Following last year’s experience, three Mito Group colleagues headed to the MOME IxD Camp, this time at the abbey of Pannonhalma. But how can we, as designers, connect with such an elusive and private matter as sacredness? Here, speculative design enters the picture.
Réka and Viki, UX designers from Mito Digital, returned for their second participation, while Bálint, Business Consultant from Mito Next, also contributed to organizing the sixth IxD Camp hosted by MOME OPEN. Many aspects were as usual: a bunch of enthusiastic designers, three days, one subject, and zero digital devices. But in terms of the location and theme selection, this year was special.
When designers are their own users
Sacredness doesn’t naturally arise in our work, and it’s not part of the designer’s toolkit. From another perspective, in our daily work, we always maintain objectivity with the people we design for. We don’t design for ourselves; we are not our own users, so we work to eliminate our own preferences and biases in the design process.
In Pannonhalma, the question arose of whether we can and should maintain this classic designer role in this context or participate more as “private individuals.” Is there a sharp boundary between the designer’s role and the person behind it?
These circumstances led us to work in an experimental way: we broke free from the routine of our daily design tasks. There were no problems that needed immediate solutions; teams discovered their own topics. There were no users; we were the users ourselves. Therefore, there was no need to come up with solutions; instead, questions arose from the teams’ final demos, not satisfying answers.
We typically label this type of work as design research or speculative design. Its value lies in the fact that by stepping out of our usual modus operandi and daily thought frameworks, we collaboratively strive for a deeper understanding of our subject, which in turn allows us to better comprehend the world and our role within it as designers.
Speculative design both contradicts and complements our usual designer’s way of thinking. Designer practices are constantly evolving, including the problems we address, the tools we use, and the roles we play, so the contradictions and complementations also continually shift. In the camp, we undertook important work: we searched for and experienced novel ways that will gradually become part of our daily work.
Society and designers enlightened
Within the three teams that were formed, one sought to translate the practices of Benedictine monks into design language, another explored the connection between metaphors and identity, and the third envisioned an enlightened society. Curious about how different it would be from our current reality and the boundaries that could be pushed, Réka and Viki joined the latter team.
They started off by discussing their previous experiences with Buddhist practices and what enlightenment meant to each of them. As social changes must begin with each individual, they honestly shared their personal daily annoyances and conflicts. They dug deep into these feelings to find their essence, then transformed them into their positive counterparts, laying the foundation for imagining existence on a higher spiritual level.
In the end, what they have found is that while concepts such as enlightenment, nirvana, sanctity, and miracles are completely elusive and indescribable, the path to them, or the path closer to them, is most often a set of interlocking methods – just like design.
“For me, the most important takeaway was that design methods will not make a designer out of anyone who learns them. They rather serve the purpose of paving the path towards a distant and somewhat unreachable goal, no matter the length and difficulties.
Besides that, another big plus for me about this camp was that we dedicated time to our inscapes. It was really unusual to share this retreat with strangers; however, it may have helped us to open up. Our team paid great attention to exploring and changing our inner negative emotions. This helped us more than practicing any design methods to sit in front of the screen with the right mindset when we got home.”
“It might be a cliche, but I really think it’s not the result that matters the most (however it turned out to be very funny), but the journey we did together. After all, this fictive society found a link between UX and spirituality, which is empathy.
Despite the high intensity of these few days, somehow this year’s camp was generally calmer and quieter, and I really appreciated it. The honest talks, joint meditations, and deep knowledge shared by our tutors all contributed to the experience. Also, it was interesting to trace back some unpleasant situations to basic negative emotions. After all, it felt like an inner getaway, and it certainly felt different compared to the last camp.”
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 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 customers.