Dwelling on One Day for Design

April 13th was the one day for One Day for Design (1D4D), an event conceived of by AIGA to “bring together a global community of designers and design enthusiasts to exchange ideas, challenge viewpoints and push boundaries in a real-time, online global debate” about the future of design, led by an impressive line-up of moderators.

What a fantastic notion! For our part, we were excited to be part of the conversation, and to see how AIGA pulled it off. When the day arrived we were ready. We dutifully signed onto the website and Twitter and TweetDeck, ready to talk design… and were paralyzed. Random content was scrolling by at a feverish pace, too feverish to manage. Tweets we could grab ahold of felt disjointed and distracted (as did we). The velocity of tweets is a testimony to the power of the idea, certainly, but also made for an unsettling user experience. Other people felt similarly. A series of responses and critiques have since surfaced.

  • One Day for Design – Deep Dive by DoubleThink out of Minnesota is a great analysis of 1D4D Twitter data showing how much work it takes to pull patterns and value out of the “waterfall,” as Phong puts it.
  • MJ Broadbent posted AIGA’s One Day for Design Conversation to the IxDA discussion list, calling the event laudable, but “kind of a mess to follow and participate in.”
  • Frank Chimero focused on the content of the 1D4D conversation (calling his post Designers Poison) but noted first that “Twitter seemed like the wrong place for the discussion, because it presented a conversation on design that required holistic thinking in a fragmented manner.”
  • On GOOD, Dylan Lathrop wrote in Global Twitter Conversation Proves Designers Don’t Get It that “try as hard as they might, moderators couldn’t contain the endless barrage.”
  • Equally pessimistic was Lindsay McComb on TheMetaQ, in Why design can’t be described in 140 characters:”I felt as though my tweets were a drop in a massive ocean of irrelevance.”

We felt similarly. Back here at the ranch, it was only a matter of minutes before the impulse to analyze and think about improving the experience kicked in. How could this be better? What exactly felt so daunting? The event’s energy was exciting but it was unclear what people were trying to accomplish on this day and how this energy would/could be harnessed to do that. So many different types of people were taking part; surely their objectives differed. And underlying it all, how was Twitter faring as the de facto forum for this event?

Based on our brief brainstorming, we identified a few generative ideas and themes (in other words, we’re staying away from the “put the comment box near the newest not the oldest tweet” UI tweaks that others are so much more qualified to address, and sticking with our sweet spot – teeing up the questions that lead to a broad swath of new solutions). After all, what’s possible when you have 3,900 engaged designers (and design enthusiasts) from all fields eager to talk?

Let Moderators Moderate!
Allow a little lag time (think about broadcasting’s 7-second delay) to give moderators a chance to filter, sort, and respond. This could result in something like moderated “channels” to follow.

Segment the group
Allow people to self-identify as being affiliated with certain disciplines, areas of interest and/or years of experience, enabling participants to establish and dwell in affinities and also to make targeted connections beyond them.

Anticipate and Seed Topics
The topic of design is broad (understatement alert!). AIGA and/or moderators could anticipate or encourage certain topics. Participants and the community at large could benefit by a little time prior to the big day to pull thoughts together and perhaps even engage in dialogue outside of the event.

Better Control Content
There are numerous ways to imagine enabling people to organize the information stream. Self-tagging? Content-bots? Anything that would allow people to create their own “channels” based on individual interests. Essentially Twitter’s existing “Trending topics”, we imagined a dynamic hashtag cloud that would guide people towards what others are talking about and help to get them there.

There are three of us in this office. Our interest in 1D4D, which we all shared, bore no relationship to our interest in (and experience with) Twitter, which varies wildly. Master and neophyte alike should be able to participate in the conversation without a black belt in Twitter. Help people by providing a semi-curated experience.

There are many good reasons not to include some of these ideas into general Twitterings, as they introduce constraints on the free-form and user-generated stream of consciousness experience that defines Twitter. We’ve weighed in elsewhere on the challenges Twitter faces in general and those factors can be exacerbated when large numbers of people convene with a larger purpose for a time-bounded conversation. Perhaps some scaffolding would improve the ability for more meaningful exchanges, enabling serendipity without letting serendipity reign as the organizing principle.

With all the fertile design minds out there as part of this conversation we’re sure that others have ideas. Let’s hear ’em!


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