McKinsey research suggests how "big data" affects design

You've heard the catch phrase "big data." Management consulting firm McKinsey and Company predicts how this phenomenon will influence companies and consumers. McKinsey's predictions also suggest how smart designers can play important roles in the era of big data.
Written by Reena Jana, Contributor

Companies and other organizations are gathering large amounts of real-time information about people's everyday habits and preferences, provided by purchase transactions, sensors in machines, and the usage of smart phones and other devices.  "Big data" is the catch phrase often used to refer to the growing, and sometimes overwhelming, stream of statistics gathered as a result.

Smart corporations are using this constant influx of information to improve the design of their products, stores, services, and offices. How? Some clues can be found in a new article published by the McKinsey Quarterly titled  "Are You Ready for the Era of Big Data?" (Note: registration is required to read the article online.)

The article doesn't focus on big data's effect on design--it's a much more general piece--but there are numerous references to be found that relate the two, based on research conducted by McKinsey and Company's management consultants.

These include:

-  In some stores, McDonald's tracks customer traffic and ordering patterns, as well as interactions between staff and customers; researchers then can analyze this data and improve restaurant design

- Human resource departments in some companies are "changing work conditions" (as in redesigning offices) to encourage better productivity and worker satisfaction, based on employee data

- Designers and engineers are creating more products -- "from copiers to jet engines"--that track their usage patterns. The goal is to help identify successful design elements an gain insight that could be used to create next-generation devices

- A new industry will likely arise that provides not only big-data analysis, but also plays the role of an intermediary between manufacturers and other companies to do so and provide insight as a service (This McKinsey prediction suggests there could be business opportunities for designers to provide corporate identity and branding, user interface design for software, and other related services, to these new data-related companies.)

The streams of consumer and other data that will be generated within the next decade are likely to keep growing -- as well as a need for analysts. By 2018, McKinsey predicts, 140,000-190,000 additional data-analysts may be required in the United States alone to keep up with the rate of information generation in this country. McKinsey also suggests there will also be a need for 1.5 million managers and highly trained data specialists who can steer how data can best be applied.

Designers and innovation consultants would be wise to consider how companies, organizations, and governments in the "era of big data" could hire them to help interpret huge--and ever-rising--amounts of information being collected today...and in the near future.

Photo: Melvin Schlubman/Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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