What will design be like in 2025?

~ 05 March 2007 ~

Last week, Megan Patrick, Senior Editor of the reputable HOW Magazine, asked if I’d contribute to an upcoming article, “What will design be like in 2025?” Megan has quizzed a variety of industry designers on all things design twenty years from now, and with her permission, the specific question she asked me and my brief reply is shown below. (Article will hit shelves later this summer.)

Q: In 2025, how will we be accessing the web? Implants? Touch screens everywhere? Does the future hold a phone / web browser / organizer / media player that’s not annoying?

A: I risk making a fool of myself trying to predict the future of something as volatile as the web. The words of Roger Black, attempting to envision the state of the web three years prior to the year 2000, echo loudly in my head. “The successor to Java is running every electrical appliance that you own,” he wrote in Web Sites That Work (1997). “Bill Gates is nowhere to be seen.”

While Gates and Java are still very much present today, two decades from now I believe we’ll no longer view the “web” as a network of connected machines, but rather the indispensable thread of human connectivity that binds together cultures, economies, and societies. Content, communication, and context will continue to form the underpinnings of human connectivity, much like they do — or should — today.

The interface will no longer be relegated to the constraints of the gadget or machine that generates it, but rather it will spawn and function independent of these devices. I imagine by 2025 we’ll have figured out how to project an interface in mid-air, with multi-touch natural mapping interaction not unlike what Jeff Han and others are already developing (see Perceptive Pixel video). Imagine your desktop machine, mobile device, car, watch, and ATM all projecting the same interface wherever and whenever — no keyboard, mouse, or stylus but merely gestures and touch by the versatile human hand.

Phone numbers and URLs become deprecated, replaced by user- and organization-centric identification, possibly akin to the likes of OpenID. This will allow anyone to connect to an individual or company using a single identifier, and upon connecting to choose voice, text, multimedia, teleportation (wishful thinking), or all of the above as appropriate to the experience desired.

What won’t disappear by 2025? The back button. User error just doesn’t seem to evolve as rapidly as technology.

I’ll now spin the table and put the question in front of all y’all: What will the web be like in 2025?



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1   Angelo ~ 05 March 2007

The nature of design will be determined by our robot masters.

My toaster runs Ruby.

2   Shaun Inman ~ 05 March 2007

Regardless of how the interface evolves we’ll probably still be using Flash MX 2024 and sIFR 9 to embed custom typefaces. The more things change…

3   Cameron Moll ~ 05 March 2007

How sad would that be…

4   Niklas B ~ 05 March 2007

“What won’t disappear by 2025? The back button. User error just doesn’t seem to evolve as rapidly as technology.”

Assuming there is no way to design to prevent user error, that is.

The border between the desktop and internet will definitely be erased and the difference between application on the network and in the single computer will no longer be simple.

5   Chris Harrison ~ 05 March 2007

The Internet will become one giant Splog, where people can share 3D videos of their dog biting a guy in the crotch.

I kid… or maybe not… I think the Web will be smarter… We uses RSS feeds now… but I think we’ll have Smart Feeds that know who we are, what we like… We’ll be plugged in always.

6   Imar Krige ~ 05 March 2007

I’m glad to see a new entry on your blog, Mr. Moll. For a moment I feared that farewell to freelancing was in fact a farewell to authentic boredom. Anyway, i find all this talk about semantic web quite concerning. If the internet will consist mostly of computers communicating independently from us, I have to agree with Angelo - say hello to robot domination!

7   Tigerblade ~ 05 March 2007

“We uses RSS feeds now… but I think we’ll have Smart Feeds that know who we are, what we like… We’ll be plugged in always.”
Read the book ‘Feed’ by MT Anderson. You’ll get a scary glimpse of that future.

8   Cameron Moll ~ 05 March 2007

Nope, still here, Imar. Just a little swamped with work load and SXSW prep, that’s all.

