There is a camp where designers feel at home and particularly in their element, working on a loosely specific design problem in fully collaborative teams. With no digital devices, for three days straight. Our Head of UX Strategy and two talented UX Designers at Mito Digital enthusiastically headed over to the MOME IxD Interaction Design Camp in Zalaszentgrót – only to come home even more enthusiastic about their profession.
The setting of this hackathon-type event isn’t set in stone: the location and the related theme vary each year, the supporting team is mostly varied, and while there’s always returning participants, the majority are first-timers. What is constant, however, are the rules. Each day is dedicated to a new step in the design thinking process: the first day is all about research, the second is about ideation, while the third is about prototyping and presenting the results.
Also, there are some further rules that are non-negotiable:
- No digital assets (meaning no computers, and even mobiles are only for checking the weather – in exchange for limitless post-its and markers).
- Human values and equality above all else.
- Remember to always have fun!
The IxD (Interaction Design) Camp was organized by MOME Open (Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design) for the fifth time in late summer – and since human-centered design solutions and people development are both our prime focus at Mito Digital, we wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Especially not for some (well, three precisely) office days.
How did this year’s camp in Zalaszentgrót look from our perspective, both as a mentor and participants? Our Head of UX Strategy and two young talented UX Designers will share their experience and how it contributed to their professional growth.
At camp: Framing and solving local issues like a designer
As a beginning, stakeholders – the mayor and other municipal officials from the local council – quickly introduced participants to the city’s problems as they see it. Teams were formed and hit the ground running, mapping out what pains the people of Zalaszentgrót the most. It didn’t take much time to find exciting topics waiting to be unraveled.
Our Head of UX Strategy, Norbert, was lucky enough to be invited for the fourth time to support one team of designers as a mentor. Or, as he stated: “to be frank, my role was a mixture of mentoring, professional coaching, educating, and trying to stay awake and still talk smartly way past my bedtime.”
His team worked on finding a solvable issue of the local youth. What are they doing after school? Are they entertained? What communities do they form? The situation seemed a tad gloomy (as it is in many rural cities in Hungary) but happily, not lost. “We found that there are a lot of micro-communities who would love to grow bigger, but don’t know how or even what questions they should ask themselves. Luckily, the city’s youth referent had already been working on a similar problem. All he needed to realize for our plan was to actively push people to do their activities in the open – such as playing board games at the restaurants or holding quizzes at pubs –, so communities can form and grow”, Norbi summarized.
One of our UX Designers, Réka, was a first-timer participating in such an event. Her team created a surreal metaplay, demonstrating how the personality cult of the mayor could be transformed into a well-functioning, agile city management. Needless to say, it was a huge success especially among the locals.
As for the design process, she said,
“We were told not to stress much about things, because it’s not necessarily our task to solve specific problems: we came to practice our skills. But alas, the designer in each of us couldn’t be put to sleep, and we worked hard and efficiently under the inspiring influence of the short deadline. For the demo at the end of the camp, we aimed to arrive with a complete, developed solution.”
Our other UX Designer participant, Viki, decided to join a team which had no predetermined direction. “I was sure I would torture myself with the combo of a wide range of possible problems and a tight schedule, and I’ve never worked on this type of project, so it might sound strange that I still chose this team. Although, so far I could learn a lot by being involved in things I’m least comfortable with”, she explained, adding that one of her best experiences was to see how wild ideas and extreme solutions, which are first brought to the table, can be turned into much more rational and realistic suggestions.
The team then came up with the idea of creating the life path model of a local man. While at first it was difficult for them to imagine how they could represent this abstraction using real objects, they eventually ended up with an exhibition made up of objects, each of which belonged to a main life stage of the local man.
After camp: Recommitment and new approaches
So how much fun did the Mito Digital delegation have, and what lessons did they take home – and luckily, to the office? See for yourself with their own eyes. Or rather, in their own words.
The difference between a good camp and a great (at least for me) is the amount of valuable fun we had – and this one hosted by MOME at Zalaszentgrót was without a doubt a great camp. Did it really need three days of work to figure it all out? Yes, definitely. Are there other ways to get to the same solution? Sure, but probably they involve less beer. Do I miss anything from this long weekend? Well, the big bonfire at the end was canceled due to the massive storm. Damn you, storm.
IxD Camp is a one-of-a-kind design camp in Hungary (and maybe even in the region). All participants went home with a reinforced design talent, a boost in confidence, and plenty of new friendships.
Norbi – Head of UX Strategy, mentor at the camp
What I expected beforehand – meeting cool people, doing creative work in teams, and practicing my professional skills – all came to fruition. What I didn’t expect was that these experiences would bring me such re-commitment and re-enthusiasm towards my own profession.
Doing UX design in front of a screen all day every day, one tends to forget what it’s really about: we try to make people’s lives better by bringing creative solutions to existing problems. You have to break away from the office and go explore the real world so that people can tell you their problems to your face, and you can try to solve them with your own two hands. For me, this was a very valuable and important lesson – the fact that I was able to experience all this with awesome people and some beer was just the icing on the cake.
Réka, UX Designer
I’ve heard about the camp before, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to participate this year. We spent most of our time with our own team, but I liked how we presented our work to each other at the end of the day. Here, we could find out we have many things that are connected at many points, and they often confirmed our own findings too.
I had a great time working together, and grabbing a beer and chatting after a long (but somehow still short) day. I didn’t only get to know new methodologies – such as critical and speculative design – different approaches, and cool people, but I think it also helped me a lot with my self-awareness.
Viki, UX Designer
Mito Digital is a business unit of Mito, a unique powerhouse of creative & digital experts with a passion for clever things. We have been working with our clients around the globe for more than ten years, in numerous industries from aviation through lottery and retail to telecommunications. Our goal is to design and deliver smart, human-centered and best-in-class digital solutions that meet and exceed the business goals of our clients as well as the demands of their clients.