Design Jam Session

Session Title

Design Jam Session


Jeanne Turner and Barbara Holmes, IxDA Portland

Session Type: Activity

The image of a designer is enticing and alluring — creative, intelligent, driven individuals working in their cold, walkup studios, compelled to devise useful and beautiful things. In pursuit of a dream that’s pure and elegant; against all odds, despite the critics. Yeah, right. For designers working in today’s climate, the reality may not be quite that glamorous. So much of our daily work is constrained by budget, feasibility, and practicality. Where can we go to find our muse, to express our wildest ideas and exercise new skills?

We take a hint from the world of music. For decades, musicians have gathered at jam sessions to improvise and practice their technique. Passionate, brilliant people bringing their talent to the table to collaborate and play and through play, break through to new possibilities. We think that it’s time for us to start our own jam sessions, design jam sessions. In this activity, we will explore a new type of design practice. During the session the group will come up with a design problem, and then we’ll jam to solve it. No need to worry about budget, timeline, technology, bosses or clients. This is your opportunity to experiment with new techniques, explore farfetched ideas, and concoct fantastic new solutions. It’s also an opportunity to observe your fellow jammer’s approach to design, and to demonstrate your own design style. We will leave you with tips for starting your own design jam session in your own city.


Jeanne Turner is the Leader of IxDA Portland and an Information Architect at ISITE Design. At ISITE, Jeanne conducts user research to understand the needs and goals of people in a variety of target audiences — such as academic researchers trying to peruse colleagues’ working papers and restaurateurs eager to source food from local farmers. She applies that understanding to the design of thoughtful and appropriate interactive experiences. Outside of ISITE, Jeanne plans design jam sessions, coordinates lectures and workshops, and serves the IxD community. She has a degree in Computer Science with a focus on human-computer interaction from the University of Hawaii.

Barbara Holmes has been working in interface design and content development since 1989, when she participated as a lead instructional designer in the development of a series of computer-based, laserdisc (who remembers those?) training courses for Nissan Motors. Since then, she’s worked as a freelancer, on staff, and at agencies, designing a wide range of digital training and simulations for the military, medical, oil extraction, automotive, financial, high tech, higher education and public non-profit sectors. During the last nine years she’s transitioned her focus from pure instructional design to information architect/interaction designer, and now works in the agency/vendor world. Currently a Senior Information Architect at ISITE Design in Portland, Oregon, she unites her passions for user-centered design and a deep love of meaningful content to teach, preach and practice usability, plus design interfaces for software applications, social networking, B2C and B2B websites. She is a senior member of the Society for Technical Communicators and also a member of ASTD, CHIFOO, and one of the planning board members of IxDA Portland. A lifelong learner, Barbara has completed training in usability techniques, project management, instructional design and interaction design techniques from industry conferences. She received an undergraduate degree from University of California, Berkeley and a graduate degree from San Diego State University.