Computer based technologies and digital devices have changed the way designers design and produce products, systems or environments. They allow them to work flexibly and efficiently. Computer based technologies can be used at every stage of a design process. It allows research, experimenting, prototyping, project management and manufacturing of the final product, system or environment. It would be difficult to find a design situation where the recently developed computer technologies such as tablets and smart phones are not relied upon enormously. However, it must be said that the most important aspect of successful design still remains the the designer, not the computer. Only the designer is able to consider issues such as the impact of developments on the individual, society and the environment, and success or failure is still determined by the ability of the designer or design team to effectively utilise these technologies.
It is expected that smartphones will continue to drive future growth in mobile communication and application developments. The concept of cloud computing, sharing computing services and storage over the internet, (Google Drive or Drop box) will continue to provide designers with greater opportunities for real time collaboration. A designer will make many decisions about which technologies to utilise in their work. But these choices will be influenced by factors such as access to the technology, cost and personal abilities. It is difficult to predict what technologies will be available for use in the future. Prior to 2008, for instance, smart phones virtually did not exist yet, they are now an essential part of most peoples lives.
A designer also needs to be aware of the different types of computer hardware and software available. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Software ranges in function from the simplest word processing and graphics design programs to presentation and voice recognition software.
A computer on its own is of limited value without external devices such as scanners, printers, digital cameras, data projectors, production machines such as CNC lathes or 3D printers and video recorders. These peripheral devices are the tools that make the computer an outstanding and essential tool for any kind of information related to the design process.