Design at the threshold

At our recent ixda board retreat (caveat – I’m an IxDA Director) there was overwhelming agreement that we (the org, network, & field) were at a tipping point. Technological culture has extended to affect so much of our experience*, and it’s clear that Design is going to play a pivotal role in helping us thrive in the world we’ve (largely unwittingly) designed for ourselves.

As a flavour of design that explicitly focuses on experiences enabled by design, ixd is where a lot of solutions, challenges and changes will be prototyped. By extension, IxDA can be seen as an important actor in the way these shifts in design practice and awareness of design play out.

Here’s some areas I can see IxDA playing a role:

Education: currently the world of interaction design education is very fragmented. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I do see an opportunity for IxDA to play a unique role in bringing programs together under the banner of a global education network to discuss approaches, challenges, and attitudes.

Mentorship: IxDA has an ongoing mentorship program (mentees here, mentors here) and has attracted a lot of people to participate. The requests for mentors far exceed those available, and that’s where I think a design approach can begin to help.

In a global network like IxDA, the mentoring relationship can be seen not only as a way to teach and pass on skills, but also as a way to make weak ties strong. Network theory stresses the importance of weak ties in information traversal, but strong ties are important for scaling the culture of an organization.

Its to this point that I think IxDA can really play a big part: scaling culture. The culture of professional collegiality is something I’d be loath to see these kinds of design lose, as I think there’s far more to be gained by working together than there is from working apart. Bodies like IxDA need to design themselves in order to generate the outcomes they seek: and culture is one of them.

What do I mean? well.. for starters: we have more mentees than mentors. How can we use this as the input for a service design that encourages/creates a culture of continual learning and mentorship? How can we mentor more of our network to be mentors?

* yep. I’ll put those two or three ideas together in one sentence. sosumi 😉

  • Cheng

    Thank you for this post. As I mentioned on Twitter, I’ve been thinking about mentorship in the UX community. I’ve just come back from the UX Australia conference with new knowledge but confusion as to how to combine it with my nascent UX skills.

    And while I received great informal advice, I sometimes wasn’t sure if I was asking too much and thought that perhaps a formal mentoring scheme such as the IxDA one could help.

    I suppose it’s a matter of matching needs and abilities, which formalised programs can make transparent, but mentors also deserve more incentive than community goodwill and, in the long run, creating a ‘culture of continual learning and mentorship’.

    It’s one to think about and something I’d love to keeping chatting about.