9   njyo ~ 05 March 2007

The web will be like electricity today - just two-directional. Everywhere and we will not be able to “survive” without it. It won’t have no face anymore but instead be a persistent layer linking and driving all our appliances. Just like we plug our toaster in to get electricity today, we will “plug in” our devices to be driven by the information that they will need. While there might be a point to have sites like Wikipedia, CNN and so forth, chances are rather high that we have more of a “hitchhiker’s guide” that let’s us access everything we want (like calling our friends, finding directions, etc.). of course log-in will be not needed anymore but fingerprints will unfortunately be used.

… this all assuming that we don’t a) blow up all humanity, b) have a huge Eurasia vs. Americas vs. Africa crisis or c) end up in a business-driven, totalitarian regime where we will use Ultra-Mega-HD-Blue-Ray discs to hold the gazillobyte of one illegally downloaded film - the only kinda thing one still will be doing uncontrolled - within the next 20 years.

Honestly speaking I guess the internet will more look like the combination of a+b+c. :(

10   Ara Pehlivanian ~ 05 March 2007

I definitely think that the end user will be even more empowered than they are today. I think that the middle men will all but have disappeared. I also think that any attempt to assign people an ID will a) be met with resistance and b) have to be decentralized if it’s ever going to work (re: your OpenID reference).

As for interface, I think that privacy is and always will be an issue and even though mid-air displays will probably be prevalent (see: Heliodisplay), people won’t want everyone seeing what they’re doing. Nor will their arms have any more stamina than they do today—keeping your arms up in the Minority Report pose gets tiring very fast! I also don’t think that people will readily subscribe to implants (though they may if it becomes cosmetic, like earrings).

11   Amanda Kern ~ 05 March 2007

Sweet - HOW magazine! Congrats Cameron!

In 2025 we’ll all be hardwired and computerized by then right? Or will we all be replaced by computers? Oh and it’ll probably be Adobe CS25 that we’re all using by then.

I agree - the web changes way too fast to predict this one.

12   Christian ~ 05 March 2007

I’ll be honest, I really hope that at least Microsoft IE supports by 2008 the same CSS that Mozilla does…

13   Chris Harrison ~ 05 March 2007

@ Tigerblade… Added to my queue. You and others here might want to check out Mike Judge’s latest movie: Idiocracy. God help us if society turns out like that movie predicts.

14   ML ~ 05 March 2007

What will design be like in 2025?…

Hopefully, I wouldn’t care. My son will be 25 by then. Hopefully in the MLB or NBA and I’ll be eating popcorn watching him play.

15   ML ~ 05 March 2007

For some reason, I thougt we were still in the year 2000.

16   Javier Marti ~ 05 March 2007

I am Javier, the founder of Trendirama.com, a community of online amateur writers. We write about the future of everything, and I would like to invite you guys to write an article on the Trendirama.com website, perhaps “The future of web design” there or whatever you are passionate about? It is up to you, you choose the subject.
You would get a link back when you link to your own article, if you wish.
You can even re-use some of what you have here, in the last part of the article, “your view and comments”. That would save you time and still be interesting for readers.
And yes, I know you may not have the time. None of us do…;)

Failing that, if you like the project and you can help me to promote it and find writers/readers -even if you don’t write- it would be great. Since we are starting, we need all and any help that you can give.
By making this valuable information available online for free, I truly believe we are helping to make the world a better place.
And you could do your bit for the world too.

Your help is appreciated, and if you let me know your contribution, you’ll be rewarded appropriately in due time. If you link to us or mention us, we can link you back too.
You can even use our valuable articles on your websites, provided that you link back. Any better offer than that?! :)

Look forward to hearing from you or read your article in Trendirama! Join us writing an article!

Best regards
Javier Marti

17   Bliss ~ 06 March 2007

It’s nice having a new post from you Cameron. In 2025, i believe, we still would be screaming about usability etc. You guessed it right, i too believe, we would have unique ID and not username password. But we will then try to make dummy ID’s to do some ‘illegal’ stuffs ;)

Apart from that, Your works in portfolio are worth studying in detail and it gives lot of new techniques and knowledge. I request to place ALL of your work in there ( maybe create a subpage like.. More works.. etc.?) just a request. Thanks.

