Hilversum, the Netherlands, where interaction14 will take place
Arguably for any discipline to advance in its practice it needs to have a solid means for educating its future practitioners. This is doubly true when the demand for that discipline is at a pace that is far exceedingly the rate at which practitioners can be "created" otherwise. In 2009, Jared Spool saw this reality coming. He led an amazing panel at the Interaction Design Association's (IxDA) annual conference, Interaction09, in Vancouver, British Columbia. The panel was called "Hiring the Next Generation of Designers," in which Jared asked, "Where are the next 10,000 interaction designers going to come from?" While in most academic terms four and a half years is not very long, in the digital design world it is a very long time ago.
For me, the Interaction09 conference was on the heels of a major moment in my own life. I moved away from practice and into Education because, like Jared, I felt the pressure that was and continues to be on interaction design education. And for over four years, I led the interaction design program at a prestigious Art & Design college, the Savannah College of Art and Design. During that time, I felt the pressures on interaction design education. I was trying my best to make students that were better than what industry needed and at every turn my successes felt limited to only a small selection of outstanding students. Students who brought the soft skills they needed to me and whom I just curated a collection of knowledge and tools to make them better prepared and those that came ready left ready getting hired into positions directly out of school at organizations like frog, Adaptive Path, Philips, Siemens, Smart Design and IBM.
But through all this success, it was still clear to me that there was a growing disparity between what I was offering and a what a large number of employers were looking for in their Junior employees. We have entered an industry that is increasingly unforgiving compared to design careers in the past. I felt at odds with much of my peers who were still 100% in industry. I started to look for ways to engage industry through my connection with the IxDA. Right after the 2009 conference, I started a conversation with people both in education and in industry interested in helping me start a competition geared towards highlighting how awesome both students and design education institutions were. We called it the International Interaction Design Student Competition. We had about 15 judges, of whom eight made it to the main conference and of whom five were part of a panel of "mentors" for the finalists, who were all given a free trip to Savannah, GA, for Interaction10. They were given a challenge to design something in a short time and find ways to present their skills and mindset to the community of attendees as a whole. The event was a success in so far as it got a new conversation happening among industry and design educators.
But it didn't feel like enough. So while I was supporting the student competition, online I asked the question, "Would you attend a conference about interaction design education?" I got more than enough responses and at the very same moment I posted my query a colleague and friend, Haig Armen, of Emily Carr University was positing almost the very same question. We found each other and began planning for Interaction13 the very first Interaction Design Education Summit.
For the inaugural event, we brought together 25 people interested in education to listen to provocations from educators within different contexts and then to workshop around those same provocations. Although the outcomes were not as I had hoped, I do think it was a successful and well-timed event. I didn't even know that the hosts of the next year's Interaction conference were already thinking along the same lines and wanted to lead their own initiative. So we coupled our talents together to help prepare this year's event with lessons learned from the previous year and we have prepared an amazing single-day event for people interested in the intersection of education and interaction design around the world.
First, we will bring back Jared Spool who has dove head first into the world of formal digital design education with the soon to be launched Unicorn Institute, which is taking on the heart of this challenge. But we are also bringing one of the founders of two amazing interaction design programs, RCA and Ivrea Institute of Interaction Design, Gillian Crampton Smith and industry leaders with strong ties to education, Dan Rosenberg from SAP and Fred Beecher, from the Nerdery. Fred has most recently launched and has been documenting his learnings of the Nerdery's formal apprenticeship program—one of the first of its kind.
Similar to the first year, the topics of the conversation will center around the following:
- Alternative education models
- Design schools versus industry
- Online presence and portfolios
- And new forms of apprenticeship
Other topics that area sure to come up in the conversation is the goals of education and the outcomes necessary to produce the skills needed for today's practitioners of interaction design.
Registration is open. You do not need to be attending the Interaction14 conference if you want to only attend the Education Summit, but that's just silly.
I hope to see you at the Interaction Design Education Summit this February in Amsterdam regardless of whether or not you are in education or in industry. We will definitely make it a rewarding and thought-provoking day.
About Dave Malouf
Dave Malouf is an interaction designer with close to 20 years experience designing at the cross-roads of technology, people and business. He is one of the primary founders and the first Vice President of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA). Dave's passion for evangelizing and teaching interaction design, came to a climax in 2008 when he co-chaired the first Interactions conference, Interaction 08 | Savannah. The overwhelming success of this sold out event has catapulted interaction design and IxDA.