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Career Camp: Digital Design


As part of Digital Design Career Camp, Liz Danzico discussed how to ask good questions in the face of career changes—whether those changes are in the pursuit of learning within your own company or a …

As part of Digital Design Career Camp, Liz Danzico discussed how to ask good questions in the face of career changes—whether those changes are in the pursuit of learning within your own company or a significant career changes. She sought out the advice of a number of digital designers and designer conspirers far and wide, to ask them to respond to one question.

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  • A few thoughts tonight before we hear from Erin Sparling, Jason Santa Maria, and Khoi Vinh.
  • - How many of you are facing major job changes right now?
    - How many of you know what you’re going to do?
    Of course you know, the fact is the world has changed. Because of the downturn in the economy, people are being forced to change careers, whether they want to or not. People are being forced to make leaps, and are sometimes ending up in situations where they are in over their heads. Sometimes this is good, sometimes it’s not. But it’s happening. What this means is that people are being forced to make choices and that change is happening. And whether you’re thinking about change or not, you may have to face some of the questions we’re going to talk about tonight. So tonight we’re going to talk about a framework for question-asking, a framework for approaching change, a framework for taking leaps.
  • I recently did this thing. I co-founded and am now chairing a graduate level program at the School of Visual Arts. And I did it by taking a considerable leap from a rewarding user experience career that I’d been growing over more than a decade. Sure, my first job out of college was a teacher, and I’ve always been doing design education as my ‘on the side’ thing. But it’s never been my focus, and suddenly I’d made it the focus of my everyday. I’m pleased to say it’s been one of the most successful launches of a grad program in SVA’s history. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process, the research, putting it together. And the faculty and the incoming class are remarkable. What’s remarkable is that people continue to ask me the same questions:
    * Aren’t you afraid to be so young and be chair of a program?
    * Aren’t you afraid to have so much responsibility?
    * Aren’t you afraid to be jumping into an area head-on?
    * Aren’t you afraid?
    And the answer is yes: yes, I’m afraid. I’m afraid every day just like I’m afraid that I don't spend enough time with my family or that I work too hard. But whether you’re able to choose the thing that you love, or whether it’s forced upon you, there’s going to be a level of fear involved. But that fear means you're working on what matters to you.
  • Since last year when I took on this position, I’ve been thinking a lot about frameworks for making decisions, and I’m going to give you a few ways to think about making decisions about change. Three questions:
  • One: How do you learn? Are you a reader or are you a listener? This comes from the father of modern mangagement, Peter Drucker who lived to be almost 100, passing away just a few years ago. In an essay titled “Managing Oneself,” Drucker asked “How do you learn?” When you’re approaching change, ask yourself how do you best learn in a given situation—are you a reader or are you a listener. Two examples:
  • Lyndon Johnson. He succeeded JFK in office. JFK was a reader, and therefore surrounded himself with people who prepped him for meetings with written materials. Johnson, when he came into office, kept many of the same people in place, and was prepped for meetings in the same way. The difference: he didn’t understand a thing he was reading. Why? Because he was a *listener* but he didn’t know it. He made a great Senator beforehand, because Senators need to be great listeners. He may not have been a great president because he didn’t know what kind of learner he was.
  • Next example: Beethoven. He was a reader. He wrote everything down in order to learn it. He kept sketchbooks of EVERYTHING, and never looked at them after writing things down, but learned by writing and reading immediately. Before you make a change, understand what kind of learner you are.


  • 1. Liz Danzico Career Camp / Digital Design July 28 2009 / Galapagos Art Space / DUMBO
  • 2. January 2009 Design: The Heads of State
  • 3. How do people make leaps?
  • 4. 1. How do I learn? Am I a reader? Am I a listener?
  • 5. 2. What do I contribute? Do I like structure? Do I create the values?
  • 6. Larry and Sergy. Etsy, Threadless, Flickr, Ev, Biz, and Twitter. Kiva, Added Value, Slow Food. foursquare, hellohealth. Steve Jobs. Open Source. Obama.
  • 7. 3. Who do I seek out? Who inspires me? Who do I trust?
  • 8. Jim Coudal / Chicago / Founder / Coudal Partners
  • 9. Ryan Sims / San Francisco / Creative Director / Virb
  • 10. Jennifer Bove / San Francisco / Principal, IxD / Kicker Studio
  • 11. Jared Spool / Hotel Room / CEO, Founding Principal / User Interface Engineering
  • 12. Steve Portigal / San Francisco / Design Research / Portigal Consulting
  • 13. Kevin Cheng / San Francisco / Director of UX /
  • 14. Alissa Walker / Hollywood / Design Writer / Gelatobaby
  • 15. Thanks: Jennifer Bove Kevin Cheng Jim Coudal Whitney Hess Jon Kolko Michael Mandiberg Melissa Pierce Joshua Porter Steve Portigal Ryan Sims Jared Spool Michael Surtees Alissa Walker
  • 16. 1. How do I learn? 2. What do I contribute? 3. Who do I seek out? 4. What matters to you?
  • 17. Thanks. @bobulate /