Nate Jensen of the Creative Group facilitated the night’s discussion at the Blink UX design studio.
The goal of the talk was to discuss the future of UX in San Diego, how the San Diego design community stacks up against other major metropolitan cities, and which UX skills will have lasting value.
Nate asked a series of tough questions to the panelists, and the audience was encouraged to ask questions throughout the discussion.
Nate Jensen, Direct Hire Recruiter @ The Creative Group
Sarah Hernholm is the Founder/President of WIT – Whatever It Takes and Smart City.
Brant Cooper is the author of the New York Times bestseller “The Lean Entrepreneur” and CEO of Moves the Needle.
Ali Hussain is the VP and Head of User Experience & Design at American Specialty Health.
Brant kicked off the event by talking about where the current design trends are, locally and nationally.
San Diego is behind the rest of the big metropolitan cities on the importance of design and how to integrate it into their existing processes. However, some companies do it well. Intuit is a good example. San Diego has come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go. Young designers in San Diego will be the ones to bring design to the next level in the industry.
Where are some of the companies focusing their resources on product services?
The panel added that the value is in specialization. Have a superpower as a researcher, designer or whatever it may be. However, in the next five years or so there may be a rise for different kinds of specializations. You may have to design for your environment or your AI, not just the user. The interface will evolve as it learns.
With specialization, designers also have to know how the business works. To be effective at your job you have to understand how the rest of the organization operates. Gone are the days that we move pixels or conduct research. We have to understand how the design gets serviced. For example, how will your design work impact the call center? Design needs to be harmonious with the other parts of your business. For that to be successful, you need to know about your business. Have your specialization, but understand what’s going on around you and outside of your team. Apply “design thinking” toward your business. That’s when designers impact the bottom line.
What opportunities are there for young people or perspective professionals to learn or understand (design) before they reach the professional sphere?
We need more learning opportunities. Knowing buzzwords and trends don’t mean that a teacher is prepared to teach.
What are some of the tools teens are using and how is it influencing their ideas?
Sarah responded that teenagers don’t want to be on Facebook, because mom is on Facebook. She would like to see how they’re using the different platforms. Sarah added, “I like giving youth the space to create and to build. That’s what they’re good at. “
In what ways should an enterprise behave like a startup?
Brant replied that large enterprises are good at execution and they understand their market. They have an execution engine. The whole company is built around that engine, but they may have a problem growing and sometimes may be losing revenue.
Startups are the exact opposite. They have no execution engine, and they don’t understand their market that well. Sometimes they don’t understand the problem at all! Startups face massive uncertainty. Startups are optimized for learning. Once they learn then, they start to execute.
By contrast, large enterprises have much less uncertainty but should act like a startup wherever uncertainty exists. We help them apply the entrepreneurial spirit at a large enterprise, which includes empathy work, rapid prototyping, using evidence to make decisions and apply that wherever there’s uncertainty.
Find out how to do empathy work. Do the work to gain a deep understanding of your customers. Gain an understanding of their needs, desires, aspirations. Then, when you’re designing you have those elements in mind, not just a feature.
Do experiments to validate or invalidate the riskiest assumptions. Let that become the foundational layer. Then if you build your specialization on that foundation, you become the most employable person in the world! The world is changing, switching from one platform to another. That is how agile our customers are. We have to be just as agile.
The panel added that organizational structure is sometimes why design teams fail. In addition to learning how to learn, we have to know how to share that knowledge. We have to apply design thinking to the user and also the organization. It’s important to understand the hopes and fears of the organization.
Ali went on to say that it’s ok to pitch an idea and get shot down. Just be persistent. Do your homework before pitching an idea.
How are young adults preparing to enter into an industry? Are they corporate focused? What are they thinking about when they’re exploring new ideas?
The panel responded that we’re raising a generation that doesn’t have resilience or grit. Kids are afraid to have a wrong answer, and that’s going to translate into the boardroom. They also added that we need that environment of psychological safety to be ok with failing.
A lot of the corporate environments are changing with innovation labs, hip workspaces, and nerf guns to attract millennials who don’t want to work in corporate environments.
What can we do to drive the design culture forward in San Diego and not lag behind Silicon Valley? On a personal level, what do you recommend? Do you try to make things happen here? Do you go up to Silicon Valley and come back and bring that culture here?
The panel’s consensus was to stay in San Diego and be that change. Find like-minded people that share the same frustration, then do something of value at your company. Be scientific about it, iterate and present it. No matter the outcome, they’ll see that you want to do more than what you’re being told to do. Don’t just bring an idea, bring evidence. Do a design thinking happy-hour and see who shows up.
Don’t wait to create.
Don’t look for permission to show how great you are.
What skill that’s valuable today will not be valuable in 5-10 years and vice-versa? ( As a UX designer)
The term “Pixel perfect” doesn’t add value today or in the future. We build prototypes and do user testing, but what are we going to learn from it? Why are we doing it? How are you going to use that insight? That’s where the value is going to be.
There should be more value and importance on emotional intelligence (EQ), then the skills will come. EQ is the future skillset.
We may have some work to do, but that doesn’t mean that innovation cannot come from San Diego.
As long as we keep an eye out for future technology, cultivate our superpowers and continue to grow the UX community, it’s entirely possible for San Diego to be the next big tech hub.