Since November 2013, I am a Member and Global Design Ambassador for The Interaction Design Foundation. I am always looking for new learning opportunities and IDF seemed the right place to start, especially that I finished my Master studies. These are my thoughts for the whole experience that is interaction-design.org.
How it all started
I spend a lot of time on Twitter, flipping on Flipboard, reading the current "trends" and in September I found out that Interaction Design Foundation released a new course on Dashboard Design (didn't know about them 'til then). Being interested in Data visualization I pitched the idea to Marius (Grapefruit, Eterni.me) and he was more than eager to help. So I become a member of the IDF community (the memberships costs 98 EUR/year, discounted from 200).
Just to be clear, as stated in their website The Interaction Design Foundation - the IDF - is a ten year old transformative non-profit enterprise focused on educating, informing and stimulating the global design community. The organization has created a powerful cloud based publishing model, blending free video material and textbooks with an immersive web site and social media presence for thought leaders, students, authors, academia, and design professionals.
There is a pretty impressive pack of membership benefits: free materials, textbooks, videos, event discounts, personal mentorships, job search, local meetings, networking and many more - you can check them all out. Also seeing people like Donald Norman involved, you simply can't say no, especially if your are in the UX field (if you don't know who Don Norman is, I suggest you take a look). But in my opinion the one thing that stands out for IDF are the courses: the're plain awesome and a must for every design professional. They pack a serious amount of information, carefully picked and tailored so you can cover both basic and advanced concepts. From now on, you can simply forget those batch boring blog posts like 15 SEO techniques to help improve your design skills or 45 flat web design trends. The knowledge you get from IDF will definitely separate you from those crowdsourcing guys.
To finish the course you have to complete the exercises (with open answers or choices) and submit them to be evaluated by peers. And trust me - don't try to add weak answers. Adam Kyne does a great job warning you where to put more effort in your thoughts. I appreciate him for doing an awesome job - he warned me where I was trying to get off easily and guided me when I needed. Also - the courses take a lot of time and dedication to complete. Don't try to subscribe just for the fun of it. The good part is you can complete the exercises even after the course ends.
There are currently 9 courses you can take:
- Information Visualization: Getting Dashboards Right Ver1
- Human-computer Interaction Ver1
- A Beginner's Guide to User Experience
- The Psychology of Interaction Design
- UI Design Patterns for Successful Software Ver1
- Design Thinking: The Beginner's Guide
- The Psychology of Online Sales: The Beginner's Guide
- Gestalt Psychology and Web Design: The Ultimate Guide
- Quality Web Communication: The Beginner's Guide
For now I managed to finish three of them: UI Design Patterns, Getting Dashboards Right (both with Distinction) and Psychology of Interaction Design (one of the most demanding courses).
The efforts you pull are gladly rewarded. Besides the knowledge and networking you receive during courses, you get the Cource Certificate to validate your new skills:
Global Design Ambassador
In October 2013, IDF announced they are gathering a team of Global Design Ambassadors to help volunteer and promote the organization mostly by interacting with the LinkedIn community. Without hesitation I send my CV to Rikke Friis Dam and made it in the team. I think my over 5 years of volunteer work and involvement in the local community from Iasi (Romania) really paid off this time.
Like I said, I mostly interact on LinkedIn with enthusiasts and curious design folks. You can participate too in our conversations. Just head off to the Friend's of Interaction-Design.org Group - I bet you will find some interesting topics to tackle on.
Outside my online contribution, I managed to present IDF at World Information Architecture Day in Bucharest (Romania) organized by Grapefruit. There, I highlighted the most important benefits of joining IDF and did a quick tour of how a course progresses. Rikke was so kind to support us and we awarded the audience with 3 free IDF memberships. I was so glad to see IDF as a supporter amongst Evernote and of course, Grapefruit. I also presented a case study regarding how we file our taxes and complete the income Declaration no. 200. You should really check it out.
For now my focus is to be more active on LinkedIn and interact with even more passionate professionals. I started (slowly I must admit) to attend other local meetings and groups just so I can network and promote IDF when and where I can. Also I want to finish another three courses in the following months. As you can see - I like to keep myself busy.
In conclusion, if you want to have access to an impressive library of design resources and network with passionate and curious people, I recommend IDF. But I repeat... it will take time, patience and commitment if you want to fully benefit from the courses and the other opportunities IDF offers. Don't be a member just for the sake of it.