We are a like-minded community.
The attendees of DUX—members of AIGA, SIGCHI and SIGGRAPH—while having different professional emphases, are a rich and robust community with much more in common than we generally think. This blended community is curious and vibrant and surprisingly interested in sharing personal stories of our work. The conversations in the breaks and at the receptions were as rich and informative as the dialogue during the panels. There was no “us vs. them,” or academia vs. real world—research and practice blended well together. As a matter of fact, unless someone explicitly pointed out that they were from one space or another, the conversations were incredibly similar.
There is a positive undercurrent in the community as a whole.
My impressions, after three days at the IA Summit in Portland this past March and two days at DUX this past weekend, is that the atmoshpere of the field is looking up. Yes, I know many people are still out of work, but it seems to me that more folks are working and less are whining; people seem genuinely excited about their work. The challenges within organizations are still there, but the stories told show that design (this includes all the flavors—IA, visual, interaction, etc.) is engaging in productive partnerships with the other organizational disciplines. Engineering and marketing are collaborative partners. I heard less “They don’t take me seriously, how can we be heard and involved?” than “What else can we do to make improvements?” and “Where else can our skills be used in the process?” this time around. Maybe it’s just me, but I think there is definitely a shift happening.
Great things can happen when you move beyond the bullet point.
I was excited to see that many of the presenters moved beyond the traditional PowerPoint deck of bulleted items and actually spoke to the audience conversationally rather than reading their slides—which we can all do ourselves. It makes it harder to take notes, but as an attendee, I appreciated the effort and the conversational nature of it. Jess McMullin chaired a panel that focused on constraints. He challenged his panelists to create their presentations without any bullets and to include more images and fewer words. This challenge worked. For the most part, the presenters were more lively, the slides were illustrations of the points rather than lists of the points, and overall, the collection of presentations was more interesting and entertaining. I challenge the rest of us to try this at home — er… work. What if we began to give presentations at the office that followed this logic? Would it help elevate the status of design within the organization? It definitely makes the presentation more challenging to give, but it forces people to listen since they can’t take away a list of bulleted items to throw into the shredder bin. Try this and let us know how it worked. One presenter reminded us that while a “constraint is a factor identified as a barrier,” an “opportunity is a factor identified as a liberator.” Liberation within design. Liberation within an organization. Liberation from the bullet point. This is a pretty cool way of looking at things.
Design can have great impact, and shoulders great responsibility.
This community is having an impact. We “design” the products people are using every day. We create new behavior and change behavior. We have a responsibility to be smart about what we do and how we do it. One of the presenters reminded us that it is our responsibility to understand the communities of practice that already exist as we design products and experiences. These communities of practice contain deeply embedded structures and processes, and in understanding these, we can create more effective experiences. Several presenters reiterated this theme, and I think it’s good to continue to remind ourselves that it is more than the user that we need to understand; often it is a collection of people within a community that will give us the insight we need.
Mentors can be found in all sorts of places. You might even be one.
One of the closing plenary speakers on Saturday was a woman named Sara Little Turnbull. She is 85 and has worked for six decades in the realm of strategic design development. She is still working, currently at the Process of Change, Innovation, and Design Laboratory of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. As I watched her converse with Richard Anderson and relate some of her experiences, I realized that I personally was in desperate need of mentors. I try to mentor my team at work, and am always open to answering questions from colleagues in the community via email. I hope that as I share my experiences I am mentoring those coming behind me, but I sense a lack of knowledge about those who have paved the way, of those who I can learn from. What this speaker reminded me of was that we have leaders in the field who may not be recognized, yet have much to offer. I believe there is a need for more formal mentoring structures to help get people together. There are many of us—particularly females over 35—who don’t necessarily have a lot of role models to learn from. We have a lot of great peers, but the women who have gone before us are unsung heroes, women who haven’t been recognized and are still trying to get by in a corporate culture that is predominately male. This speaker reminded me that mentors are out there, and we all should seek out one or two, as well as remembering to be one ourselves.
In conclusion, I enjoyed this conference, and for being a ”dot two” release (dot one was the Forum at SIGCHI last year) the organizers did a good job. The days were interesting, I feel like I learned a few things and, most importantly, I felt excited to be a part of this vibrant, rich, and curious community, particularly at this point in time. I would love to hear how others felt, and welcome your thoughts and feedback. I’m sure our feedback will be welcomed by the organizers as they plan the next version of DUX.
- AIGA Case Study Archive As of this posting, the DUX cases had yet to be posted but keep checking back.
Some other conference thoughts can be found from other attendees here:
- brad lauster day 1 | day 2
- Aaron Oppenheimer
- Amy Lee
- Danny O’Brien (who by the way was on Nico’s panel)
- Gene Smith’s photos
There is also discussion going on at the AIGA Experience Design [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AIGAExperienceDesign] list about the conference and other attendee’s thoughts as well as a few posts on SIGIA-L (archives) [http://www.info-arch.org/lists/sigia-l/0306/0077.html]