I’m talking about new service concepts, intuitive human interaction, and simpler ways for you to serve your customers.

But technology alone won’t do any of those things. Not without some help.

And that’s where design comes in.

Cloud-Powered Designer Emerges

Design is about conceptualising and creating new things; designers imagine and designers make. Design differs from art in that it solves problems by delivering what people need.

Consider an industrial designer set to design a chair. The designer would have to understand who will use the chair, for what purpose, and where.

For example, watching TV with the family requires a different kind of ‘sitting solution’ than, say, manning an information desk at a shopping mall.

To design a chair that can be physically built, the industrial designer must also understand the properties of materials, such as wood, metal, plastic, and fabrics.

The same principles apply to digital design in the cloud.

For a new breed of cloud-powered designer, the beginning of the design process is the same. They too must understand who is going to use the digital service, for what purpose, and in what context.

But when it comes to the materials, the two designers deviate. Where the industrial designer uses tangible substances, the cloud-powered designer’s materials are in the cloud.

It’s not Science Fiction Anymore

All hyper-scale cloud platforms feature pre-made components, e.g. image recognition, language processing, intelligent search, decision making, machine learning…

There’s a new one almost every week. For the cloud-powered designer, those are the building blocks of services that help users reach their goals easier and faster.

For example, Uber is using Microsoft Azure’s Cognitive Services to offer real-time ID checks. Drivers verify their identity using selfies before they are able to accept rides.

Uniqlo uses Google Cloud Platform’s Dialogflow to offer a new type of shopping experience through a messaging interface, and responses are constantly improved through machine learning.

Tinder uses Amazon Webservices SageMaker to simplify machine learning and build models for predictions that create new connections that otherwise might have never been possible.

These are but a few examples of cloud-enabled building blocks that today’s digital designers have at their disposal.

Yesterday’s science fiction is today’s pre-made component.

And with those building blocks, we can create some jaw-dropping stuff.

Reimagining the Future, Together

The future of digital services is in the cloud, and those services are being imagined now. Going into the cloud is not just about refactoring — it’s about reimagining. As Abraham Lincoln said, the best way to predict the future is to create it.

For organisations, this means learning and working together.

If you’re a technologist, you must understand that design is the only thing that will differentiate you from the rest. Design makes for better business. Design is not only what it looks like; it’s about how it works.

If you’re a digital designer, you must become comfortable with technology. Become comfortable with the cloud; learn all about the building blocks of great digital services. It will be a challenge, but to design better things, you must know how to make them.

If you’re anyone involved in creating digital services, say hello to new team members outside the obvious realms of business, design or technology. Say hello to data scientists, futurists, anthropologists, social scientists, ethicists, philosophers… or people beyond the comfortable set of disciplines.

The future will be imagined and built by diverse groups of skilled people working together as teams toward common goals. For this to work well, everyone must be curious beyond one discipline.

By nature, designers have a massive opportunity to be the glue that binds everyone together.

Let’s use the best technologies to solve relevant problems. And let’s work together to create a more humane digital future.