IDSA Survey for Masters paper

I am currently developing a paper for my Masters of Design class at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The overall goal of the paper is to use the methodologies of Craig Vogel and Jonathan Cagan found in Creating Breakthrough Products. I am attempting to use the same techniques in the development of innovative services. My chosen “client” is the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA).

As many of you know I have had a long association with IDSA as a member (18 years) and as an officer (Carolina Chapter Chair, Southern District VP, Chapter Vice President and now in an appointed role as International Liaison Officer-Asia). I also know that IDSA is very interested in what comments and suggestions develop from this forum so please expect that the IDSA Board and Staff will be reading this forum.

The Topic:
IDSA has reached a point where it has a strong, sustainable membership base, but seeks new opportunities for growing and building the Society. Like any company or organization, growth in either numbers or preference is vital. In order to meet these goals IDSA must hear from people who currently reside within the profession but have no interest or preference in joining the professional organization. I would like to hear from the following groups:

Industrial Designers who DO NOT belong to IDSA

  1. How many years have you been practicing Industrial Design?
  2. Why do you not belong to the organization?
  3. Do you see any strengths in the organization?
  4. Do you see any weaknesses in the organization?
  5. What ideas do you have for improvements in the organization?

Industrial Designers who DO belong to IDSA

  1. How many years have you been practicing Industrial Design?
  2. Why do you belong to the organization?
  3. Do you see any strengths in the organization?
  4. Do you see any weaknesses in the organization?
  5. What ideas do you have for improvements in the organization?

In both cases I have special interest in those designers who are 1-5 years out of college.

Kind regards,
Tim Fletcher

Timf_ This sounds like it will be an excellent paper. I’m not in your target group, but thought I would throw down my answers.

Industrial Designers who DO NOT belong to IDSA (I did belong to the IDSA for a few years, but let my membership lapse about 4 years ago)

  1. How many years have you been practicing Industrial Design?

9 years

  1. Why do you not belong to the organization?

I ceased to see the direct value

  1. Do you see any strengths in the organization?

annual conference

  1. Do you see any weaknesses in the organization?

feels stuffy, not fun
has the perception of being an old boys (and girls) club where the same people speak and get recognized
events tend to be dry, full of students and recent grads mobbing the few professionals that turn out
innovation is boring and DP is kind of silly.
relationship with Businessweek seems a bit over relied on

  1. What ideas do you have for improvements in the organization?

corporate education program eduacating large companies on how yo use design, set up an internal studio, who the VP of design should report to… (this might exist, if it does, talk about it more loudly and give case studies to show how it works)
working with more media outlets, anytime design is mentioned, IDSA should be there from Time’s annual design issue to the detroit auto show.
embrace all Industrial Design industies, the industries with the most designers, transportation and footwear, seem marginalized or not involved with the organization.
corporate discounts, offer a discount or group rate if a company wants to get all of their designers IDSA memberships, companies like Nike or GM, this would be over 150 memberships.
more regional events that are fun, these are what most people can get to. It seems like there could be at least 4 regional events a year (1 a quarter), doesn’t have to be rocket science, we got over 250 people to show up for a lecture by 2 designers for 4 hours on a Thursday night in Portland for a core77 event, their was an open bar and a great DJ. It took all of about 10 hours of planning and a bit of followthrough…
talk about ID more at the annual conference, work with corporations to get it approved as reimbursable educational expense. Most corporations have a payback system for things like this, if the conference was more focussed on upping your skills, learning how to be more valuable to your company (going beyond design in a relevant way), and recruiting young talent, I think more designers would be able to get their companies to send them. Right now it seems focused on awards, the same 4 vendors, and tangental boring lectures… I go for the after parties thrown by design firms and core which are great. I usually see old friends and colleagues at those, catch up on gossip, network, and make connections… it makes me question why I pay the conference fee. I never stay in the conference hotel (it always blows and there is usually a cooler one down the street), and I bail on 80% of the lectures, the ones I do go to I usually think “I could have slept in”
represent us, what designers are, what we care about. Most designers are individualistic, and somewhat anti-establishment, and IDSA feels copra-fied, and authoritarian, and somewhat disorganized.
have a relevant mission, it feels like the IDSA is always guilting people into volunteering, but to what end? For what grander purpose than to just keep the IDSA going? The IDSA seems like it could be for the furtherment of product design. There is still a lot of ugly unusable crap in the world. It seems like it should be the goal of the IDSA to eliminate that through educating companies, and even retailers about how good design builds relationships with consumers and loyal brand relationships. Right now their are few, if any, competitors to DWR, IKEA, Apple, Target from a pure design perspective. IDSA could take that on and try to get other places to support and talk about design.
be more of a resource to designers, right now if I wanted to look for a job, talk to other designers, or find out where to hang out in a town I was visiting, would be the last place I would go to for relevant and updated info. I would go to (of course that is why this is on here), , , , to name a few. Maybe IDSA should partner with an existing online community if not several?

