Another reason why I have been neglecting writing on this blog, aside from all of the events and meetups I am involved in, is because I am helping plan for the Big Design Conference 2019.
As part of that planning, I am helping to populate social media channels like LinkedIn, Twitter and the blog content on Big Design’s website. Much of my writing efforts will be devoted to Big Design’s website, so don’t expect content generation to be high on my own personal blog. Don’t worry, I will be back. But for now, see content I am working on the Big Design website.
“I heard about a need in the UX community, and I decided to meet it.”
This quote pretty much summarized the inspiration behind how the newest UX meetup group in Dallas got started. UX Research and Strategy, now just over a month old, has had one successful event so far, and continues to grow.
I regularly attend meetups, and while attending those, I heard repeatedly that attendees wanted more resources on UX research. They wanted to learn about different methods, best practices, how to “sell researcher to executives,” and other topics along those lines.
So I reached out to a couple of former co-workers and fabulous ladies, Lauren Singer and Lorie Whitaker to see if they were interested in helping me create a meetup group focused on UX Research, and with Lauren’s suggestion, Strategy too. They thought it was a great idea. First we crowd sourced the idea, to test that it was a valid concept. We posted the idea on LinkedIn to gauge interest in the topic. We got a lot of positive feedback and interest so we decided to move forward with the group’s formation. Thus UX Research and Strategy was born.
Our first meetup was held at Lifeblue in Plano. Our generous hosts provided food and beverages as well as an amazing view from their 12th floor balcony. Crazy storms rolled through just a couple of hours before our event was supposed to kick off. We were not sure if anyone was going to show up. No one wants to drive in monstrous thunder storms. But by the time the event started, the storms passed, the skies cleared, the temperatures dropped (a very good thing in Texas) and the crowd started rolling in. We had nearly 50 attendees which made our first meetup much more successful than we anticipated. Woot!
We first started the night with introducing ourselves and the group. We shared the group’s mission and motivations. Then we asked the attendees to participate in an exercise with us. The leaders of UX and Research and Strategy wanted to make sure that this group is meeting the community’s needs. This goes back to the original ask of what people felt was lacking in the UX community, and how we can fill that gap. What better way to get feedback on the group then have the members brainstorm the direction the group should go?
We asked the members to break in to smaller groups to come up with their hopes, fears and ideas for the group. Again, we wanted attendees to weigh in and help us shape the topics the group would cover through 2019 and beyond.
Everyone was happy to participate in this brainstorming activity. After the groups explored the fears, hopes and ideas for the UX Research and Strategy groups, we then recorded some of the highlights in a shareout so that all attendees could hear the fabulous ideas people had.
We wrapped up the night with a bit more networking and idea exchanging. What were the leaders of UX Research and Strategy planning on doing with this information? Planning out all of our future events, of course!
If you would like to stay on top of what the UX Research and Strategy group is up to, be sure to connect to us on LinkedIn. Also follow the group on Eventbrite to see all of the fabulous events we have happening in 2019 and beyond.
I have been reading Todd Henry’s book “Herding Tigers” recently and read about the three types of drivers for designers and creative people. Sure we’ve head about the different types of personality tests people can take to help them understand their strength and expressiveness. But I found this simple concept to be very helpful for me to understand the type of creative work I want to do.
There are three types of motivations that keep designers happy, driven and flat out inspired to carry on. Not all designers like to work on the same types of projects. I am going to discuss the three types of motivations for create people.
Live for the process of creating something new
Want a clean slate, a difficult problem to solve and no instruction manual
Not satisfied with tweaking something
In other words, Builders are your “big sky” type of designer who can be very creative comping up with an idea from scratch. He/she doesn’t want you to prescribe a solution. They want to come up with one themselves. So for the Builder, give them complete freedom to go hog wild and build or create the brand new design from the ground up.
Love analysis and diagnosis
Can quickly scan a situation, identify what is broken and find a solution
Can be paralyzed with a new project. The prefer some parameters
I think that Fixers love User Research and validation. Fixers can look at a website or app that already exists and can see the problems that are there and want to jump right in to correct the problems right away. Unlike the Builder, they may not feel like they can get started on a complete blank canvas. The Fixer prefers a foundation to get started with.
Love to take something good and make it great
Look for efficiencies and hate waste
Work best with defined objectives and ways to quantify performance
Finally, Optimizers are quite similar to Fixers. A blank canvas is not their forte. They prefer to work in an organized world with some boundaries already set. And there’s nothing wrong with that. This is why design systems and style guides exist. Some might even say that Optimizers are machine-like and want to “trim the fat” to make the most efficient user flow and task completion possible.
So what am I? A Builder, Fixer or Optimizer?
I think I am a cross between a Fixer and an Optimizer. I really do enjoy the “fixing up” and tinkering to make a system or interface better, more efficient and more streamlined. I don’t think this is as simple as just “making it look pretty.” Nope. In fact I really do not like that concept at all.
