“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

IxD New York City Style – event report back

Last night, Nov. 29, 2005, the local New York City IxDA group had an event entitled, “IxD NYC Style!”. Five panelists representing fairly different types of user experience environments came together in the JPMorgan Chase building in Midtown (Thank you JPMC!!!) in front of 100 attendees.

The event displayed in high contrast the broad differences and yet similarities between the different panelists who work in divergent types of design environments: industrial/product design, advertising, media, online service/media, and financial services.

The panelists were:
Robert Fabricant of Frog Design
Lawrence Lipkin of Ameritrade
Peter Rivera of AOL
Kip Voytek of R/GA
Jackson Young of MTV Networks

Moderated by Josh Seiden of 36 Partners

Each of the panelists started out by introducing themselves and their companies and departments they worked for. It was clear in the beginning that all of the panelists looked at IxD quite differently and presented their work in a very different relationship to the discipline. Each of the presentations in their own way highlighted how they do their work probably more articulately than they realize:

  • The two media companies mainly spoke about presenting content, and their environment of mass production while at the same time showing very glitzy screenshots
  • The advertising agency, talked about process, project types, and did a case study.
  • The product design company used case studies to tell a story about the relevance and importance of IxD to the products that they work on, and explained how physical projects differ greatly from virtual ones
  • The financial firm couldn’t have slides because of legal bureaucracies. And then described the structure of their group and the types of projects that they work on, which is a very business analyst styled environment.

After the presentations the moderator then asked questions where each panaelist got to answer. Some themes that came out of the question answer period:

  • There is no clear definition of what IxD is and how it fits into their organizations. There is more of a generalist, “T-shaped” approach, where it is expected that everyone understand human relationships to solutions being designed. Only 2 of the 5 had IxD as a title in their organization.
  • When looking to hire people, a big emphasis was put on the portfolio by many, but it was also clear that this cannot be enough because in today’s collaborative environment it is very unclear who does what on a project. Having a deep passion, an analytical mind, and a personality that fits the organization or team are just as important. Of particular note was a comment made by Robert Frabricant that he is looking for people who can bring something different to his organization. have an interest in something anything that differentiates you from the rest of the team. He used the example of scuba diving.

The audience question and answer period brought down the mighty, “What is IxD?” The answers were telling in how most of the answers alluded that such a definition seems unimportant to their practice as it doesn’t seem to derive value in helping them achieve their goals. Many of the panelsts held on to defining interaction deigners and not interaction design itself and as we have learned at IxDA for quite a long time, this always leads to problems. Robert Fabricant again came up with a great easy definition, that seemed to satisfy people’s curousity by stating that it is the design of the “feedback loop” between a user and the products or systems they are using. Kip Voytek took the approach of saying glibly, I can’t quite define it better than how they have at IxDA, but I know when it isn’t there because the solutions are bad.

All and all the event seemed to be a big success and a great way to get the 2005/2006 rolling. the NYC IxDA Group has started planning a series of events to take place in 2006 from January to June:

  • Career Development
  • Marc Rettig coming to NYC
  • Ubiquitous Computing
  • Web 2.0 & IxD
  • IxD 1-day Workshop with Robert Reimann
  • You make the call … contact nyc (at) ixda (dot) org and tell them what you want to see
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