OK, that is my 1cent…

Wow Yo,

All that within 30 minutes of my posting. Thanks

I hope a couple sentences are useful for your project…

  1. 12 years
  2. Habit / easy for me to expense
  3. Well-known among designers / conferences / webinars / IDEA awards
  4. Hasn’t kept up with the changing needs of the designer. IDSA should have gone virtual and global years ago, and worked toward serving the new business needs of the designer who’s been offered a seat at the table. IDSA doesn’t even have a chapter in my city, and since it’s so ‘location based’ that pretty much shuts me out of a lot of the benefits.
  5. Let me state the IDSA’s mission vs. my perception of reality:

Mission: “Lead the profession by expanding our horizons, connectivity and influence, and our service to members.”
Reality: Core77, Steve Jobs, Target, BusinessWeek, LinkedIn, Fast Company, Tom Peters, Samsung, Case studies available on Design Consultants own websites. The connectivity part (including the IDSA Members Directory) has largely been displaced by the web. The influence has been granted to us from real world case studies that have executives scrambling to put together design programs. Of course as a corporate designer (as many of us are becoming) I also have the priviledge of courting a lot of design firms and digging into their process and portfolios–better than any design conference lecture! I am more educated than ever, and IDSA had little if any influence on that.

Mission: “Inspire design quality and responsibility through professional development and education.”
Reality: MFA’s from D-Schools, Websites, Experience, PDMA, Harvard Case Studies, Books, Articles, TV Shows like iDesign, DMI, UK Design Council. Education for ID has always come by experience, but it’s easier than ever to get a daily dose of global design on the web, so is IDSA the provider that it used to be?

Mission: “Elevate the business of design and improve our industry’s value”
Reality: Has IDSA done this, or has globalisation and case studies like iPod? If IDSA and BusinessWeek didn’t exist, would the world be a different place? Not in my company. IDSA should measure this frequently to check it’s actual performance against it’s goals.

Bottom Line: The world has changed dramatically in the last decade, but IDSA has not. I don’t think IDSA has expanded it’s vision of Design as much as designers have, or even other organizations. Isn’t it revealing that Tim came here to Core77 to post this question? I honestly feel like IDSA has left me in the cold when it came for me to step up and sell design within my organization.

I think this is where Cagen/Vogel’s SET factors can help you out.
What Societal, Economic, Technological factors have changed since the IDSA’s inception and in the decades since? (ie. combine SET with ERA analysis.) Best of luck on your thesis! Great topic!

A note to some of you thinking about your answers: I need to compile all of the comments by this Saturday, May 19 as I must turn the paper in by the 28th.

Thanks for the comments so far and i hope you will keep them coming.


Hey, after all of the other IDSA rant topics, I can’t believe that only two people have something to say.

…your asking for more than a rant, for what it’s worth I think the IDSA does alot with alittle. And I don’t think it needs to become all things to everyone within ID - that’s impossible.

It’s not likely to get more funds anytime soon - so, the problem is getting more volunteers, OR vounteers who can devote alot of time.

I’d like to suggest that IDSA use it’s NASAD pull to encourage academia to recognise section and chapter organisiational activities as legitimate for tenure. I don’t know if there’s any precedence or not. It just needs to be pretigous enough research/publishing to enhance a colleges standing.

Plus, since most grad students are just looking to change careers into ID why not encourage those with the least interest in a Thesis to perform IDSA support in exchange for thier degree?

I realize this is already done to an extent, but it’s not formalised. Your getting a Masters’ presumably so you have the option of teaching someday right? What if your six years of tenure work and that of your 3-5 grad students was devoted to providing the IDSA everything we need to know about Design in Asia? if there were formal, approved guidlines somebody else someday could get tenure supporting and expanding what you started.

Doing a lot with a little? Not likely to get more funds? This is where the disconnect is for me. If Design/Innovation has “made it big” in the last few years, why hasn’t IDSA?

Anyway, let’s keep this on topic: why not answer Timf’s four questions?

there is a disconnect, beyond the hype I’m not sure how ‘big time’ Design/Innovation has become (probably a topic for another discussion).

Regardless, ID is just a small fraction of design and innovation.
IDSA has done all the heavy lifting for along time, and is still our best bet for continued improvement (yes, it needs improving).

