Changing Tides in Interaction Design

Going into 2019 we invited Interaction Designers (and any broadly related discipline) to give us input on the state of Design in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Several hundred reached out to us with their feedback, personal stories, broad and concrete asks, and an excitement to get involved in shaping the community. We then invited a select group to an interactive workshop for an opportunity to drill down further into the key areas of concern and opportunity that had emerged: Craft, Career, and Community.

Participating in the workshop were Designers, Researchers, and Innovators from companies large and small, innovation centers, educational institutions, related organizations, and consultants, in San Francisco and the Bay Area, i.e. a good cross section of the IxD ecosystem as it stands today. Affiliations included Google, Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, the CCA, Zaplabs, and more (see the full list of participants below).

Below is our high level insights and recommendations from the workshop — enjoy the read, and don’t forget to clap or comment, we’re here to keep the conversation going.

Thank you!

Daniela Busse and Anna Iurchenko (incoming Leaders of the San Francisco Interaction Design Association IxDA SF) & Maria Cordell and Sharon Cardinal (transitioning Leaders and incoming Advisory Board members of IXDA SF).

Email us if you’re interested in attending future events! Or join us on our social media links below where we will post announcements and calls for future participation in events, surveys, and also 1–1 interviews.
And get in touch if you are interested in partnering with us in any way — we have an active partner ecosystem that includes large tech, start-ups, agencies, related design organizations, educational institutions, etc, and are also looking to add more to the mix.

IxDA-SF WORKSHOP 2019

Key high-level insights and recommendations that emerged from our community workshop on Jan 29th, 2019.

IxDs are facing strong external forces

Technology and industry innovations are moving at breakneck speed, and IxDs in San Francisco and the Bay Area see themselves challenged to continuously be ahead of the curve in being ready to:

  • design for new technologies (AI/ML being the one most often mentioned here)
  • adopt new development methodologies (from a “diamonds-” to a “loop-”, i.e. an experimentation-based approach)
  • acquire new skill sets (a move towards designer coders? data-scientist researchers?)
  • and also take responsibility for the impact our products have on people’s lives (design ethics and accountability).

But change can be a force for good. Disciplines (and their tools and approaches) continuously evolve, they never stand still, and they take their leaders, practitioners, experts, and educators along for the ride. It’s a process of transition that can be stressful, and it’s also an opportunity to grow and thrive.

Interaction Design is on the move

The good news is that IxDs seem to be uniquely positioned to fare well in this transition. Their strengths of today is what future-proofs them for tomorrow. The skill-sets most needed by the tech industry in the future are predicted to be:

  • empathy and a human-centered approach
  • creativity and creative problem-solving
  • cross-functional (trans-disciplinary) skills
  • storytelling
  • a diversity mindset
  • accountability for outcomes

All of these are skills that IxDs already stand out for today.

In the day-to-day, not only are IxDs :

  • bravely embracing new trends and technologies (by e.g. ‘designing with data’, and by marrying Big Data with Design Anthropology)
  • they’re also working to entrench IxD in cultures of efficiency and professional standards (e.g. through Design Ops and Design Systems work).
  • And they’re standing up for Ethics and what they believe in (cf. Mule Design’s stance for Ethics, or the Google walk-out).

How can IxDA SF be of value to IxDs, and to the Discipline and Profession overall?

We centered the discussion around three main areas: Craft + Career + Community. We wanted to know:

  • How can we help IxDs excel at their craft?
  • What can we do to help advance IxD as a discipline (and craft) overall?
  • What can we do to help IxDs in SF and the Bay Area to advance and succeed in their careers?
  • What can we do to help IxDs create and get value out of a vibrant, supportive, inspiring community?

A general consensus emerged on the following needs and suggestions:

  • IxDs need more prolonged, hands-on, (ideally collaborative), guided/supported, learning opportunities of new skill sets and technologies, and also to deepen their current craft.
  • IxDs want to be in a community where they know one another better than just having met at one-off networking events or by hanging out on a big Slack channel together. They are looking for more lasting ties, and opportunities to truly connect.
  • IxDs are looking for support in their careers when it comes to job search (including processes and standards employed by companies during the interviewing process and salary negotiations), and progressing up the ladder (especially in smaller companies without an established larger internal IxD community and set of best practices).
  • Part of that is also a shared mindset, a shared culture, shared role models, shared accomplishments, and a shared awareness of what’s important in their community beyond San Francisco, too.

We’ll be discussing concrete ideas of how to tackle these on our new #friends-of-ixda-sf Slack channel! Please join us there to get involved and contribute to the discussion, and to take part in activities. Or just join our main Slack to listen in and get all the latest news and discussions on IxDA-SF. Email us and we’ll send you an invitation.

Yours truly,

IxDA San Francisco Leaders Daniela Busse & Anna Iurchenko with the lively and defining contribution by our workshop participants:

Natasha Blum (Blumline), Klara Pelcl (Zaplabs), Adam Williams (IBM Cloud Garage), Patrice Speed (Britelite Immersive, SheSays SF Leader), Amrita Chatterji (CCA), Jane Dobkin (PG+E), Polly Adams (Sutherland Labs, SDN SF Leader), Marymoore Patterson (Institute for the Future/self), Steven Streisguth (Thoughtworks), Zhen Li (Schlumberger Software Technology Innovation Center), Ashley Quinn (Riffyn), May Cheng (self), Kurt Bodden (IBM Cloud Garage), Stephanie Lucas (LinkedIn), Jina Anne (Sushi & Robots, Founder of Clarity), Ran Liu (Amplitude), Dan Turner (self), Ryan Hanau (Cognicencia), and IxDA SF Advisory board members Sharon Cardinal (Bill.com), and Maria Cordell (Apple Design).

On the list for future events include participants from Facebook, Eventbrite, Amazon, Adobe, Glassdoor, Cisco, Salesforce, GetAround, Evernote, Trulia, Zendesk, Yammer/Microsoft, JamCity, Dolby Labs, GoPro, Datadog, Wells Fargo, Ericksson, InVision, Udemy, Sephora, EchoUser, HexagonUX, Instacart, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), and Stanford University.

P.S.

We always knew, and got it confirmed in our recent survey, that IxDA SF is lived diversity — “IxD” by no means just stands for people with design school background, or even the word ‘design’ in their job titles today. 40% of IxDA SF come from a variety of design-related backgrounds; another 50% come from a mix of engineering, social science, psychology/cognitive science, Human Factors, and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and related disciplines. The remaining 10% are an interesting mix of political scientists, musicologists, philosophers, literature studies, to name just a few.

IxDA SF has an even split across age groups and genders. And about 50% are employed by large companies vs. 50% in smaller ones (i.e. under 1000 employees). It can’t get much more diverse and varied than this for IxD, as a discipline of Design in Tech.

We strive to always address this full mix and diversity in our population. So if we use the word “designer”, but your degree or job title is “engineer” or “researcher” or anything else, please do feel included, since that is our intention.

CREDITS

Author: Daniela Busse. Contributors: Anna Iurchenko, Maria Cordell, Sharon Cardinal. Workshop organizers and participants: listed above.

THANK YOU to Oracle San Francisco for hosting us for this workshop. Oracle would like to point out that they’re hiring: both Designers and Researchers. Don’t hesitate to get in touch!