I am the type of person who like to take an older system and improve the process. I like to remove extra steps and bloat. I think the Optimizer also relates to the
“make sure you are on time,”
“there needs to be some organization and a bit of a plan going in to this” and
“don’t miss deadlines”
aspects of my personality. What can I say? I am organized and like an orderly world around me when I can get it. That does not mean I cannot go with the flow. Oh, I would not be able to be a UX designer if I could not adjust on the fly. It just means that I do prefer to have a bit of cleanliness in the chaos when possible.
Finally the researcher side of me also wants data and validation to support my design concepts and theories. I am not that crazy egomaniac that falls in love with my designs. I want to know that I am building the right thing, not just the thing right. I want to test my designs to make sure it is in the right track.
Which approach to you fall under when it comes to a project?
Due to popular demand, IXDA Dallas recently helps a UX portfolio review. Having been a person who had to enter the UX field mid career, I know the value of getting advice and feedback on my portfolio from peers and professionals.
Though we had a lower turn out than expected – typical of any free meetup – I would still hail the night as a grand success. We had nearly 10 lead designers who paired up with students who are graduating soon and professionals interested in transitioning into the field of User Experience Design. The only requirement was that the mentee bring a portfolio to go over – no matter how rough or under developed.
As one of the IXDA leaders, I was the designated floater and social media promoter. Some of the feedback I heard while floating around included:
Show your process
Explain the problem you were trying to solve
Include your name and contact information on every slide
Don’t apologize for your portfolio
If you are transitioning from graphic design, omit branding and print design examples
Don’t just show the final resolution mock up, include all of the rough sketches and interim designs to help tell your story.
And on that note, tell your story!
An event like this is mutually beneficial for those who are seeking feedback and for those who are giving advice. That’s the wonderful aspect of the UX community: giving back and helping others. We all have so much to learn from each other. Whether you are a seasoned UX designer, or a student ready to break in to the field, events like this provide strength, opportunity for growth and encouragement for all parties involved.
It’s that time of year again. It’s time to reflect on the goals that I set for myself, and see where I succeeded and where I fell short. Before I begins with my retrospective, let me just toot my own horn for a second and say that I am pretty pleased with how things shook out generally this year. 2018 was for of great professional opportunity and learning for me.
I want to take a look back at the Goals I set for 2018. Sure I did not accomplish everything. But it was a busy year and I did have a few small wins.
Finished two of the 3 books “Checklist Manifesto” and “Sprint.”
Wrote a good 12, long-format blog posts with valuable content. Plus, I succeeded at writing my series of “UX Tidbits” and “UX Quotes” sprinkled throughout he year.
I wanted to increase the account numbers for the twitters that I run.
On jnblatz on Twitter, my goal was 1,200 followers. I am around 1,800 so, not bad! No complaints since 1,200 was really ambitious.
Continue to learn Sketch well enough to mock up several designs to expand portfolio and skill set. – Success!
Create UX assets and deliverables to sharpen my skills and enhance my portfolio. – Always a work in progress. So I am going to claim semi-success for this one!
Wrap up the “UX Process” project I have been working on. – Failure. But gives me something to work on in 2019.
UX Community Involvement and Leadership
Launched the, much-anticipated IXDA chapter in Dallas. As a leader of the group, I’ve helped plan events, bring in great speakers and even moderated a large panel on diversity.
Acted as Social Media Chair for WIAD 2018. I guess I did a pretty good job at helping the event that I was recruited to organize the 2019 WIAD Dallas leg on the international event. Stay tuned for a write up about how WIAD goes in February 2019.
Spoke about UX Design Laws and Principles at North Dallas Product Owners Meetup.
Guest speaker for two sessions for the professional development course “Agile for Patriots.”
Worked for 2 charitable hackathons, doing research and design. I participated in BigGive Dallas and Dallas Give Camp. Both events were exhausting, yet fun and personally rewarding.
Have better work/life balance. – This one is a huge SUCCESS with the job change that happened in April. Much happier in my new work place.
2017 was not a great year for travel for me. This is especially true for international travel. – Sadly I must say 2018 was the same. Not a lot of opportunity for travel. Being a contractor is touch. But 2019 is a new year so fingers crossed!
Read more outside of UX. – I did read a couple of business and professional development books in 2018, so I can declare this a success.
Again, 2018 was a good year for me. I am thankful for my better job, good health, wonderful professional opportunities and great friendships I have made and maintained in 2018. What does a person like me do next? Start to think about goals and opportunities for 2019. Stay tuned.
The Dallas Chapter of IXDA (Interaction Design Association) participated in the first Word Interaction Design Day. Cities all over the world, in a number of formats, celebrated the day with speakers, panelists and activities to promote Interaction Design.
The theme for the first Interaction Design Day was Diversity and Inclusion.
For the Dallas event, we decided to host a panel of user experience, designers and leadership professionals to talk to students and audience members about how they promote diversity and inclusion in their work place. Since we were holding the event at UTD (University of North Texas Dallas) we knew there would be a number of students in the audience. So we also included a couple of students on the panel so that they could provide their perspective on the topic as well.
