As design becomes the fabric of our connected experiences, it becomes invisible

It’s becoming increasingly clear that today’s tech products live and die by design. Whether it’s an utterly simple utility app like Sunrise, a mobile game that can mesmerize like Monument Valley, or a thermostat that you fall in love with, design has emerged as a fundamental and highly valuable core of Silicon Valley and the tech industry like never before. At Gigaom we’ve been tracking the rise of experience design in the tech industry with our annual Roadmap conference, which we’re holding November 18 and 19 in San Francisco (tickets on sale now).

Sure, you’ve noticed the growing attention on designers in tech over the years. Apple may have shown the way but it’s no longer the only company scrambling to secure the hottest design talent. There’s a fierce battle going in the tech industry to recruit designers at all the big internet companies, from Google to Facebook to Pinterest. Ask the founder of a new startup building a product what they need most and often times it’s design help (well, in addition to funding).

John Maeda , President, Rhode Island School of Design, Roadmap 2013
John Maeda , President, Rhode Island School of Design, Roadmap 2013

If you thought the value of design in the tech industry had already peaked, think again. Just last week word broke that Valley pioneer Yves Béhar is selling a 75 percent stake in his design firm fuseproject to Chinese marketing group BlueFocus for a reported $46.7 million in cash. Béhar saw the future of how the tech industry would embrace design back in the 1990s, and over the years his firm has taken an entrepreneurial approach to designing products in partnership with startups and big companies alike.

One of the biggest pieces of news to come from the Valley this year was Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of connected device maker Nest. Nest, of course, is led by former Apple superstar designer Tony Fadell.

Moderated by: Om Malik — Founder, Gigaom Speaker: Tony Fadell — Founder and CEO, Nest Labs
Moderated by:Om Malik — Founder, Gigaom Speaker:Tony Fadell — Founder and CEO, Nest Labs

Venture firms are bringing in designers and launching design practices, too. Earlier this year the former president of RISD, John Maeda, joined Valley firm Kleiner Perkins. He’s helping Kleiner’s portfolio companies work on product design. “Design is about economic advancement in Silicon Valley,” he told the TED Conference in Vancouver this spring.

Why has design become so valuable in the tech world? Because now that everything is becoming connected — from devices in our homes to our sources of entertainment — and everything is rich with data, design has become the fabric of our connected experiences. It’s how we simply and emotionally experience these products that have so much complexity under the surface.

It’s what holds the product together and makes it work, yet it’s invisible. Most designers will tell you simplicity is at the core of the experience. You can see that trend growing even stronger with today’s leading tech experiences, from Apple’s new iOS 7 to Nest’s thermostat UI. As computing becomes even more immersed in our lives, embedded in our homes, and worn on our bodies, these user interfaces will become even more invisible, operating through gestures, voices, and even expressions.

The creative process can be hard to get right. The Valley ecosystem that long relied on the world’s leading engineers to build the pipes and the underlying technology infrastructure now have to look to the creatives to predict how people will want to use the products build on top of that infrastructure. A lot of lessons will be learned about how to get this process right.

Erik Spiekermann, Designer, Edenspiekermann; Jeff Veen, Vice President, Products, Adobe Roadmap 2013
Erik Spiekermann, Designer, Edenspiekermann; Jeff Veen, Vice President, Products, Adobe Roadmap 2013

We’re excited to announce today that we’ll be holding our fourth annual Roadmap at a brand new killer location at the SF Jazz Center in Hayes Valley, San Francisco. If you’ve never been in the SF Jazz Center theater, it was designed for jazz musicians to connect with the audience, and it makes for a great show.

We’re also excited to announce our first round of speakers including Yves Béhar, John Maeda, and awesome designers Elle Luna, Mladen Barbaric, and Craig Mod. We’re be announcing many more speakers soon for this two day event, and we’ll also be hosting a kick-off night of content on November 17th. And, don’t forget the after party.

We hope you’ll join us for this fun event and we can’t wait. Tickets are now on sale here.