As we design today we are redefining our profession. Every generation rethinks the world of design and every generation has a theme. Ergonomics, green, universal, art, the list of themes goes on. Right now we are forming our definition of design. What will it be? What matters to us? We have many paths from which to choose and perhaps there are trails we will blaze ourselves.
For me it is yet unclear. I see beauty and value in many forms of design. Art design for example has great potential to cause deeper thought on a mass scale while at the same time being beautiful and functional. At the opposite end of the spectrum humanitarian design meets immediate needs of people and may or may not be beautiful (it may not even be a physical object) but there is beauty in helping others. Both have great value; water filters certainly help people and clean water is a physical necessity but art is also a necessity only it is for our humanity rather than our physicality. So both are good and both are needed. Another thing the two share is they are not for the designer. One thing I believe to be very important is that we always design for others. If we cannot design something that other people want/need/enjoy then it is useless. Worse, it is destructive. If design becomes focused on the designer rather than the user it will fail, perhaps not immediately but eventually.
One theme of design which is necessary and spans across all types of design is ecologically conscious design. No matter what it is we create, we must stop contributing to waste and pollution.
One thing that will certainly shape how and what we design is the falling economy. Already people are starting to cut back on spending. As industrial design is largely product based this certainly effects us. On the product level it will force designers to be more frugal. This might be done through making sacrifices and settling for lower quality or it could bring about innovation. We may be forced to create cheaper manufacturing techniques, figure less expensive ways of distribution, and find new or different materials. These industrial innovations would create an entirely new set of rules and boundaries in which to design thus creating even more potential for new and different outcomes which we will shape.
Hopefully we will all carry our own definitions and themes into our field and once again change the face of design. But this is not a given. Even in a time where the necessity of change seems incredibly apparent to us, it is not to others. We must fight to bring our styles and ideologies to the real world and to let others know what we care about.