AN OPEN LETTER TO MEMBERSHIP FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Dear IDSA members,
The long-term impact of 2020 will reverberate for some time to come, yet I’m glad to have many of the challenges and uncertainties it presented us squarely in the rear-view mirror. Perhaps like no other time in recent history, we have had to rethink, retool, and readjust what it means to be a community. Delivering value and connecting our membership when so many of our collective norms were disrupted by COVID-19 was, at times, a monumental task. Nevertheless, the contributions of those in our community who dedicated their valuable time and energy toward creating IDSA experiences were able to overcome the obstacles of a pandemic and provide opportunities where others could participate, share, and learn from one another. I am extremely proud of what IDSA was able to accomplish in 2020 and I am even more excited for the opportunities approaching us on the horizon.
I, along with IDSA's Board of Directors, am pleased to provide you with the following Membership Update. Our goal in sharing this update with you is to strengthen our collective understanding of the Society's current plans and to provide you with a glimpse of what you can expect in 2021. If you haven't had the opportunity, I'd also encourage you to watch the 2020 membership meeting presentation, which took place in September 2020, for some additional insight on IDSA's performance and our future planning.
Detail of Dr. D'Wayne Edwards' (PENSOLE Academy) article in the Winter 2020 issue of INNOVATION magazine.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
Some of my earliest work as IDSA’s executive director involved weaving in the importance of DEI to our internal discussions and strategic planning. With so much of our programming reliant on the volunteer support of our members, it is vital that we align our mission towards building an environment and infrastructure that enables our community leaders to create content that truly reflects the diversity of our community and elevates voices from divergent backgrounds and perspectives. We want everyone who wishes to be a part of the IDSA community to feel that they can be. We want them to experience a culture where they feel appreciated and empowered to contribute to our success. We want everyone to feel that they belong and are valued for their participation.
In July of 2020 we established a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council (DEIC). This group of volunteers began work almost immediately by formulating ideas and recommendations that will create positive change across three spectrums. First: significantly increase diversity and minority representation in IDSA's core programming, events, leadership teams, membership, publications, partnerships, awards, and scholarships. Second: develop new pathways and partnerships that will extend IDSA’s ability to support minority and low-income communities, and to increase access to industrial design education and professional opportunities. Third: be a catalyst in transforming the industrial design industry so that it better reflects our diverse country and world, and to dismantle the structural racism and inequities that permeate design and our communities.
Moving into 2021, IDSA is preparing to dedicate financial and operational resources towards helping the DEIC achieve their goals. Committing to and realizing their success will have a profound benefit that impacts so much more than just our organization alone. We want to demonstrate that institutional change is possible and we must lead by example.
Nicole McLaughlin presents during IDC 2020, a 24-hour continuous livestream virtual event.
Pivot to virtual and the return to something better
We all know that professional networking connections and being in a room together for design events are enduring hallmarks of the IDSA experience. It’s what we’ve always been good at and what we hope to return to as soon as we can safely do so. In the meantime, our pivot to virtual events has provided a unique opportunity to rethink how we create the environments and moments that connect us. Zoom fatigue aside, we now benefit from being able to join in on programming without leaving the comfort of our homes. Additionally, with recordings being made available for most events, attendees can watch (and re-watch) content at a time that is most convenient for their schedule. All this means that the barrier to attending events and learning from global design leaders is significantly lower now than it has ever been.
We had thousands of designers from around the world attend our International Design Conference and Deep Dive events in 2020. That number grows exponentially when you factor in the 80+ virtual events hosted by our professional chapters last year. These participation numbers simply weren’t possible when we did things the old-fashioned way. Knowing it would be difficult to truly replicate the in-person experience in a virtual setting, our content teams focused on curating and showcasing the highest quality content possible online. By leveraging IDSA's network and industry reach, we were able to attract top designers around the world to share their work exclusively with our audiences.
Looking ahead, what can we learn from our experiences with virtual events, and how might we blend those findings with in-person events to create a new hybrid model? How can we create a space for face-to-face interaction for those who can physically attend but that also allows others to connect virtually and from a distance? It’s an interesting design challenge to explore and we’re looking forward to rolling out new event experiences in 2022.
For now, we are remaining virtual for 2021.
Students at Drexel University celebrate National Industrial Design Day (pre-COVID lockdown) on March 5, 2020.
