Design Jam 3 – a revisit

by boon

Design Jam London 3

When I attended the first Design Jam last year, no one was really sure what to expect. It was great at the time when I was transitioning careers from being a hybrid dev/designer to full-time UX, as it gave me an opportunity to practice a lot of cool stuff I’d been dying to try out. I did skip the second one for several reasons, but by the time Design Jam 3 came around I was itching to give it another go since full-time UX started to feel quite repetitive.

My primary goal for the day was to keep things simple and to test how my UX skills had developed over the last 6 months. My plan was to avoid pre-selecting specific methods to use and to go with the flow. I wanted to know if I was more aware of the design process, and whether I was able to influence it towards a positive outcome. So, while the first jam was for me to test out UX methods, DJL3 was for me to evaluate my ability to navigate or influence the design process (which I feel is a core part of what UX designers do).

I think that overall, I’m quite okay at facilitating generative activities by prioritizing ideas, chunking activities up into tasks, having a ‘feel’ for the team’s flow and encouraging discussion. I was not so okay with the delivery part of the day when we needed to pull together to make something. With the generative part of the work, all I had to do was organize the information that my team members were freely sharing with each other. But with the delivery part of the day, I wasn’t really sure how to suggest an approach that worked for everyone – almost everyone had a different idea of what needed to be done.

In the end Jason Mesut stepped in and helped us formulate a plan. The mentors made a big difference that day and I was particularly pleased they were handpicked by the organizers to provide teams a balance of domain, team, and design advice.

While I certainly came away with some interesting insights from the day, I spoke to a lot of people who said they weren’t exactly sure what they got out of design jam apart from the fact that it was sort of fun. Some people were expecting to have a kind of workshop-like experience where they would be exposed to UX methods, which they could incorporate into their current work. Some said it would’ve been better to be assigned into teams for skill balance, rather than assigning themselves to teams in a semi-random fashion.

I agree that its impossible to please everyone, but I think that it may be worth reflecting on what attendees really want out of a design jam. For me, it was first a place for me to try out UX methods, and then a place for me to evaluate my design skills. But for others, it may be something completely different.

I wonder if there are patterns that are starting to formulate, seeing that Design Jam is now in its third iteration, that could help shape future iterations of the jam in a new way. So far the formula for a design jam hasn’t really changed very much. On the other hand, maybe all we really need is for design jam to be a testing ground of sorts for multidisciplinary teams to work on something and have fun at the same time.

Either way, I hope and trust that future iterations of design jam exceed the community’s expectations for a UX hack day.

Check out my team’s work here at http://djlon0310.tumblr.com