(This article originally appeared on Pixel to Parcel)

Are we about to redefine the job description of the designer?

In truth, we already have. Across all industries the role of the designer is in flux as we adapt to a new eco-positive manufacturing landscape. Simply designing patterns, prints, and products in a vacuum for a defined target consumer, or creating products that hit a price point or visual aesthetic regardless of their environmental impact, is no longer viable. We need the creative to deliver so much more.

The designer of the next decade must act as a solutions architect, crafting a product that is built to last or built to be repurposed, recycled, or remade. Its provenance should be transparent and both ethical and viable. Good design is, after all, the best architect for environmental balance. Mother Nature taught us that.

As a creative, the designer must now onboard a deeper understanding of the product’s components, the manufacturing process, the data and information held within the supply chain, and final product’s subsequent circularity, in order to deliver a product with a defined and credible plan for end-of-life. This will soon be regulatory.

Designers must do all of this while staying up to date with the latest trends, analyzing global shifts and events, and predicting their impact, plus accurately reading consumer buying behaviors—all the while remaining upbeat, creative, and productive. Only then can a designer work to create a successful product that’s built to meet market preferences.

This is how successful designers create successful products, and it’s no happy accident.

The Product Designers of the Future Hold Immense Power

They say “design is in the detail,” and that statement has never been more accurate than now. The impact of good and bad design choices is real, and the collective and individual impact of these decisions on our environmental future is colossal. We have all witnessed the impact of poor design—let’s accelerate the change and switch to a new future by empowering the next generation. They have the energy, the drive, and the vision to make systemic change.

Innovation and Technology and the Race to Stay on Track

We talk a lot about on-demand production, but we should also discuss the benefits and challenges of the super-fast, on-demand design cycle and the speed with which future (and present) creatives are expected to design and build a product.

Staying on track with (and ahead of) technology is no easy feat. The equipment, materials, software, and applications that the textile/design industry are using are changing rapidly. It takes an energized mind to adapt and onboard new technologies in a commercial environment. Often, it’s even harder for the academic sector to keep up with this accelerating speed of change. Staying close to the industry is essential if we are to equip the talent of the future with the correct skills. Industry collaboration is key to closing the skills gap for the next generation, and the Graduate Fashion Foundation has been offering a vital bridge and support for over 30 years.

Fashion encompasses all ages and all genera and provides a platform and community that encourages freedom and self-expression. (Image credit: @laceyaylesphotography)

Celebrating Emerging Talent at Graduate Fashion Week

Graduate Fashion Week is a yearly event celebrating the talented graduates emerging into the industry. It’s a much-anticipated event and represents a year’s toil for all of the graduates who display their work at the show. The venue buzzes with an electric energy and a collective excitement for the future, felt by graduates and industry alumni alike.

The Graduate Fashion Foundation is a charitable organization and an essential part of the fashion industry. It is the springboard for new talent, the life-force the whole industry relies on. Over the past 30 years, more than 100,000 newly graduated and undergraduate students have been supported and guided by the charity.

GFF is dedicated to encouraging young people, in helping them find employment and getting the best start possible in the fashion industry. The foundation bridges the gap between graduation and employment and is responsible for launching the careers of some of the most successful designers of our time, including Christopher Bailey MBE, who was the winner of the first ever Gold Award and is now a Lifetime Patron of the charity, Stella McCartney, Giles Deacon, Matthew Williamson, and Julien MacDonald, to name a few.

Educating the Next Gen of Young Designers with Kornit Digital

In partnership with Graduate Fashion Foundation, Kornit Digital this year presented an exciting competition to final year students from member universities who were using print as part of their graduate collection.

Finalists were flown to Dusseldorf to experience Kornit’s ground-breaking digital printing technology in action. The students, eight in total, were given direct access to highly skilled application specialists for a workshop and hands-on experience with Kornit’s industrial printing technology. Using a wide range of fabrics that included cotton, satin, linen, organic panama, and poplin, plus a range of synthetics including faux silk, rPET jersey, and lycra, the graduates’ patterns were digitally printed and then flown back to the UK and used to create their garments for their final year collections.

Looking to the future, graduates were also introduced to Kornit X, a global hub offering on-demand fulfilment. As we move to on-demand manufacturing for the fashion supply chain, Kornit X offers a vital conduit for designers, independent brands, and retailers to source, manufacture and fulfill their apparel garments worldwide.

The finale of the event was the much anticipated and adored final year graduate showcase in June in London. Watched by the global fashion industry and historically attended by a rich fashion cohort, this runway has launched many leading names in the fashion industry.

For the talented graduates and winners of the Kornit Digital Printed Textile competition—Kira Banks, India Lupton, and Tamara Hejja—this is only the start of their journey. We hope their digital experience ignites an interest in print technology and catapults them into the spotlight to open new doors into the world of fashion and fashion innovation.

Pixel to Parcel