Update on IDSA's District Design Conferences

Jan 28 2019 - 3:14pm


In November 2018, IDSA made an announcement that we were making changes to our events programming which included the discontinuation of our five District Design Conferences. While this news may come as a surprise, trust that no one at IDSA takes a change like this lightly and we would only make such a move as this if we knew something better was on the horizon.

At its core, the future of IDSA is built around a renewed focus on strengthened communities and quality content to return a lasting stabilization in health of the Society and an improved membership experience.

Yes, IDSA’s District Design Conferences have been a mainstay in our event portfolio for many years. Over time they have evolved considerably. From the early bare-bones gatherings in a hotel or studio space to a highly orchestrated multi-day event featuring high caliber content, workshops and post-event socializing. The level of expectations participants had for these events has also continued to increase with each iteration. Even with valuable volunteer support, the later version of DDCs have become progressively more complex in terms of logistics and resources required to produce while maintaining an affordable price point.



All this while schools and other groups across the country started to introduce their own, similarly structured ‘conference-style’ events. These are often free or offered at a very minimal ticket price. Over the next year, we intend to amplify how we support professional chapter leadership teams such that they are better enabled to contribute to this type of programming. In this way, IDSA can have a presence while helping bridge the gap between students and professionals at the local level. Additionally, by strengthening our local chapter’s ability to produce their own quality events, we can further ensure that design students will have more opportunities to connect and engage with the community in their area.

Let’s be clear. The decision to not do DDCs is in no way a decision to not support student designers, design educators or the academic community as a whole. IDSA stands side by side with this group in a shared desire to support students as they learn about industrial design and assist with their transition into the workforce as productive and talented professional designers. This has not, nor will it change.

IDSA must leverage its resources and capabilities to provide something truly unique and beneficial to everyone who interacts with our programming. The redesign of the International Design Conference (IDC) 2018 in New Orleans was the first step and realization of IDSA’s new future vision. It marked a decisive shift in IDSA’s approach to events and offered a new type experience for IDSA gatherings. Our next IDC will carry this momentum and take place in Chicago in August.



In 2019 IDSA is introducing ‘Deep Dive’ events which are day-long occasions where diverse groups of students, educators and practitioners can share in ID-relevant content built around a specific subject matter. Hence the name, ‘Deep Dive.’ These will feature a mixture of speaker/presentations, interactive skill-building workshops, off-site experiences and more. The first Deep Dive of 2019 will support our rapidly growing Women in Design community and will be held May 3 in San Francisco. The second Deep Dive will focus on Medical Design and will take place in October in Boston (more info later in the year). Both Deep Dives and IDC 2019 will offer a discounted student / academic rate to encourage and enable young designers an opportunity to experience a high quality, professionally produced design event. In 2020 we will expand the offering to 3 Deep Dives per year, with the possibility of more should demand necessitate. 

A quick word on SMA’s - The Undergraduate and Graduate Student Merit Award competition will continue and will remain a highlight of our academic programing. Judging for both will now take place entirely online. Having judging for both programs run online will enable several key advancements, most notably it will bring much needed standardization to the overall process and allow a more rigorous judging evaluation. Every school will still select their finalist in what is considered ‘Round 1’ of the SMA program - this will not be affected by taking the SMAs online. One SMA Finalist would be selected by each school to continue into Round 2 of the competition. Round 2 is the online portion and is open for submission from March 1 - April 1. We’ve updated the SMA webpage and posted a complete update to the SMA Eligibility and Guidelines for 2019. Please have a look.


Change is never easy, and we look forward to collaborating on ways to further support both students and faculty in the future. It is vitally important that we keep a constructive and ongoing dialog in place. We must not forget that we are all here around a common purpose.

Thank you for your support of IDSA.