18   Francois Carstens ~ 06 March 2007

It is the year 2025. GOOGLE Inc is now known as The New United Nations. A global upsurge has taken place to prevent media companies from taking over the web and the New International Web Treaty connects all users to one database allowing them free access to all information (except that which is withheld from them - robots=”no-follow”) and markets. All users who refuse to accept the NIWT have been marked as anti-pro-information. Kicked offline and unable to function as normal parts of society these outcasts have moved to the remote corners of the world reminiscing about the days when the internet was still governed by no-one. It will be the beginning of the end.

Technologies will be as awesome as we can imagine, but the price of using them will be our freedom.

To register, please fill out this form. Then click submit. Oh, did we forget to mention, privacy no longer exists.

19   Justin ~ 06 March 2007

If we don’t have an online OS where we can log in from any system and access our desktop, applications, settings, information, and all of our files by 2025, I’m going to be very upset. After all, we’re already doing similiar stuff with websites. So why not an OS? Actually, I don’t see why it isn’t possible today. I suppose the only thing slowing us down is bandwidth.

20   David ~ 06 March 2007

I believe that in 2025, web designers will not be limited to communicating using audio and visual means. Advances with style sheet rules (cascading sensory stimulation) and new peripheral technology will allow designers to create virtual worlds where users will experience taste, touch, and smell. All of these new advances will, of course, be driven by the adult entertainment industry. New copyright and trademark issues will undoubtedly arise, while young designers post (via two-finger hand gesture interfaces) vitriolic rants claiming things like “He totally ripped off that smell from www.ftd.com.”

21   Keanen ~ 06 March 2007

I think internet access will be ubiquitous. It will not only exist on our computers (if we still have anything similar to that), but in our cars, in our pockets (phones, handheld devices), in our living rooms (television will be merely streaming media that you can choose what you want to watch). Internet access will be everywhere and cheap. While many of these things are possible today, they are really in their infancy.

User interfaces will adapt to our surroundings. Technology that surrounds us will “publish” its presence to a device that we carry with us (or is integrated into us — scary thought). This device will allow us to interact with our technology surroundings. The user interface will adapt based upon what is around us and the things we have permission to access.

I also agree with Cameron that the user interfaces will become much more humanized… allowing us to interact in a more natural, human-like way.

It will require a whole new thought about user interfaces. The user won’t need to care where the data is coming from (URL) or where it is stored. That becomes irrelevant (other than for privacy reasons). The user just knows they want to perform a task. It will be up to the user interface to predict what the user wants to accomplish based on his/her surroundings and provide the correct interface to accomplish the task he/she would like to do.

It does not matter if the device was made by Microsoft, Whirlpool, Toyota, or Bob’s Bait and Tackle, as long as it has technology and can integrate with the device then the user interface is consistent and something the user can understand or can easily find more information about.

22   flash devs ~ 06 March 2007

IE 10 will fully support CSS 3.

The CSS 5 spec will still be a work in progress.

Firefox 15 will have 35% of the browser market share, and among the techies it will be 95%.

MNG still will not be a standard.

23   Marcello ~ 06 March 2007

As a web designer, part of my job is to look three-to-five years into the future and prepare myself for whatever is lurking around the corner. Needless to say, I usually get it wrong, so I’m probably the wrong person to ask about design in 2025!

Having said that, there’s one (probably) unstoppable force that should be considered: globalization. The world-wide-web will be truly world-wide, with every culture contributing to it’s development.

So the question becomes: What are the concepts of design and communication in these cultures, and how do these concepts differ from our own? And is there something unique about the infrastructures that these cultures have access to that will affect how the technology will develop?

Big questions, which I’m horribly unqualified to answer. Any sociologists care to chime in?

