Type modular design in Google Images and you see a colorful patchwork of what the future might look like.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, modular design is generally a sign of maturation in a respective craft. It is the indication that a designer has mastered the basic principles of functionality in a design and is moving on to universalize the design, making iterations of the design more adaptable, versatile, and efficient.

What do I mean by all of this? Let me give you an example.

The evolution of the building industry actually serves as a convenient example. Not long ago, the building industry worked mainly with rigid, fixed buildings, each building taking on a specific function. A different building had to be built according to each unique function. If the building’s function changed, they had to demolish sections or even the whole building and dispose of the waste. Then they had to start a new section or building to accommodate new functions.

As designers and builders mastered their methods, they started thinking about new, more efficient ways to build. Modularity of design is born. Larger units of construction (such as a building) break down and atomize into individual, self-contained units (such as modular wall panels and frames). These units can then be arranged into larger structures, or buildings, to be fitted with doors, windows, HVAC units, faucets, and whatever other items need to be installed to carry out a specific function. Then, all of these individual units can be broken down again to form something else.

We now see a whole new level of efficiency, adaptability, and versatility in our buildings, benefitting our businesses and the environment simultaneously! This model can be extended to all other aspects of design. Granted, some designs are unique and non-transferrable. We aren’t quite at the point where we can break down a cell phone and rearrange it into a lawn-chair. But will we ever be at that point? Or is it just absurd? I don’t know.

Nevertheless, more and more designs are becoming more modular and versatile. This is what the future will look like.

Interestingly, modular designs are also going hand in hand with nature-imitating designs. Humanity’s peaking interest in the environment is really beginning to show at a time when designs are undergoing modularization.

This is completely appropriate, since modular design is environmentally friendly and cuts down on waste. We can now cut down on multiple design iterations and redundancy by providing universal designs that can be configured to meet a variety of uses. In the near future, you won’t have to go to lengths to build your dream kitchen, only to rip it out and redo it when you want to upgrade it. You’ll be able to install and remove various kitchen modules to carry out your changing needs.

This saves dramatically on unnecessary waste. Our increasing investment in sustainable designs is consistent with the physical appearance with these designs. Designs are appearing more and more organic and are further taking on the appearance of their surroundings. All of these emerging elements in design indicate our understanding that we are a part of our environment and are not separate from it. Further, we wish to sustain that environment and protect. That’s what the future is going to look like.