Portable Solar Distiller - Next Gen Award

Design according to Gen Z


Gen Z encompasses individuals born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s. Also known colloquially as ‘Zoomers”, the population is soon to become the largest cohort of consumers and workers in our modern world. However young, Gen Z’s idiosyncratic, efficient and fast-paced characteristics are already impacting the way various industries operate, market and innovate. 

The design industry hasn’t been spared. The weight of the digitally-native generation is being steadily felt and the thinkers of older design generations have steadily begun to shift the goalposts in order to capture their attention. Now, as Gen Z enters the design workforce, the way we work is transforming too.

Is it for the better? Here we dive into the world of design through the eyes of Gen Z – decide for yourself.

Where community and sustainability intertwine: Getting On Board – 2022 Next Gen Student Award winner

What design aspects resonate with Gen Z audiences?

Gen Z is the first generation that are true digital natives. They were born into a world thriving in tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion – where infor­ma­tion is imme­di­ate­ly acces­si­ble and face-to-face socialisation isn’t the only option. Social media is a natural part of the everyday and on-demand everything is just about expected.  

The 8-second attention span generation is also more progressive, inclusive and sustainably conscious than all that have come before them. This has evolved a large group of shrewd consumers and innovators who are heavily influenced by first impressions, yet are prepared to look beyond face value before they engage with or create products, designs and initiatives. 

Translating these distinct characteristics into the design space, Gen Z has grown to appreciate:  

  1. Mobile-first design 

Zoomers spend almost double the amount of time per day on mobile devices than the rest of the population. Whether it’s to doom-scroll through social media, watch videos or surf the web, the mobile focus of the generation is undeniably clear. For any design, whether it’s the actual project or its marketing, these habits must be reflected through website and app optimisation to best capture Gen Z’s attention. 

  1. Personalisation

A desire for individualism, customisation, control and connection are intrinsic to Gen Z. Born into a more progressive system of beliefs that value self-expression and uniqueness, and a digital world full of ever-changing social media profiles, phone backgrounds and trends, a yearning for personalisation in design has naturally blossomed. Designs that can be altered or outstretch a means to reflect oneself are the ones that strike a chord with Gen Z.

  1. Minimalism

Clean and minimalist lines, simple outlines and plans, smooth UI and UX, muted colours, and the unobstructed written word – that’s drawing the eyes of Gen Z in almost all areas of design. In a world where companies, products and services fight for the increasingly scarce resource of attention, these characteristics efficiently communicate functionality, viability and impressiveness from the get-go.

  1. Authenticity and transparency 

Gen Z strives to connect with designs, designers and design processes that transparently reflect who they are, what they stand for, why they’re here and how they’re making a positive difference. This yearning for authenticity aligns with the generation’s progressive leanings and exposes a need for honest, human-centric and relatable design.

  1. Diversity and inclusivity

As a socially-conscious generation that’s been coined the most diverse in history, Gen Z naturally values equality, inclusion and accessibility. They appreciate designs and brands that wear their progressive values on their sleeve and serve a true cross-section of society. They similarly look for design teams that encompass a diverse representation of individuals.

How are Gen Z designers transforming the design industry?

Gen Z is steadily making their mark on the design profession. With them, they are bringing new design processes, methodologies and values that are already disrupting more traditional approaches to design.

The generation looks at design challenges through a personable lens, much in the same way they look for designs that speak to them and the world they are designing for.

Common characteristics of Gen Z design processes include:

  1. Collaboration

With an overarching appreciation and familiarity with diversity, Gen Z designers see collaboration and teamwork as integral parts of the design process. They believe that diverse voices, experiences and insights empower designs that not only speak truly to their target audiences, but evolve a new kind of group-led creativity. Resultantly, Zoomers are often more willing to work in multidisciplinary teams and seek feedback from others.

  1. Agility

Online trends come and go, influencers rise and fall, internet speeds rise and social feeds are continually crammed with information. It’s this kind of reality that has solidified a generation more capable than ever to work in fast-paced environments where rapid, iterative approaches are the norm and technology is readily available. Gen Z is therefore more partial to agile and malleable design methods that allow for more experimentation, feedback and close communication.  

  1. User-centrism

Tying back into the resonant value of personalisation, Gen Z designers are highly focused on serving user needs and preferences. They design for a specific someone or something, prioritising market feedback to challenge pain-points from a consumer perspective and curate designs that speak with, not to, their users. 

  1. Data-driven

Gen Z is intrinsically intertwined within the age of data. Data collection, use, selling and theft, data-driven and artificial intelligence technologies –  designers are comfortable with data and analytics and are more likely to use data to drive their design decisions. They often incorporate data analytics tools into their design processes to gain insights into user behaviour and preferences.

  1. Sustainability

Born into a world in environmental disarray, Gen Z has become a sustainability-focused generation both in design and in consumption. This may explain why many Zoomer designers are committed to animating sustainable solutions through design or innovate with sustainable materials. It’s a focus they transparently share with all stakeholders.

User-centric, minimal and sustainable: The Portable Solar Distiller – 2022 Next Gen Student Award winner

Gen Z is leading the future of design

Gen Z consumers and designers bring an unforeseen set of skills and values to the world of design. They are agile, conscious, collaborative, tech-led and willing to make mistakes as they innovate. They are tied to the internet, have little time to contemplate and want to see a reflection of themselves or their diverse population in the designs they engage with and create. We’re already seeing designs, design teams and design processes change significantly – and this is only the beginning. 

Good Design Australia is welcoming the transformation. That’s why the annual Australian Good Design Awards champions the young designers disrupting the design space and changing the world through the Next Gen Award category. Presented by RØDE Microphones Founder and Chairman, Mr Peter Freedman AM, the category works to foster a strong cultural groundwork of design, innovation and creativity, all while challenging the rhetoric that ‘innovation comes with age’.

In the last five years alone, the Next Gen Award has encompassed designers under the age of 30 that have developed rapid-bleeding control devices, education toolkits for young migrants, creative solutions tackling plastic toy waste and off-road wheelchair over-tyres. Watch this space. 

Gen Z – take it away!

Taking it away: Trax Autonomous Herbicide Robot – 2021 Next Gen Product Award winner

The 2023 Australian Good Design Awards are open now

Submit your entry and make your mark on a prosperous future for all – today. Submissions close 21st April, 2023.


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