24   Komail Abbas Lalani ~ 07 March 2007

Yesterday i have posted 1 post here, its not there today, am i applicable to reply to this article.

Thanks plz explain. i regularly visit this site.

25   Mike Gowen ~ 07 March 2007

I agree, the Perceptive Pixel interface in 3D format would be amazing. Imagine pushing things to the background (z-order), and being able to grab corners of photos with your thumb and index finger to scale them versus the “tabletop” model.



26   JD Graffam ~ 07 March 2007

I hear a lot of people talking about all of the things we’ll be able to do in the future. Because of that, Interface Design will need to become simpler, more congruous. This will keep our brains from short-circuiting due to information overload.

27   John ~ 07 March 2007

If there are no keyboards or mice.. how are books/essays/comments/anything written? American sign language replaces qwerty?

I would say Internet(1) is likely to stay as it is. Despite Java/xml/ajax/etc.. really the web isn’t that much different. Sure everything works faster and some of the interactions are more fluid (or application-like) but if you look at the top 10 web sites, well - they’re still web sites.

Much like the internet seemingly came out of nowhere I always assume something else will do the same and have the same effect. I see one of the main reasons predictions don’t come true is because between now and any reasonalby distant point in the future there will be (x) number of disruptive technologies invented and (given a long enough span) destroyed.

28   Michael Dick ~ 07 March 2007


You’re right, just like the telephone did to telegrams, and the television did to the radio, and what the internet did to telegrams, telephones, televisions, and radios.

I predict that every appliance (lamps, light switches, fans, toaster, oven..ect), will have its’ own IP which will be connected to a main network in your house. You’ll then have a global remote that can switch to and communicate to each object within your house — then a new hacking type comes along and instead of computer viruses, we will have light viruses :).

I think that the internet will not evolve into touch screens and all that. Computers are amazing because they have a mouse and keyboard and a screen. And the biggest factor on that: the disability won’t be able to interact with such advanced touch screens.

29   Michael Dick ~ 07 March 2007

And to add to my last post above…

…on top of that, how do you expect people to adopt such a huge shift in technology when the current ratio for developers who design with accessibility in mind is awfully low?

But there is hope, maybe that ratio will become 1:1 in the years to come?

30   Colette Ruff ~ 07 March 2007

In 2025:
Google will still be the top search engine. Now that they are currently saving every search ever made, it will be intuitive to a certain IP Address.

The newest Mac will be the qMac which basically fits like a bluetooth in your ear.

PC and Mac (see commerical) PC will look 80 years old while the Mac never aged a day. This would be due to all the viruses the PC caught on the WWW.

31   Mario Garcia ~ 07 March 2007

When our firm was redesigning The Wall Street Journal we spent a lot of time doing what we call “visual archaeology,” looking at copies of the paper from 1918 to the present day. Much of the “new” stuff we implemented where things they were doing up to 70 years before, like advertising on the front page. Last week I was with a new client in Texas and started doing the same thing, going through archives to see what they were doing back int he day. Incredibly enough, this particular paper had an interesting column that ran on the front page everyday. A series of quick hits from the publisher with his views on different things going on that day, the naming of streets, the president’s speech, things like that. It hit me that these things read like modern-day blogs. Of course, I recommended the newpaper pick that habit back up. My point in this long-winded explanation - what’s “new” is sometimes “old.” Design in 2025 may very well be something we’ll remember from out past.

32   Dave Simon ~ 07 March 2007

I think that design will just become more transparent. We’ll have access to websites so much that we won’t really even think of it as “the web.” Just a tool to get things done.

And some people will insist it all still run on Netscape 4.5.

33   Jdjohnson ~ 08 March 2007

Although I do see many things changing by 2025 I’m not quite sure that I would push it as far as you have.

Yes, the technology is there for touch screens and projections that hang in front of us like something out of a movie. However, I would be willing to bet that it will remain to be something out of a movie.

