VP OF DESIGN, WEB EXPERIENCES COLLECTIVE IN WEBTEXT
NEW YORK NY
Liz Danzico (she/her) is part designer, part educator, and full-time dog owner, at the intersection of product, design, innovation, and education. At Microsoft, she leads teams across the US, Canada, Spain, China, and India, working with people who choose a company that has a mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. Prior to Microsoft, she was SVP of Digital and VP of Design for NPR (National Public Radio) in Washington DC, and is Founding Chair of MFA Interaction Design at SVA (School of Visual Arts) in New York City. She serves on advisory boards/efforts that give voice to communities in need, including the Adobe Design Circle. She thrives on stories and words, and prides herself on intentional organization.
Looking forward to 2023, are you optimistic about the role and impact of Graphic Design and Visual Communication in Business? Culture? Causes? Have the events and disruptions of the past few years changed the role or trajectory of Graphic Design?
The most significant shift over the past several years has been access. Designers and makers have access to more tools, more choices, more people, more inspiration, more stories of success and failure, more. Consumers too have access to good and bad design, which makes them more discerning, more and sometimes less educated, more demanding.
This shift has raised the profile of design in business, demonstrating its impact on global and local scales, growth and audience reach, and bottom lines. Design is operating at the executive level of small and large businesses globally as a result—Designer Founders, CEOs, Chief Design Officers and more — beyond just the former “seat at the table.”
But what has not changed enough is people and communities of people whose brilliance hasn’t been included because of marginalized systems of oppression. Women and people of color are not included and amplified as much and as often as they should be. Principles of design justice in our work are not being practiced as holistically and naturally as they should be. Designers are still “designing for users” rather than “designing with communities” or better. We have a long way to go to leverage our collective experiences. Yet, I am positive and hopeful because of the bright future where design can be a supportive, healing, inclusive and imaginative place that will advance us forward.
Given recent upheavals, as well as those yet to come, the industry has an opportunity and a responsibility to listen, shape, and act. That last verb is not optional, by the way. Designers have the particular benefit of being in the business of shaping the future. And where we stand in the history of the future, right now, is a tremendous opportunity for design.
As we look ahead, we happen to be on the precipice of two important moments: For lack of a better term, we’re turning a page on a new chapter of generative AI and Web3 (or 5, depending on how you count) and with it come a host of new opportunities for designers and the industry. We’re also grappling with what changes things like the AI, cryptocurrency, the metaverse, and Web 3 will bring. While some of those things are just terms applied to broader movements just underway, others are substantive foundations here to stay, already in play affecting the way we live our lives. And that is the nature of our work as designers — to consider how to design our collective future so it’s something we want to be a part of.
Perhaps more importantly, people are examining their very actions as designers and as humans. Designers are asking and acting on how they can create worlds that are more accessible, sustainable, and inclusive. They are questioning the choices they have made, and their responsibilities in the decisions to come. In the coming years, rather than celebrating things we shall be celebrating people and positive behaviors.
Favorite or most influential logo or branding project of the past 60 years?
For me, it’s the simple FedEx logo. Go take another look at the FedEx logo — specifically, take another look at the white space surrounding the logo. There may have been years when you didn’t notice this arrow in its negative space. Now you can’t stop noticing how the figure and its ground produce an entirely new object. The brand may have even taken on new meaning. Josef Albers describes the arrow’s visual effect as 1+1=3 or more, or the creation of an incidental new element from two intentionally placed elements. What has happened here is that you’re stopped recognizing the logo, and started to perceive it as having another quality. Magic still.
Most influential design products, services or technology of the past 60 years?