An open letter to membership from the Executive Director
Dear IDSA members,
2019 was a year of significant change for IDSA. We navigated an increasingly complex and competitive landscape in the battle for your time and attention. We implemented adjustments to some of our core programming (specifically awards and conferences) in order to operate in a more agile and adaptive way. And we set ourselves down the path of re-envisioning the IDSA membership experience for a new era.
Much of our decision making behind these changes is built around the core idea of Community + Content = Value. It’s a phrase I’ve spoken and written about in great detail during my two years as Executive Director, and it has become a foundational element of our strategic approach. This short statement is now embedded in everything we do at IDSA Headquarters and will continue to drive our thinking as we move forward.
Today, we find ourselves at the dawn of a new decade and I remain very optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead of us to bring expanded awareness, inclusion, progression, and success to our beloved Society. I am very thankful for the many of you who have continued to champion our cause and actively contribute to our community during this time of metamorphosis.
I, along with the 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 2020.
Members of IDSA staff and San Francisco chapter leadership at the 2019 Design Dodgeball Tournament
Centering on Community
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 40,000 industrial designers working in the United States. Many of these are current or former IDSA members. Many more still have never been members. But regardless of membership status, a core tenet of IDSA remains to serve the profession as a whole and advocate for the impact we all believe industrial design can have on business, society, and the lives of the people who use the products we create. Therefore, and by extension, this community of thousands of designers, both in the United States and in other countries around the world, represents the nucleus of IDSA.
By maintaining our focus on supporting the industrial design community and directing resources back to our membership, IDSA HQ has accomplished a great deal in just a few months. We have re-engaged with dormant chapters and are working to establish new ones. 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. Every day, we’re seeing more people in our community experience the value that real-life connections can offer.
After all, personal, one-on-one connections have long been the backbone of the IDSA experience. We are thrilled to have helped facilitate this resurgence in connections and can’t wait to see what comes next.
Cheryl Durst and Mark Wilson interact live on stage during day one of IDC 2019 in Chicago, IL
Elevating our Content
Over the past several months, our media channels have seen considerable growth and engagement. This is due in large part to highlighting the stories of our membership and keeping a close eye on the pulse of the industrial design and related industries. Just as in the early years of our organization, we are working today to build a platform that collects from, centralizes, and showcases one of our most valuable resources: you. You are at the forefront of our profession and you are actively driving its evolution. Thus, it makes sense that the content at our events, on our website, in print, and on social media is pulled directly from the collective knowledge base of our membership and is uniquely tailored to best respond to the transforming needs of our profession.
One clear indicator of this impact is that two of our major events in 2019 completely sold out by reaching the maximum capacity allowed in the venue. Both the Women in Design Deep Dive (April 2019 in San Francisco, CA) and the International Design Conference (August 2019 in Chicago, IL) quickly reached maximum capacity, and we were forced to close ticket sales prior to each event. With presentations from top-tier designers, hands-on learning activities, and off-site social experiences, the strength of the content at these events was certainly one factor in their successes. While we never like to turn anyone away, a full house is a sign that we’ve built something together worth participating in and that has demonstrable value.
The IDSA Staff has been working diligently behind the scenes on a range of other content-related improvements. For example, we’ve made several adjustments to our website to improve navigation, content hierarchy, and visual clarity. We also completely re-worked our membership renewal communications, updating the language and processes to make renewing your membership much quicker and easier. These types of details are paramount to improving the interactions you have with IDSA and go a long way to create a delightful experience. You know as well as I do that designers love the details!
Designers particpate in a sketching exercise at the 2019 Sketch Battle Royal, produced by the Michigan Chapter
The team at IDSA HQ is committed to providing frameworks and opportunities for you to engage with other design professionals and advance your career. Experience is a two-way street and requires active participation by the member in order to thoroughly enjoy all the benefits IDSA has to offer. In this way, IDSA is dramatically different from the countless groups popping up on social media and other online platforms these days. It’s one thing to follow; it’s another to participate and connect directly with other members of your community. We believe it’s only through the act of participation that one can truly experience meaningful and lasting value.
One way we are working toward the goal of ensuring experiential value is through our current initiative to restructure our professional chapters so that they are all city-based communities. For years, many of our professional chapters have represented large geographic areas with loosely defined borders (think Rocky Mountain, Northern Lakes, or Mid-Atlantic). In other instances, chapters like Texas or Florida are located within large states but lack a strong place to call ‘home.’ We’ve been lucky to have strong leadership teams in these chapters who have done wonders to bridge these geographic expanses. However, the unfortunate reality is that it remains challenging for a distributed community of designers to truly connect with one another in (what IDSA considers to be) a meaningful way.
In 2020, you’ll begin to see changes that usher in re-named chapters and completely new chapters in cities all over the U.S. and internationally, with all IDSA chapters being city-based. We hope this will allow more opportunities for chapter leadership teams to meet and thrive by providing rich and meaningful content to their local design communities.
Upcoming in 2020
We have several other initiatives underway at IDSA HQ that keep the team busy year-round. Here are just a few to keep your eye on:
IDSA on TV | “California by Design: Innovations”
In April 2020, a television show featuring industrial design will air on local Fox channels in California. IDSA has partnered with MWC Productions, a television production company based in Australia, as the official industry partner on this program. Check out a preview of California by Design.
For us, this project is about fulfilling our duties as advocates of industrial design and bringing the stories of our work to a wide audience of people who might otherwise not know what industrial design is or why it matters. We’re not stopping there — plans are already in the works for a New York iteration of the show.
Our goal is to grow this series into an “America by Design” program that would predominately feature IDSA members and broadcast your work to millions of homes across the U.S.
IDSA Staff and Board of Directors share ideas during a recent collaboration workshop at IDSA Headquarters
Many of the goals the Board of Directors and I share for the future of IDSA center on celebrating the work of our community and creating unique opportunities for you as a member of IDSA year after year. The IDSA Staff and the Board of Directors are working in closer harmony now than perhaps ever before. During a recent day-long workshop (now an annual event), we brainstormed programmatic improvements and envisioned new opportunities to prepare the organization for the growth that is surely to come. We’re excited to incorporate these ideas into our current offerings and I'm looking forward to a tremendous year ahead of us. The work we are doing now will further establish our place as the leading organization for industrial designers.
We are carrying a great deal of momentum into 2020. Our upcoming three Deep Dives focusing on Women in Design (April 16-17), Sustainability (June 4-5), and Medical Design (October) will build on our previous events and provide new opportunities to learn from one another. On September 14-16, we will bring the International Design Conference, IDSA Education Symposium, and IDEA Gala to Seattle, WA for three days of intense professional development and fellowship together. These events are becoming more purposeful in their content and more powerful in their delivery of world-class experiences for attendees.
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