The biggest impact of design currently is seen with ubiquitous handheld devices (a.k.a. smartphones and tablets). This is not new; predating these devices, video game handhelds have once been the most prominent design/technology that allowed us to be entertained on-the-go and portably since the early 1990s. However, with the introduction of Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPad in 2001, 2007 and 2010 respectively, the manner of which the company envisioned those products has given way to a new and design-influenced style of using a handheld device.
As such, the physical design of Apple’s devices has allowed every home, every pocket and just about everything in between to house or store a phone (or tablet depending on the size). More so, the software design played a big role in dictating to users where each application is and what it does to serve the needs for simple things such as setting a clock how to set to more complex things like multitasking.
On a positive note, the design behind the modern handheld device (largely influenced by Apple as seen by its competitors) has influenced our sense of convenience in looking up and storing our information as well as replacing a lot of other standalone handhelds (calculators, cameras, compasses, remotes).
On a negative note, the same designs are responsible for addiction, mainly to phones as they now double (but don’t quite replace) computers since users like myself browse the web and read voraciously. I think society as a whole has changed socially and maybe psychologically given the generation of children raised with handhelds whose daily focus may revolve on playing addictive touch- screen games, streaming TV shows and using social media.
To say that either influence is not going away anytime soon would be an understatement. Nonetheless, the impact of handheld design has been historical and culture-changing, even as recently as it has been. I do expect however that future inventions and products will follow the path of being as personalized as the modern-day handheld (present-day examples already foreshadow this: smartwatches, smart-glasses, self-driving cars, etc.)