Sometimes with events, you have more topics you want to cover than time to cover them. I had a ton more questions than I knew we would be able to cover. Plus, with such a large panel, I knew that allowing 2-3 panelists to answer each question, and therefore offer a differing perspective, time would be short and questions would be few.
Some of the topics I wanted to cover included:
Why did you get in to UX design?
What do you wish you had known before starting a career in design?
How do you promote diversity and inclusion on your team?
How do you promote diversity and inclusion for your customers?
Student question: how do you promote diverse perspectives in your projects?
What are some of the questions a person should ask when going on interviews?
Student question: As a student, in relationship to diversity, what are you looking for in a work environment?
What advice do you have team members on overcoming bias? What about teams as a whole?
How do you handle the occasions when you aren’t included and should be?
How has your work environment changed since you first started your career?
Was there a time when you truly felt like you had a seat at the table? What led up to it and what happened next?
Wrap up topics
What advice do you have for people entering into this field and may not feel well-represented?
What advice would you give to those already in the field, but may not know how to promote a more diverse culture?
Of course, I only had the opportunity to ask a fraction of these questions. But as in typical Jen Blatz style, I was over prepared and made sure I had plenty of questions and topics to fill an evening. That is ok though. We still got to cover some really interesting topics in a short night. Students were very happy to learn from the professionals. The pros were happy to share their wisdom and experience. Audience members who were also professional gained a lot from the discussion. Overall, I would say the first World Interaction Design day was a success.
Guess who is the latest city to have it’s own IxDA chapter? Dallas!
Guess who is one of the co-founders and leaders of the local chapter? Me!
What is IxDA
That is a very good question. “IxDA, or The Interaction Design Association (IxDA) is a member-supported organization dedicated to the discipline of interaction design. Since its launch in 2003, IxDA has grown into a global network of more than 100,000 individuals and over 200 local groups, focusing on interaction design issues for the practitioner, no matter their level of experience.” Yep, I totally swiped that from their website.
So why does Dallas have a chapter now? Well, quite frankly, it’s time. We have an ever-growing Interaction and UX design community here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. There are a lot of major (and minor) companies with a strong UX presence locally. We want a place to gather, share ideas and feel like we belong.
Also, IXDA was created in Dallas to give back to the community. This is our chance, as interaction designers, researchers, product owners, information architects, students or whatever your profession might be to get more involved in your UX community. We don’t want this just to be the same old meetup where you show up, listen to a speaker and then leave. Oh no…. We want you to come to our events to participate, have an interaction with another human being, meet new folks, teach someone something you know, maybe even give a talk yourself. There is a fabulous design community in Dallas, and we want to give everyone a voice and a platform to get more involved.
“All people deserve to live in a well-designed world.”
Who are these leaders anyhow?
Well you know me, Jen Blatz. I feel very honored and privileged to be asked to join the leadership panel with two other great local UX designers. Coby Almond is a UX designer at Pivotal. Rahul Akbar a Design Thinking coach, and Creative Director at IBM. We casually met a couple of times to determine what value we thought this group could bring to the Dallas UX community, as well as how to kick everything off. Once we met, we decided that this was the right time and place to plant an IxDA tree to grow and nurture.
Nice to meet you
So this past week, we had our first meeting. I feel so honored that we had nearly 40 people show up to the event, curious and eager to get involved. We started off by introducing IxDA as an organization, along with it’s values and (best part) lack of membership dues.
Then we gave the mic to Dallas Give Camp. This is a local hackathon that brings together designers, product owners and developers for one weekend. In that weekend, these groups come together to design a website for a select group of charities to help the group better promote their cause and mission. This is also a great way for local designers to give back and help their local community.
Finally we wrapped up the evening with an interactive activity. We asked the room to break up in to smaller groups and grab the old stand-by of a Sharpie marker and a pad of Post-its. It was brainstorming time. We asked the groups to take a few minutes and come up with what they wanted the local IxDA group to be. Specifically, we wanted them to think in 3 themes for the IxDA group:
Their hopes and wants
Their fears no dislikes
Then we asked each group to select a representative to speak on behalf of everyone’s Post-it notes. To us, we view these notes as the way we should form and shape the local IxDA chapter. In the spirit of IxDA giving back to the community, we also want this community to decide what their want and need from this organization at the local level.
Overall, the first meeting of the Dallas IxDA chapter was a grand success. Not only did we have a good turnout, we also generated excitement and enthusiasm that some said has been missing from the UX community for quite some time. We hope that this enthusiasm grows as we host more meetings. Thank you to all of those who came out to “check it out.” And thank you for giving me the honor and opportunity to help bring this group to life and lead it to success.
We want you
Are you interested in participating in the IxDA community here in Dallas? Our next event will be World Interaction Design Day on September 25 , 2018. We are still working out the details so the best place for you to stay on top of the latest news is our @IxDADallas Twitter account.
Jennifer Blatz explores the world of UX through words and imagery