The technology will be there, I’m am fairly unsure that the people will be ready.

34   Susan Lee Quee ~ 08 March 2007

Hopefully, there will be better ways to pay for stuff other than credit cards. Lets say pay for some college credits using a mobile phone. For us in Jamaica…that would be sweeeet!

35   Aaron Martone ~ 08 March 2007

I think the advances we’ll be able to make will be determined (a.k.a. ‘limited’) by the most prominent company which makes itself vital to the propagation of technology that either conforms to a single architecture, or instead, tends to take its own path.

Til said company adopts a forward-thinking mentality, we’ll just be chipping away at the mountain in our valiant effort to make the e-world a better place.

36   Timothy ~ 08 March 2007


I’m a design student and get great inspiration when looking at your work.

Do you, or anyone else, recommend a web site that has a gallery of images of *corporate web-based applications* that I might also get inspiration from.



37   Raymonn ~ 09 March 2007

“What won’t disappear by 2025? The back button. User error just doesn’t seem to evolve as rapidly as technology.”

I almost fell out of my chair laughing at your statement. I think you are 110 percent right!

As fast as technology move we will never stop making errors.

38   Chandra ~ 09 March 2007

I wish I never use a CSS hack and test my design in my single favorite browser!
2025! No Hacks!

by that time, I think there will be softwares which will convert you photoshop mockup into perfectly valid,semantic CSS/xHTML… no hand coding…

39   Nathan ~ 09 March 2007

what’s “new” is sometimes “old.”

Too true, I think in the next 18 years you will find the same repetition in user interface and interaction as you find right now, possibly even more so. Designers will probably have a hard time doing something completely ground breaking because so much has been done before.

What I don’t see is the re-invention of the wheel (or web), maybe in 40 years someone will come close to this but for the next 20 or so years it will just be impractical to do so. The user interface may go through a number of mild enhancement but it wont change dramatically in this time frame.

As for user interaction, again maybe some minor changes and a few new toys to play with but the demise of keyboard and mouse (or general concept) is highly unlikely. Just look at the humble pad and pen, these have not changed in centuries for one simple reason, practicality.

I think we’ll see changes, but I’m reluctant to believe it will be anything worlds apart from today.

40   Neil D ~ 10 March 2007

In an ideal world…

2025 is not very far off. I would not like to bet on technologies that would eliminate physical products. Also considering that processing power only has that much further to go, designs that harnesses processor power efficiently will prevail.

While bandwidth and drive space will probably not be an issue, delivery may. I assume that a standard of delivery will ensure that information is available to all. Protected yet abundant, though!

Design therefore will have to evolve into products that harness these standards. A new network will ensure that junk stays out of the way for standards based information sites. Design will only involve what we actually see, not the data that will be presented, since the data will come from a common source. So your toaster or your GPS navigation will have interfaces that complement the data displaying only relevant data. Reusability is key!

Design will be boring and probably hardcoded into devices. Most enthusiast designers will die, personal websites will be templates.

They said Java was for everyone, till they made it so difficult that you had to be a geek to utilise it (i.e with proper graphic interfaces, not just a “hello world”) properly. This may actually be the future. But I’d give it a 50-50.

41   Francois Carstens ~ 12 March 2007

I’m just wondering how long it will be before our hardware will start containing sustainable animal products to increase data transfer speeds and capacity. No matter how hard we try, technology is still a far way away from being able to replicate the kind of processing power available in human beings. How about an Intel Dolphin Multi Core processor with (since they have such good memories) Elphant brain matter for storage. Combining biology with current technology will be a leap I’m not sure won’t happen. (What I don’t want to handle is the ethical questions lurking behind it.)

42   Aaron ~ 12 March 2007

@41 - I think for processing power and memory/storage we may very well use a bio-material. We will never use elephant brains in our computers. That doesn’t even make sense. What we will do, I think, is develop technology using synthetic protiens to store and transmit data. I believe the singe greatest hurdle will be in creating a device that completely replaces the computer and is able to “think”, no longer requiring binary code, instead being able to store information universally and literally without the need for translation.

