How to Build a Better UX Community in Los Angeles

From Mentor Speed Dating to the UX of Dim Sum: the Changing Landscape of UX in Los Angeles

The landscape of Los Angeles is changing immeasurably. As things like the city’s job market, transportation infrastructure, and technology evolve, as do our communities. While Los Angeles is holding its place as one of the country’s most competitive design markets, there is ample opportunity for the industry to improve.

Professional development groups, such as the Los Angeles User Experience (LAUX) Meetup bring thought-leaders together to tackle this conversation about community and create an innovative path forward. I recently attended the LAUX Meetup event “Building a Better Community: Expanding the Impact of our Design Community” to capture different approaches for fostering, engaging, and supporting the different local design communities.

The panel, led by Lex Roman, Growth Designer, consisted of multidisciplinary designers who facilitate meetup groups in the Los Angeles area.

The Challenge of Urban Sprawl

In a city of more than 500 sq. miles, to say bringing people to the same physical location can be a challenge is an understatement. By facilitating a meetup, you create the opportunity for members of niche groups to find each other in this vast environment and foster the exchange of ideas.

Improving Participation

Let’s face it, when it comes to keeping these events up and running, organizers are faced with difficulties other than LA’s vast geography. Coordinating and promoting events are resource intensive. On top of that, it is vital that designers of varied seniority levels and backgrounds attend and participate in events to promote inclusivity and prevent echo chambers of thought.

Tech community organizers should also “be really good at cross-promoting and supporting each other. That’s how we are as a community, and that has grown really organically here in LA and I’m really glad to see that” says Arturo Perez, Founder of Kluge Interactive, who recently hosted an Evenings at the Loft with Health 2.0, a healthcare-oriented tech community.

Elevating Research and Design

For user research in particular (an area that is gaining significant recognition in the Los Angeles design community), regular meetup events emphasize its importance to the design process and therefore attract more talented researchers to Los Angeles. To help foster the development of more mature design teams and a stronger economy here in LA, Nuzi Barkatally, UX Consultant and MRes Healthcare and Design Candidate, suggests hosting more conversations directed to senior and director-level designers.

As for supporting people who are just entering the field, senior designers can be paired with junior designers for a lightning workshop to teach new skills such as in “mentor speed dating”. Mike Estano, UX Strategy & Creative Director at UNICEF Kid Power, explains this as having junior designers talk briefly about a specific issue with a senior designer to gain insight and learn new skills in a less formal environment.

Delicious Solutions

Grace Lau, UX Architect at PatientPop, has a more revolutionary (and delicious) solution to teaching UX newcomers essential research and design techniques. Through a workshop series dedicated to the “UX of dim sum”, new designers could pick up skill sets such as creating user personas that could eventually lead to the development of a portfolio piece.

Getting More Creative

As for other innovative ways to help improve the design community, maybe it’s time we integrate personal artistic passions into our design community. Nate Bolt, Founder of Ethnio, who created a popular one-and-a-half minute claymation video explaining information architecture, thinks that art is overlooked as a way to contribute to the community.

Nate says “creative passion projects can be so awesome to present an idea. In design and research, there is so much acceptance that if you have an idea and something to say about a product or a trend, and you can use your passion for creating art to make that into a commentary, people will respond to that.”

Going Forward

Continuing to educate companies on the importance of design thinking will help LA’s design economy mature and grow. By attracting people of other disciplines to come to the table and discuss challenges facing UX, we will spark new ideas and foster intelligentsia across communities. Lastly, by creating distinct opportunities for junior and senior designers to feel heard, we will enrich our community experiences and keep people coming back.