I have written a couple of times about the gap I see between the brilliance of hack days, as exemplified by Rewired State, and the need to build customer needs and user experience into the mix:

These projects can get off to a great start using their originators as their own use case, but they won’t become sustainable on that basis. Government has painfully learned – or, rather, is painfully learning – that starting off with the assumption that you know what is best for people doesn’t deliver the greatest results. I am not quite sure where the tipping point comes between creator-evangelists and customer-centred design, but I am sure it has to come somewhere.

So I was delighted to spot this flowing through the twitter time line:

The concept of a design jam is a new one to me, but it sounds as though it’s a cross between a hack day and an unconference/barcamp:

Design Jams are one-day design sessions, during which people team up to solve engaging UX challenges.

While conferences and talks are very popular in the UX community, we don’t have many events for actual collaboration, like the ‘hackdays’ enjoyed by the development community. Design Jams get designers together to learn from each other while working on actual problems. The sessions champion open-source thinking and are non-profit, run by local volunteers.

Sounds like a fantastic idea, even though I am left slightly wondering how you do user experience design without involving some users. I am not remotely qualified to go myself, but would be fascinated to see the final presentations – it would be great if the organisers were to open those up to interested non-participants.

Tickets are available from 1pm on Monday.


  1. Hi, Joe here – one of the organisers for Design Jam London, thanks for the write-up, glad you like the idea!

    You hit upon one of our main discussion points for the jam – how to include user testing. For this pilot event, we’re going to encourage the teams to test ideas on people from other teams. Of course this means testing on people who are maybe more design/tech aware, but for now it’s a compromise based on the time restrictions. Maybe in future events we could get people in to test with, or do remote testing.. we’re very open to ideas if you have any!

  2. Getting UX’ers involved in hack days is an idea that the organisers of the Design Jam have been bouncing around for a while. It was a topic of conversation that came up during Joe Lanman’s session at UXCampLondon 2010 (see http://micheleidesmith.posterous.com/mysociety-and-me-uxcamplondon). Given what I know of the UX community they are usually very resourceful and will no doubt find a way to incorporate some guerilla user research and evaluation into any concepts and prototypes developed on the day!

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