43   Juan ~ 26 March 2007

It would be cool if in a future the web was just another layer above reality, with contact lenses instead of screens. The interface with reality would be something akin to what the terminator sees. You’d be able to see someone’s “profile” just by looking at him and contracting your pupil or maybe touching your fingertips (it would be rude to just be pointing at people). With friends you’d probably have more privilieges, transfer of files, photos, music, messages.

You’ll be able to see a product and make a query to the net about its prices, properties, etc.

Special features for special circumstances, a “party” interface, a soldier interface, an office interface, a gaming interface, a less intrusive interface for walking and driving.

Reality without the web will be considered, grey and pointless for the people born in this generation.

The edgier, “punkier” people will make outrageous experimentations with implants, finally mixing drugs with data.

But I think I’m imagining 2125 here, ;).

44   rahul ~ 15 June 2007

Hi i am rahul, graphic design is my life. I live and breathe it, and there’s nothing more exciting to me than design, creativity, and idea generation. This site is a collection of exercises that can be used to stretch your creative mind and aid in daily creative maintenance.
The book also includes interviews with designers Am I allowed to say everything? That’s such a lame answer, I know, but it’s true! I love learning. designers have to be able to learn everything they can about who their client is so that they can convey the client’s message effectively. You have to live and breathe your client. I love meeting other designers and finding out what makes them tick. I love traveling and exploring different cultures. Music and music video watching are a recent hobby of mine (music videos have become so much more creative), as well as intros to movies. I love seeing the title sequences of movies it shows how design is now being more integrated in other mediums such as film, PDA graphics, iPods, etc.

don’t care if you have an MFA or an 8th grade-level education; if you have the talent, the drive, and an awesome portfolio, you’re good to go.

I’m always reading the news, design magazines, designers’ posts in design forums on the Internet. I love finding random things online, or a new wacky store, and just exploring it. Sometimes these unusual places or things may later inspire an idea or a thought that will solve a design problem for a project. Sometimes it won’t. Regardless of what happens, you will always be learning and accumulating knowledge, and in my opinion that’s the most important and powerful tool that anyone can have.

If you truly love design, just do it. Don’t worry about money or let it rule your decisions. I occasionally do projects pro-bono just because I know that it would be a great design piece and that it will make me feel good. The paying work will eventually find you. Most of my big clients now came from small pro-bono projects that I did. You never know what might happen. I would also focus on self-promotion. It’s one of the most important things a designer can do to get their name out there and familiarize others about you. The more they see or hear your name, the more they will subconsciously have that name engraved in their mind for a future design project.

Success is a relative term. Success to me (a designer) means that the piece effectively communicates the client’s message is balanced well, looks good, and the client is happy with it. But very rarely does the finished piece actually turn out the way you want it to. Clients often change things, and although you don’t agree with them there comes a point where you just have to do what they say. They are, after all, the ones that are paying you. As a designer, my job is to bring my expertise into the piece
get away from the computer, and do some of the exercises. I get away from the computer - I won’t even check my email. I usually go hiking, or head to Borders (with my iced coffee), or watch a movie. I pretty much just participate in life and absorb everything I can. I spend so much time in front of the computer that it is actually refreshing to do something else even if that something else is washing my car. To me I think the weekend is very important for a designer.

after roaming through these pages, do you want to contact me ? If you do have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you Feel free to mail me on rahul_zap@hotmail.com

45   Mark ~ 15 July 2007

How we’re accessing the web in 2025, I entertain, will be highly dependent upon the state of individual governments around the world. Depending on if Net neutrality succeeds in keeping the Internet equally accessible to all will have a large impact on how we access the Internet.

46   Reda ~ 17 July 2007

Heh, great discussion. Reminds me of a fiction i saw online sometime ago, EPIC 2014. http://epic.makingithappen.co.uk/


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