11 Biggest Design Innovations of the 2010s

An illustration of wrapped gift boxes to illustrate the biggest design innovations of the 2010s

Normally, we spend a little time at the end of the year thinking back on all that we’ve achieved and all that we’ve loved in the past year. Whether it’s tools we’re thankful for or a UX Naughty and Nice List, we try to spend our last few days in the office with a little nostalgia.

Design Gifts that Keep on Giving

This year, though, is special: not only are we coming to the end of a year, we’re coming to the close of a decade. Personally, professionally, or as an entire culture, the 2010s have had some huge movers and shakers in the design world. From trendsetters to pizza trackers, we asked the Fuzzy Mathers to look back on innovative designs that have changed the game in the past 10 years.

1. Sketch for UX Design

picture of <b>Carl Duffield</b>
Carl Duffield
When Sketch was released in 2010, most probably thought it was a bit of a gamble going up against the behemoth that is Adobe. But over time the continual improvements to Sketch have paid dividends for us here at Fuzzy Math and likely designers across the globe. Not only has Sketch provided a reliable new tool for design, the ecosystem for new tools has been vibrant as well ( 👋 Figma) giving us more options and flexibility along the way.

2. Fingerprint and Facial Recognition

picture of <b>Philip Miller</b>
Philip Miller
I'm gonna go for a hardware/software combo — fingerprint and facial recognition (like Apple's TouchID and FaceID, but they're pretty much an expected part of smartphones, tablets, and even sometimes laptops at this point), and all the things it’s been integrated with. The fact that we have biometric technology integrated into our everyday electronics to streamline things like logins and financial transactions blows my mind. Especially since smartphones have become nearly ubiquitous over the past 10 years, being able to tap your finger to a sensor or just look at your phone instead of trying to remember which complicated password you used for a given service (secure passwords are important! But also hard to remember) feels like magic.

3. Smarthome and IOT Technology

picture of <b>Julia Jouravel</b>
Julia Jouravel
Speaking from someone who recently installed smart plugs — I feel that smart home technology has the opportunity to really become ubiquitous in the new decade. There’s something comforting about being able to come home to a fully lit apartment with just a touch of a button or the sound of my voice. Not to mention the potential cost-saving metrics like controlling your technology while you’re at a distance. Fingers crossed that someday “Did I turn the oven off?” will be a thing of the past.

4. Virtual Reality

picture of <b>Rachel Vorm</b>
Rachel Vorm
Going to add something recent: I'd say this Occulus Quest VR gaming system. I think its going to cause a lot of divorces. :stuck_out_tongue: But it seriously is pretty neat. It personally makes me uncomfortable, because it is a bit too close to what I imagine Black Mirror scenarios starting off as. I could see it being used for good though in ways of therapy and education. I can imagine scenarios where you are able to actually not only learn about, let’s say ancient Rome for example, but be able to walk around in ancient Rome and learn in a more experiential way. For therapy I could see it being used to help overcome fears for example, maybe you are terrified of spiders, so you could simulate interacting with spiders until they are no longer a threat
picture of <b>Julia Jouravel</b>
Julia Jouravel
And to add to that, I think it could be great for elderly people who can’t get away or those who have serious mobility issues.

5. Khan Academy

picture of <b>Rose Tarullo</b>
Rose Tarullo
Khan Academy was a huge game-changer. The gamification is spot on and the contextual support is unmatched for an EdTech tool. It gives students control over their learning and assists teachers with differentiating their instruction to meet different learning needs. Also, it automatically guides students through Spiral Learning by having them work through an ongoing “mission” — giving them increasingly difficult problems across all concepts addressed that year. That’s difficult to organize and track manually.

6. The Domino’s Pizza Tracker

picture of <b>Kelly Cunningham</b>
Kelly Cunningham
If there’s one design gift that imparted some semblance of order and predictability to users over the last 10 years, it’s the design that allows users instant knowledge on the status of…something. Yes, I’m talking about the Domino’s Pizza Tracker, and yes, I’m exaggerating. But only a little bit! It may not be perfect (or even accurate at all), but to the best of my knowledge, the Pizza Tracker sparked the trend of giving users a peek behind the curtain. From other delivery apps to insurance companies tracking the progression of a claim, it seems like everyone wants something similar to the Pizza Tracker. In fact, customers seem to expect it! The Pizza Tracker effectively manages users’ expectations and gives the user a sense of control (or at least knowledge) of something that is in reality entirely out of their hands. And, for that, I think they deserve a place on this list.

7. Typekit and Designer Fonts

picture of <b>Rachel Shaver</b>
Rachel Shaver
Now Adobe Fonts, this was a total game-changer for workflow when it comes to designing with type on the web. When it first launched in 2009, Typekit freed developers and designers from the constraints of system fonts and made available hundreds of designer fonts that could be called up on any site (on anyone’s computer!) through use of the @font-face declaration in CSS and a bit of Javascript.

As it evolved over the years, Typekit / Adobe Fonts became an important part of my creative process — even when working on the occasional project for print. The ease of searching, sampling, and syncing beautiful fonts to my desktop in Adobe Fonts continues to save me from many headaches (and saved a ton of time).

8. Product Recommendation Quizzes

picture of <b>Mia Frasca</b>
Mia Frasca
I've personally benefited from the product recommendation quizzes that have become popular recently. It can make the online shopping experience a lot more enjoyable when a company does it right! The quizzes are usually short and fun to complete, and the user is left with personalized recommendations that fit their style, needs, or lifestyle. I think the guidance can be particularly helpful when shopping for something you have limited knowledge about (like vitamins!), and it’s comforting to have a thoughtful recommendation when the options online feel overwhelming.

9. Slack

picture of <b>Nick Leonard</b>
Nick Leonard
As a design team, feedback and collaboration are paramount. In the olden days, getting quick feedback from multiple people meant sending an email — lost in the inbox, and awkwardly formal — or IMing each person — and having to sort out redundant or competing feedback. We still value in-person feedback in many cases, but when it’s a quick and familiar ask, Slack has proven effective at getting multiple eyes on something with minimal effort and without breaking everyone’s flow. As a studio full of designers, it’s especially nice to be able to throw something out to the wider team and get thoughts from whoever is available at that moment.

10. Applying 3D Software to Visual Art

picture of <b>Ana Sainz</b>
Ana Sainz
There’s so much visual art candy out there and I always wonder who is the talented artist that originated the concept. Furniture designer Anny Wang and architect Tim Söderström have been merging 3D software and animation to transform beautiful sculptures into moving images for streetwear lines and new Burberry patterns. Their art designs look like they are alive. They are definitely design game-changers.

11. GIFs

picture of <b>Jon Tinman</b>
Jon Tinman
Much of what defined the last decade has to be memes and GIFs. They’re like modern-day hieroglyphics. You can say so much with a GIF or a meme, and it goes beyond just words with pictures. It’s how we share them.
If your friend says something disagreeable in a group chat, there’s a limitless library of GIFs just a click away that can say more than words ever could.

Memes can tell entire stories. Think of Nancy Pelosi’s clap-back moment. Because we know the context of the situation, that meme can be shared in countless ways to express something we all understand.

It will be interesting to see how these forms of communication evolve, or whether historians will even understand what they mean. Memes are, after-all, so of-the-moment. Even more interesting is whether we can all agree in the next decade on how to pronounce G-I-F.

• • •

As the year comes to a close, we just want to say thanks to our clients, and to all of you for helping to make this be a great decade of innovation (and a great decade of Fuzzy Math!). Now, on to the next one!

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