What's Next in Digital.

Our roundup of the trends that will fundamentally change our interaction with the digital and physical world this year.

Marissa Gluck
January 23, 2014

Ah, New Year’s. That heady time of ambitious resolutions and confident prognostications about what will happen in the coming year. Now that we’ve started to abandon those resolutions, we thought it’d be the perfect time to ask our technologists, designers, strategists and analysts for their thoughts on the specific ways that digital will evolve in 2014. No breathless evocations of “Big Data” allowed (about as useful as that new gym membership). 

We’re excited about the emerging trends they’ve identified, ranging from seismic shifts in social media to the evolution of digital aesthetics to the next battleground for consumer attention (spoiler alert: it’s in the air). To call them trends is almost a disservice, connoting something fleeting (though a new embrace of fleetingness, especially among younger people, is on the list). We believe the following ideas are the ones that have staying power. They’re the ones that will fundamentally change our interaction with both the physical as well as digital world.

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Work apps get more user-friendly.

Aaron Shapiro, CEO

When we use Gmail, Twitter and a host of user-friendly services in our personal lives, why should the software we're forced to use at work be so onerous? We're already seeing the penetration of iPhones in the workplace; in 2014 companies will finally realize the productivity cost of poor design for internal systems, and begin to invest heavily in making their enterprise software as simple as the software people use at home.

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Digital leaders ascend to the C-suite.

Ken Allard, Managing Director, Global Business Strategy

The coming year will see the rapid ascension of digital executives to C-suite positions in Fortune 500 companies. As digital business initiatives inexorably eclipse traditional business models, boards of publicly traded companies will recognize that it is time to favor digital vision and competence over legacy business acumen. The reality is that digital technologies are driving innovations in every aspect of business from marketing campaigns to new customer acquisitions to payments and customer service. New leadership is on the way.

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Social media analytics becomes more predictive.

Jon Gibs, VP, Analytics

For some time, community managers have categorized posts then looked at what was working and said: "let's do more of that!" They’ve also analyzed posts that worked particularly well and tried to figure out how to replicate that success. We've now moved into an era marked by greater access to statistical tools, more robust platform data and an increasing knowledge of information taxonomies. This allows analysts and community managers to work together to create predictive models of what types of social content will drive which KPIs, to what type of audience, and at what time of the day or week.  

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Responsive dominates.

Dennis Steir, Art Director

Design for alternative inputs is going to have a significant impact on design in 2014. How will people browse the web on their televisions? How will they navigate with tablets, console controllers, or voice and motion inputs? Soon we will have to validate our responsive designs against 1080p. This leads into the deepening of responsive design. Responsive solves for the proliferation of device sizes and pixel densities. Given the new devices introduced this year alone, that shows no sign of slowing down. I think companies see greater and greater value in responsive design and are going to ask for it over adaptive more and more. 

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Digital campaigns come to the airplane cabin.

Matt Murray, Associate Creative Director

Finally. With the FAA loosening rules for onboard cell use, expect a mob of content and commerce companies trying to find new ways of engaging with customers during those captive hours of boredom. 

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Digital aesthetics transform traditional design.

Allen Orr, Creative Director

We’ll see more examples of the digital space influencing the design of traditional media. We're nearing a point where the web and mobile will stop looking for cues from those techniques developed for print, television and film—instead we'll see more examples of traditional media channels adopting ideas developed in the digital space.

Examples from the gaming sector (a pre-web digital platform) have been influencing film motion graphics for years (Ironman's Head-up display, the sci-fi user interfaces designed for Prometheus and Oblivion). Examples from the web influencing traditional forms include cable news making extensive use of lower-third crawls (allowing viewers to multitask), American Idol allowing viewers to vote via SMS, and USA Today redesigning their newspaper to look more like a website (complete with Google-doodle inspired logo treatments). Arguably, some big-budget Hollywood films have even taken an approach to shooting and editing that deliberately resembles the YouTube aesthetic (such as End of Watch and The Hunger Games).

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Assistive tech keeps people healthier, longer.

Marissa Gluck, Director, Huge Ideas

Leaving aside the debacle of healthcare.gov’s launch, I think 2014 will see the rise of assistive technologies for the visually/hearing impaired and elderly using smartphones. This includes sensory substitutions (such as apps that use the camera to scan an environment and convert images to sound), electronic sensors that can detect falls or smoke and even monitor daily activities such as opening the refrigerator during the day; essentially, remote health monitoring. The confluence of healthcare and mobile technologies will truly enable people to remain active and vibrant in the physical world much longer. 

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We rediscover the ephemeral.

Virginia Alber-Glanstaetten, VP, Planning

With its here-today-gone-in-seconds visual messaging service, SnapChat has managed to introduce impermanence back into our lives. In the last few years, we got used to everything being saved, and most of it shared (and as we now know, probably archived by the NSA). Enter SnapChat. Suddenly, there’s no publicly available record of your unfortunate love confession to your cat (or any number of indiscretions). Or just silly, ephemeral moments—you know, life. It allows us to live in the moment, and it restores “moments” to being momentary.

With Millennials leading the way, the trend is towards more private and fleeting sharing, big implications for marketers.

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Twitter owns the news.

Michael Koziol, Managing Director, Atlanta

Twitter will consolidate its position in news distribution and shift its stance from a supporter and enabler of news distribution to a serious player with a powerful business model attached. Twitter has already established itself as the most powerful news source in history. The big question will be can Twitter profit as an enabler or will it need to further decimate the news organizations to build its own model?

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