XX+UX is a series of monthly meetups for women in user experience design. Google started the series in 2013 and hosted the first event at HQ, and now, different companies have hosted more than 20 events all over the world.
IDEO took its first turn as host in Palo Alto at the tail end of 2015, and interaction designers Nastasha Tan and Nivi Ramesh took the lead. They wanted the event to be more than just a happy hour. They sought a way to share IDEO’s core values with the guests. They planned the event around using design to think—building, making, and prototyping in order to learn and solve problems.
“Design is about externalizing what’s invisible, things that are all in our heads,” Nastasha says. “When you do that, people can see what you’re thinking, comment, collaborate, build, and have tangible objects to solve a problem. It’s distributing your cognition into objects in space. We come from diverse backgrounds but the common language is what we can externalize and what people can see.”
This common language is what gives design the power to cross boundaries, she explains, not only between men and women but between all different types of people. Making something tangible was the obvious choice for how to welcome the community not just to IDEO’s space but also to our ethos.
Nastasha and Nivi came up with the idea of making high-tech holiday greetings. They printed cards with inspirational quotes from women throughout history and set the guests loose with circuits, LEDs, and conductive paint. As the cards lit up, the idea of networks and connections extended beyond the physical circuits and into conversations over s’mores by the firepit on the patio.