When it comes to design, Scott Robinson thinks Frank Lloyd Wright said it best: “Form follows function—that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” As the founder, president and CEO of FreshForm, an experiential branding agency, Robinson takes that advice to heart, leveraging human-centered design principles to grow and differentiate brands in today's ever-changing digital landscape, including Acura, Honda, Ballast Point, Facebook, Intel, ExxonMobil, Qualcomm and University of San Diego. Robinson has been in the field of design and marketing for nearly 20 years and at the helm of FreshForm since 2001 and remains intensely passionate about the intersection of marketing, design, technology, innovation and consumer behavior in the digital age.
Why is the work you do important?
Human-centered design is a creative approach to solving both large- and small-scale problems and is at the heart of what we do at FreshForm. I'm an advocate for design and what it provides as a competitive advantage for growth-oriented companies, organizations and institutions. At FreshForm, we combine design and technology to create what we call "experiential branding." Good design matters because it helps alleviate frustrations, allows for efficiency, creates an emotional connection and can positively influence behavioral change.
At the community level, I'm involved with two important initiatives. One is called the Design Forward Alliance, which is an advocacy group promoting the value of design. Don Norman, the director of the Design Lab at UC San Diego, was the catalyst for the organization and an active advisor. The other initiative is the San Diego Brand Alliance, spearheaded by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, which is helping craft a global brand for the region.
What are the influential/exciting development happening in your field now and why?
I'm excited about the recent push to advance design education. Design thinking, which is a subset of human-centered design, is finding its way into K-12 and universities across the country. The newly opened Ideate High Academy in Downtown San Diego has a mission is to provide a rich, design thinking–based curriculum for creative high school pupils that incorporates student-centered learning, interdisciplinary challenges, college preparation, internships, empathic social responsibility and innovative thinking for the 21st Century. The Design Lab at UC San Diego is creating an exciting, vibrant design community that pervades the campus, cutting across disciplines, developing cross-campus projects, combining practice with theory. And the University of Texas hired Doreen Lorenzo to oversee a campus-wide initiative to integrate design thinking into the curriculum across the university. All of these institutions are developing a new breed of designers and innovators.
What’s the next big thing?
I'm curious how design can (and will) impact artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). These are two areas that will change our lives drastically in the next decade. Can we design AI to be more empathetic? Can we be connected emotionally to the IoT devices in our homes and offices? The key is designing for hyper-personalization and contextual awareness.
How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?
San Diego is at an interesting and exciting time. The energy and optimism today is like nothing I've ever felt growing up here in San Diego. Design will be at the center of how the future will be shaped. Our choice is whether we embrace good design for our region or not. In the next 50 years, our population will grow by nearly 40 percent, which will mostly be coming from local growth. Due to climate change and rising sea levels, we could be one of the most impacted regions in the country. How we adapt to these factors is up to us. Human-centered design can bring together cross-disciplinary experts to work through ideas and prototype solutions to some of these major initiatives. Design can be the common thread -- regardless of the challenge we face.
Hop in to your time machine…what does the future look like for this field in 50 years? How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?
I see two futures – one that is well-designed and one that is not. In 50 years, a well-design future allows for technology to scale as rapidly as it needs to, but our lives are better and less frustrating because of it. A well-designed future allows health care to be more personal and thoughtful, more predictive, preventative and accessible. A well-designed future allows autonomous vehicles to alleviate many accidents, and increase the speed and comfort in our travels. A well-designed future allows for our homes, streets and neighborhoods to embrace smarter technologies, while also making them more secure. A well-designed future allows for us to preserve the natural beauty of this region and this earth, while finding new ways to support the growth and expansion of humanity and technology.
Alternatively, a future that is not well-designed will create a world that is much more visibly and functionally complex and frustrating.
UC San Diego Extension offers a variety of design-related certificate programs and courses each quarter, as well as year-long intensive program in Graphic and Web Design. Learn more in an online information session.