There's been an increasing realization in Silicon Valley well-engineering products might solve problems, but not be used because they're not designed well.
Startups began to realize that a team of engineers without a few designers produced a product no one wanted to use, and began to heavily value designers.
Here's the investment trend: VCs are now looking to fund designers. A few years ago, a designer would have been laughed out of a pitch room if they came in with mockups and no working product. Nowadays, in part due to the Lean Startup movement, and in part due to the recognition that Apple gives to good design in the mobile world, design is no longer seen as an engineering problem, but a first class issue.
The 20 year trend is for many of our basic engineering problems to be easily solved. We're already seeing that trend with the rise of open source, modular programing and development of tools that a non-developer could potentially use to create an application noflo and Codiqa.
We're just starting to realize the potential of 3D printing. OpenDesk, which enables a 3D printer to make furniture, launched today. There are many legal and political challenges to overcome, but the potential of superseding mass manufacturing is huge.
3D printing + a huge library of solved engineering problems + easy-to-use software will put us in a place where instead of buying a product to solve a problem, we'll just design and make it ourselves.