The weak response to Tims’ survey (only 2) shows exactly how serious the rank-and-file is.

I don’t think you’ll find too many posters here that aren’t serious about design. There are other websites out there after all…

Here’s what the bottom of the Index page says right now:

Our users have posted a total of 69509 articles
We have 17910 registered users
The newest registered user is clep84
In total there are 63 users online :: 1 Registered, 0 Hidden and 62 Guests [ Administrator ] [ Moderator ]
Most users ever online was 213 on Sun Mar 12, 2006 4:02 pm
Registered Users: cg

Wow, so there are 62 unregistered to 1 registered reading the boards right now. So if that was typical, that would mean there are actually 1,110,420 users of the Core77 threads. That’s 336 times more people than are members of IDSA.

Is IDSA living up to it’s mission?

The IDSA is your organization, it is whatever you’re able to make it.
Timf has put in years of effort, real effort.
All our complaints, in comparison, amount to whining.

Industrial Designers who DO NOT belong to IDSA:

  1. How many years have you been practicing Industrial Design?
    10 years.

  2. Why do you not belong to the organization?
    $315 is pricey for a freelancer - I don’t think my money would be well spent.

  3. Do you see any strengths in the organization?
    It is the only national association of industrial designers that I know of.

  4. Do you see any weaknesses in the organization?
    Way too corporate, and too much of a boys club. The vibe I get from the organization and the site is: “You are a peon, what are you doing here? If you’d just pony up the $315 (chump change for any REAL designer who can just expense it) you could say you are associated with us big boys. Don’t worry, it’s no trouble for us, we wouldn’t even notice you.”

  5. What ideas do you have for improvements in the organization?
    How about putting forth this message: “You are a small but valuable part of something much larger. We are an extremely diverse group but we have many things in common. Together we can learn from one another and accomplish something wonderful.”

Industrial Designers who DO NOT belong to IDSA

  1. How many years have you been practicing Industrial Design?
  2. Why do you not belong to the organization?
  3. Do you see any strengths in the organization?
  4. Do you see any weaknesses in the organization?
  5. What ideas do you have for improvements in the organization?

I am exactly 1 yr out of college.


  1. I really haven’t landed that real design job yet…but hopefully I’ve been “practicing” ID for at least a couple years now…still have a ton to learn though.

  2. I don’t belong, because I don’t make enough to afford it yet, not just that but if I really saw the true value I would join, so far I’ve only really noticed that it is the truest networking alley here in Chicago, if you’re not going to IDSA meetings or events, you get the sense that you’re an outsider and that you’re really not in the scene, but that just might be my perspective looking IN from the OUTSIDE.

  3. Strengths : …okay I’ll be back to finish this off…sorry.

First - I turned in my paper today. Thank you all for your help.

Secondly - I would suggest you keep posting. Just because my paper is done, doesn’t mean their won’t be IDSA eyes watching this post.

Third - Thanks no_spec. I only work at because I enjoy it. But I don’t see what is said here as whining at all. Once I have time to relax (I am going on a 5 day holiday to Beijing tomorrow) I will give an overview of the findings from my paper.

Thanks Tim. I realsized after I wrote my responses that it was probably too late for your deadline, but I went ahead and posted anyway, for the reason you mentioned.

I’d be very interested to hear the results when you have time. Meanwhile, enjoy your trip!

I agree. I’m definitely not whining. I’m simply challenging IDSA’s performance against it’s own goals. If there are no problems with IDSA (other than ‘whining’ members), then Tim’s thesis paper was probably very short!

ok, so Tim, you’ve got some ideas about how to change things around. how do you get ID’rs to follow through?

Say for example, you’ve got a city with no chapter that deserves one - what would it take to get an IDSA member there to pick up a phone and recruit the other designers in town to join up? or actually do something to contribute to the organization?

May paper ended up being about 18 pages so I am only going to put my conclusions:

In this internet based age an organization can no longer use control of information as a means to gain membership. In fact the opposite is true, in that the spreading of information of accomplishments is the surest way to gain the respect and interest of the younger designer. The questions have changed from “What can you give me?” to “What are you doing for us?”

If IDSA can make a drastic change in how it manages and distributes its information there is a much greater chance that newly graduated designers will see the benefit in being part of the organization. In fact, until this change in thinking occurs no new programs can truly hope to address increasing membership interest.

Some great conclusions Timf… it’s funny how any info you get from IDSA is likely out of date by the time it hits you… so distributing info becomes a bit of a running joke.

Would love to read the full paper, I’m flying to China tomorrow, if you email it over I’ll read it on the plane…