Do You Have the Right Metaskills for the Future?

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That was the question on my mind for the first official episode of the new HOW Design Live podcast.

So I asked Marty Neumeier, author of the 2012 book, Metaskills: 5 Skills for the Robotic Age, how designers can stay competitive as technology accelerates and more work gets turned over to machines and algorithms.

In his book, he explains how the Robot Curve is threatening all creative people — it’s already happening in every sector. “The value and the cost of work decreases as its mechanization increases.”


In our conversation, he used the example of typography. The Robot Curve has been a great boon for designers, who can now create their own type, but not so much for typographers. They’re all gone.

Photography is another example. With the rise of stock photography, there are fewer jobs for photographers and a lowering of both their value and their fees. “This is happening to graphic design and it will keep happening in every sector.

What to do?

Neumeier proposes that we think differently about our skills. In our podcast interview, he describes the 5 “metaskills” he believes will prevent any of us from being left behind, no matter what robots can do.

Neumeier shared with me strategies that designers and other creative professionals can implement to deal with the downward pressure on the value of what he calls “brittle” (or technical) skills (like typography) and proposes 5 more “flexible” metaskills that are essential for the future of work.


Those “metaskills” are essentially the skill of skilling yourself, allowing you to learn new skills:

  1. Feeling: empathy & intuition
  2. Seeing: seeing how the parts fit the whole picture (a.k.a. systems thinking)
  3. Dreaming: applied imagination, to think of something new
  4. Making: design, testing and proving the value of your designs
  5. Learning: learning how to learn

“Once you have the metaskills,” he predicts, “you can learn any new craft or subject and connect them in your mind. These are human skills but they’re not taught in school – yet.”

Here’s how he applies it to design skills. “If you were a designer in the 60s, that was a specialty. Now, design skills are commoditized skills. They aren’t valued in the real world until you apply them to something in some unique way. What can you do with those skills that no one else can do and no one else wants to do?”

That’s one of the questions to answer if you want to stay relevant.

How strong are your metaskills? And which ones do you need to strengthen to be competitive? To find out, take the “metaskills” quiz.

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One thought on “Do You Have the Right Metaskills for the Future?

  1. HCdave

    Long story short in my case, no I dont have the right skills, which is why im constantly evolving my skill set as times change and the need for new insights become apparent. Nice article, got a lot out of it.