Membership benefits and opportunities of community
In my 2020 letter to membership, I wrote about centering our efforts on community and investing in our chapters. It’s important to revisit here because I firmly believe that one of the easiest ways to experience the value of IDSA membership is though active participation with your local community, through your local chapter. Over the course of 2020, we were able to re-engage several dormant chapters and even establish new ones. We transitioned some chapters that spanned large geographic areas, such as Texas, to become city-based community groups. As a result, we’ve seen increased activity and renewed energy around creating localized design events that build community and allow individuals to take proactive leadership roles. An IDSA leadership position provides the opportunity to learn new skillsets, gain visibility, and connect to a larger network of other motivated individuals. This will become even more meaningful when we can return to in-person events.
I am often asked, “What is the value of IDSA membership?” My response lately has been, “Well, it depends on you." The IDSA value proposition is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Rather it is greatly contingent on one’s current situation and what you are looking to achieve. For example, a recent college graduate is likely going to value something very different from someone who is 40 years into their career. This means that IDSA, as an organization and as a community, is built to provide different opportunities to people who are at different points in their career. This value delivery matrix becomes even more nuanced when the multitude of different industry specializations is factored in.
So, how do we approach this? IDSA is, at the same, curators and broadcasters of content. The relevance and value of this content is largely derived from members of our community, who can leverage our growing social media channels to their benefit. Every member of IDSA who shares their story on our platforms, presents at an IDSA event, or writes an article for INNOVATION magazine becomes a part of IDSA’s legacy. This is how we advocate for the profession and simultaneously support overlapping generations of designers. I believe, and it’s been my personal experience, that being a member of the IDSA community gives you access to opportunities. What you do with these opportunities is up to you, but joining IDSA makes all of them possible.
Thank YOU for being here and for making this Society what it is today. Your contribution is inherent to our value.
Upcoming in 2021
America by Design: Innovations
Over 4 million viewers watched IDSA’s first foray into television with “California by Design” and “New York by Design.” Following this success, IDSA is continuing its partnership with MWC Productions, a television production company with offices in Australia and New York, for the creation of a nationwide broadcast television show called “America by Design.” Our goal with “America by Design” is to feature as many IDSA members as possible and broadcast your work to millions of homes across the United States. A show like this advances IDSA’s advocacy mission and introduces the profession of industrial design to millions of viewers across the country.
“America by Design” is planned to air in June-July 2021 in the following U.S. areas: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minnesota, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. After the TV showing, each episode (6 in total) will be available for free on YouTube and other streaming services.
2021 Program Calendar
We have an exciting and comprehensive schedule of events and programming slated to span the entire year of 2021. This is all on top of the local activity you can expect from our Chapter communities across the country. Much of the content and opportunities created by these programs will only be available to ticket holders or current IDSA members. Be sure to mark your calendar and make it a point to get involved.
These events support a key IDSA mission of community by creating environments that foster engagement, networking, and knowledge exchange. Your participation makes it possible for us to create unforgettable moments for designers across disciplines to share what we've learned with each other and build lifelong relationships.
Investing in Our Communities
In 2020, our team was working in the background to plan and align resources in support of future growth for two important IDSA programs:
Sections (begun in 1992 with the Women's Section) is a platform to connect members of our community around shared interests. Sections are repositories of design knowledge organized by industry special interests. We have built new guidelines, toolkits, and operational infrastructure to better support Section leaders. This will result in more activity and value for those who particpate in this program.
Women in Design has grown beyond expectation and we are excited to begin the work of creating IDSA Women in Design Chapters. These groups will operate much like IDSA's Professional Chapters and will provide valuable programming for womxn designers in local communities in cities across the United States. This is aimed at fostering positive gender equity within our profession and in celebration of the tremendous impact womxn industrial designers have within our businesses and society at large.
More information on both of these programs will be announced soon!
For now, our community is safe at home with each of you. We look forward to seeing you in person again as soon as we can safely do so. As always, thank you for your continued support of our Society and for your dedication to building something greater than any one of us could do alone. It’s only through our collective efforts that we can advance the value of industrial design as a professional practice and solidify our legacy through the positive impact industrial design can have for millions of people around the world.
Chris Livaudais, IDSA
Executive Director - Industrial Designers Society of America