A recap of a little designer heading to a big ocean

My overall impression of UI22 can be summed up by a few interactions I had with other designers that I met.


At one of the workshops I attended, we were seated at tables and worked as a group for a few example exercises to do with our own team back at home. I got to talking with a man next to me, and he explained that he was a manager of a design team for HR for Nike.

HR is not normally a department you think of as having a design team. That’s an organization that has design infused everywhere. That’s the kind of scale this conference was aimed at.

Clearly InterVarsity isn’t at that kind of scale, but maybe one day we will be.

Organization’s Perception of Itself

I asked him, “I don’t know if the public would call Nike a technology company — do you think Nike thinks of itself as a technology company?”

“Absolutely. Technology and innovation are at the core of our products.”

This was contrasted by another interaction I had with a designer for a law firm. When I asked her the same question, she described her struggles

“We’re a law firm. That’s what we are and no more, and I just can’t get them to understand what massive advantage we could have if we started thinking a little different.”

It’s not that InterVarsity doesn’t believe in technology. We made a foray into ministering online through “Ministry in Digital Spaces” — a key distinction is that we are just now entering an stage where we’re looking at how technology forms InterVarsity itself.

All of this can really be summed up by the keynote that I heard: “Beyond the UX Tipping Point”.

The UX Dark Ages: At this point within the organization, there’s barely a mention of user experience. They build poor designs and deliver frustrating experiences, but don’t have any notion of what to do improve that. Often, the organization’s priorities are focused on delivery and features, no matter what the design looks like.

Spot UX Projects: Someone in the organization is now feeling enough pain to create a couple of unrelated UX projects. It’s easy for these spot projects to succeed and get the attention of senior management, often because the thing they were improving was so bad, even the smallest improvement is notable. However, beyond talking about it, the UX “fever” rarely spreads beyond the manager that commissioned the initial projects.

We are somewhere in the middle of those two stages, and things will have to change if we want to progress.

There’s a lot of very legitimate reasons for how we came to be in the state we did, but for anyone that uses our digital presence, they don’t know the why — and even if they did, it doesn’t matter to them.

Some questions I’m pondering as I translate these experiences to InterVarsity:

  • What are our products and services? Is it helpful or harmful to think about what we do in terms of product and service design?
  • Who owns the digital presence? Traditionally it’s a tug of war between Marketing and IT, but is it really someone else altogether? The design industry seems to think so, with arranging their teams around audiences rather than around features or products.
  • What will it take to get a digital team and how do we arrange it? What can I start doing?

I am so grateful for the opportunity I had. It was overwhelmingly wonderful, and I’m especially cognizant that many donors gave so that I could go, and I’m feeling more empowered than before to serve InterVarsity better.

If you’re interested in some learnings from workshops I went to, I went to Scenarios for Solving Problems and Scalable Design Systems as my workshops.

Ashley Crutcher is a Digital Designer at InterVarsity located in Madison, WI. She tweets at @ashleyspixels and enjoys cuddling with her cat, crocheting, working out, and thinking too much about everything.

Donate to Paul & Ashley @ InterVarsity

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