Sexy Boring Products and Other Design Trends for 2020

Clever UX or product designs are slowly creeping into traditional products and appliances and are turning them into 'sexy boring products'.

Here at AJ&Smart we are obsessed with innovation - we talk about it, read about it, we breathe innovation! So, we could barely contain our excitement before our interview with Nick De Mey, one of the founders of Board of Innovation


Board of Innovation is a global business design and innovation firm who do outstanding work helping organisations develop new businesses, innovation capabilities, and growth strategies. Nick’s global and broad perspective always gives us a wild and valuable view on trends and predictions for 2020...


What is the most important product design and UX development of 2020 and why? 


It’s what I like to call “Sexy Boring Products”! Instead of a strong focus on fancy smart home appliances, we will see product designers concentrating their attention on traditional hardware. Clever UX or product designs are slowly creeping into traditional products and appliances. Take traffic lights, for example. This boring product is now equipped with sensors to detect how many pedestrians are nearby so that it can change the traffic light colour based on the number of people waiting.”


What are your top 5 UX product design predictions for 2020?


#1 “Seamless experience! This means that when a user switches between context or devices, the product will simply follow them. Many brands have already adopted this without us even realising it. For example, when you use Spotify in your car and then you enter your house, the music can automatically switch to your in-home speakers and continue to play. Pretty cool, right?”


#2 “Pseudo-nostalgia, which is, in fact, nostalgic design combined with modern technologies. Many customers nowadays are embracing the feel and look of old products but still want to take advantage of the modern technology inside. Imagine a cool, classic car upgraded with a modern, electric engine!”


#3 “Deceptive frontend is what happens when a user assumes they know how the product works by looking at the frontend or hardware but the backend is something totally different. For instance, imagine you order food from what you think is a small, local restaurant with a personal touch and homely feel to it. However, in reality it is a big company with multiple outlets in the city and the food is prepared and shipped from an industrial site. Companies are pushing these “deceptive frontends” to drive sales. But this can make users can feel tricked by the experience.”


#4 “Non-offensive design is what companies will be investing a lot of time and effort into in 2020. Making sure that consumers won’t get upset and there won’t be any backlash online has become a high priority for many designers. This translates into design which is gender-neutral and international. A practical example of this is Facebook’s new face recognition tool which uses a face icon that is not specific in terms of gender or nationality and has a neutral colour scheme.”


#5 “Proactive fairness is my final prediction for 2020. For example, if you are using Slack but then your whole team goes on a holiday for 2 months, Slack will proactively stop charging you. Another good example is an app which turns off notifications or alerts when the user is not opening them, i.e. being proactive so as not to annoy the heck out of you! We’re seeing more and more companies utilising this trend and consumers are getting used to this type of experience.”


How will technology advancements affect customers in 2020?


“AI (Artificial Intelligence) will help us better understand customers’ likes and dislikes. For example, gaming is an industry which is purely focused on entertainment, and game developers have discovered that user experience improves massively when the gamer barely survives a battle. So, what you notice in many games now is that the gamer will very often manage to somehow survive a battle on their last percent. The AI will adapt to “fake” the experience to make it more pleasant. 


However, at some point people will start noticing that experiences are altered to please them and these experiences will no longer feel authentic.

"Consumers might feel tricked or deceived and the whole experience could feel disingenuous and unrealistic.” 


How is privacy going to change product development and UX in 2020?


“In 2020, privacy will become more of a hazard for companies. More and more products will emphasise the features they don’t have - rather than the ones they do - as benefits for the user. For instance, the lack of a microphone or remote data access.” 


How do you think personalisation is going to change product development and UX in 2020?


There is a backlash now because people are getting “personalisation fatigue".

"Designers put so much effort into coming up with features and more ways to adjust the personal experience but consumers are sick and tired of creating yet another “unique profile”. Instead, they want “personalisation curation” - a template they can adjust if they want.”


What would be the most valuable book you would recommend for people to read in 2020?


“I truly enjoyed reading “Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions” by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths. The book goes into detail about how computers think and systems react, while acknowledging that we as people also use our own algorithms and statistics to make decisions in our everyday lives. Even something as simple as deciding where to park involves calculating and weighing out probabilities without us even being aware of it. Products and services need to tie into that and understand how people think and process information and make decisions. It is a very interesting book to read for anybody who is interested in product or hardware design.”  


We were blown away by how insightful Nick’s answers were! How about you? Let us know which prediction was your favourite in the comments below. Better yet, share with us your own personal predictions for the new year!


Want more? Join 200,000+ people subscribing to our AJ&Smart YouTube, Linkedin and Instagram channels for free content to help you and your team do more valuable work.


AJ&Smart is the official partner with Jake Knapp, inventor of the Google Design Sprint,  the #1 Design Sprint firm in the world and the product design and corporate training partner of choice for the world's most successful brands.