March 17, 2014
So…today’s been my first full day back post-conference thus it seems only fitting that I should make Donald Schon proud and be a reflective practitioner about the whole experience…well at least a little bit. And, since I need to get back into the writing habit sooner than later, what better place to do it than here with the sacred 500-ish words.
First off, let me say that the conference was totally beyond all of my expectations. I don’t know what exactly I was thinking it would be (because honestly I was so fried by the week preceding it) but I can say I had no idea every speaker and almost every session would be an somewhat of an “aha” moment for me. Perhaps it’s because I lead and work on an entirely location neutral team or perhaps it’s because my own educational journey is one that is so obscure, but whatever the case may be at the conference I discovered others who not only were tracking with me but actually understood a bit what I get amped up about and, oddly enough, get excited about it too. There is indeed deep life-giving power in hearing the two simple words, “Me too”.
In the week leading up to the conference I was getting so tired being the only one doing all this big stuff and being the “only one” who cares about these ideas and (falsely) seems to be fighting alone. Little did I know…there’s a whole tribe behind me. Though we work in different spaces and with vastly different student populations, our core struggles are way more similar than they are different and the battles we all fight routinely are way more connected.
The big idea of the conference itself was design Research. Yep, that’s a capital R on that word and it’s not a mistake or typo (and remember…designers don’t make typos since we’re the visual elite. : ) So about this Research….basically the gist is that design isn’t taken to be a legit field because it’s so young in the relative scheme of things and because its practitioners operate more on a “tacit knowledge and instinct rock!” framework than a “because my ontology is _______ and my epistemology is ______ therefore my axiology is _______” framework. Basically design just hasn’t done the things that it needs to, to be taken seriously and because of that it’s not taken seriously though legit it should be because we live in a designed world and in that way, design really can change the world. After the first day, I think all the attendees had gotten academic Research hyped up enough that we could have all begun chanting “Go Design Research!” in rhythmic, sports fan fashion and started doing the wave if anyone had managed to get organized about it.
The second big idea of the conference was to keep it all human. As designers we have the unique gift of being able to tap into empathy, I’d posit, way more than other professions because we make our living promoting other people’s passions and ideas. A successful designer needs to be able to get into other people’s heads and situations so that they can come up with the most appropriate solution. In research, the same holds true. If you don’t have a crystal clear focus on another person’s humanity, your research is kind of doomed to be forgotten or even worse…irrelevant.
To all of these ideas, I say a hearty Amen.