Design After Work at sum.cumo as a monthly event
Design after Work at sum.cumo - an established format
Tobi (Schmid) is a UX Designer at sum.cumo in Hamburg and has been focused for some time on the subjects of culture, team building, knowledge transfer and inspiration. This led to the development of Design Afterwork (DAW), which is now firmly established as a monthly event. Here he talks about the idea, the speakers and the goals.
So what’s the format of these Design Afterwork gatherings?
Even after sum.cumo merged the design team into the interdisciplinary customer teams a couple of years ago, the UX and UI design specialists still wanted to keep up regular meetings in order to exchange ideas. That’s how Design Afterwork came about, as an internal get-together with evening talks presented in a relaxed atmosphere, along with snacks and drinks. Our original concept was to have each participant take turns making a presentation, but nowadays I always try to invite an interesting outside guest and combine that with talks presented by our team members.
What are some of the topics discussed at Design Afterwork?
Basically, it’s anything that’s somehow connected to our work. Things that can bring us forward, whether directly or indirectly, or that somehow inspire us. We’ve got everyday topics from the fields of user research/analytics, UX and UX writing, UI design/branding as well as product development, but we’ve also got more general and personal topics, including hobbies, recent trips, conference reports – indeed, anything that might offer an interesting takeaway. For example, we might have a presentation on user research in East Timor, or go visit a relevant exhibition here in Hamburg, or simply head out for a group canoeing trip. Personally, I prefer things that teach me stuff on a metalevel, where the relationship to our work might not be so obvious.
What goals did you guys have in mind with the DAW evenings?
It’s a nice mix of having fun together, team building, and offering inspiration or “advanced training.” Apart from that, it’s always just a great group of people, one that hardly gets together otherwise, and even our colleagues from Düsseldorf will come up to Hamburg for the evening: it lets us all get even better acquainted, to discuss new ideas and get inspired. And this often happens with topics outside our everyday work. Or we might talk about problems and issues and find that someone else has already found a good solution. Another great side benefit is that participants can use this as an opportunity to try out their speaking skills, or to build up their onstage confidence, and to get immediate feedback. And sometimes, guests even become coworkers. Through the DAW evenings, we’ve also launched cooperative efforts with industry experts and other service agencies while further gaining valuable insights. Sometimes, the ideas from these talks go on to develop a life of their own; for example, this is how our version of User Feedback Days (link) came into being. Other times, what started as a simple talk might get expanded into a full workshop, if there’s enough interest.
Can you provide an overview of some of the topics covered so far?
Our main focus is clearly on whatever topics are put forward by the team itself. This might be a “lightning talk,” which may or may not involve advance preparation in looking at very current issues and ideas or simply wanting to kick-start a discussion. We’ve already had crew members give talks on:
• whether a pattern library can also work without atomic design,
• how to introduce kids to coding early on, and how such an effort might be financed,
• what makes for a landing page with a high conversion rate,
• what a component-driven development process looks like,
• what is UX writing and its return on investment,
• what makes something beautiful,
• what analytics tools are available and how these work,
• what challenges exist for today’s employees and companies,
• what you can learn from street musicians,
• what graffiti has to do with design,
• what experiences we’ve had with design sprints,
• what the principles of UI animation are.
But at some point we realized there’s a lot of other people who are also dealing with the stuff we care about, so we try to invite them as well whenever we can. From our outside guests, we’ve heard:
• what lessons a freelance illustrator can learn from her Instagram account and use in her own work,
• how you can consciously look out for behavioral design patterns,
• how a freelance author and illustrator combines her need for sleep with her work,
• how user testing helps you stay in touch with the user,
• how UX is connected to the brand,
• how valuable UI animations can be,
• how user research works at the end of the world,
• how to establish UX in teams that lack a UX designer.
How do you come up with your topics and guests?
Topics often come up because a crew member is currently grappling with something, but other times it’s just through contacts or an interesting tip. I’m always looking at a wide range of stuff on the side, and really enjoying coming at a topic from many different angles. That’s how I often stumble across current hot topics by accident, although sometimes I’ve got to do a little searching for interesting talks and people – but mostly I just know where to find stuff. Of course there are also topics like user research and UX writing. These have been coming up more often lately, because they’re extremely relevant to us and the whole industry. We’ve already got something planned for September, with one discussion looking at how to find the right tone of voice for a company.
Many thanks to Irene Schuler for the photo.