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Highlights from HITS Part 3: Summary Thoughts

The prior two posts weren’t the only things that happened at HITS. Don Norman exhibited remarkable contradiction by railing against BusinessWeek’s annual design awards for focusing on the external aesthetics and not about deep use, only to then talk about how an object’s beauty can create an emotional resonance that makes the fact that people can’t figure out how to use it moot. There were a few case studies of design processes leading to business success, most of which seemed like a way that ID can crow about how its grads are doing great work out in the world. Larry Keeley of the Doblin Group charmed the crowd with his Big Idea talk on innovation[5.1MB PDF], presented like a true showman. (It’s also clear Larry is super smart. For those playing along at home, many moons ago I posted about the Doblin Group (scroll down to September 16, 1999))

Overall, I found HITS 2003 a worthwhile experience. (Literally–I think it’s the only conference I paid for out of my pocket all year.) There was a curious aspect to it. It’s an inaugural conference. I’ve been to two other inaugural conferences in recent memory (ASIS’ IA Summit in 2000, DUX in 2003), and both of those were very much a coming together of a community, bringing into a single place individuals who had felt a little lost or uncertain of their professional stature, making it clear that there is a place for them.

That did not happen with HITS. There is no identifiable “design + business” community. I think because the problem is too big, too diffuse. Design and business intersect at so many points — how people interact in an organization, the value that design adds to products and services, the use of design methods to inform anything from high-level strategy to specific object, brand, etc. etc. — that it can never be the nexus of a clearly defined community. I mean, I’m definitely interested in where design and business meet, but I didn’t feel like I was among “my people” at HITS. Again, not that I didn’t enjoy it — it’s just didn’t feel transformative the way those other two events did.

  1. “There is no identifiable “design + business” community” — perhaps YET? I mean, maybe having this group of people together, with a common goal, is a big cultural step forward. I don’t mind being a freak at a conference, like being a specialist in user research at a design conference, provided that they’ve come along enough that research is part of the menu, if not part of everyone’s specialty. I’ve sort of become used to it. But I do agree that when you try to combine two things that belong together anyway, maybe it’s going to take some time. I said “I agree” – but maybe with myself only since you didn’t really say that.

    Anyway – the two things – design; business – are intertwined that even having to say + seems silly.

    I mean, I’d rather refer to myself as a consultant, since that’s most of what I do and is a big enough umbrella – oops I almost started channeling Sting.

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