Pushing Past Logos: Weekend Blitz & Design’s Evolving Role

I had the pleasure, once again, to attend Design For Good Weekend Blitz from the West Michigan AIGA, and let me tell you, the tides are changing in West Michigan’s field of design.

Weekend Blitz is a 3-day event where non-profit organizations are paired with teams of designers, developers, and poly-skilled creatives hailing from all over West Michigan. Teams must solve tough design and business problems in a very limited time span, all the while keeping their clients informed and team members busy and engaged.

User personas, experience maps, and more. Weekend Blitz turned into a crash course in Design Thinking and UX Design.

The most interesting part of the weekend didn’t lie in the designerly swag or culinary delights. It was rooted in the fact that our design landscape has changed and, fortunately, broadened.

In past years, it was commonplace to have a majority of work focused on creating new or updated visual designs: logos, identity systems, marketing campaigns, printed materials. This year was different. The focus demanded that designers use other, less-used muscles in conjunction with their often-used visual-design focused ones. Design thinking, information architecture, UX design, business strategy: these skills were the fashion of the event and stretched creatives in ways they were not expecting.

Team Artists Creating Together kicking things off with a few Design Thinking exercises.

It could be that this was a one-off situation where this year organizations just happened to need help with more strategic-focused work. However, I would argue that designers are finally taking initiative and making it their prerogative to question and flesh out the bigger picture. Instead of jumping straight into a solution (like making a logo or giving a website a facelift) designers first wanted to solve for the real problem. Many found very quickly that a new logo was far from the work that truly needed to be done.

Team Muskegon County Water Safety Task Force tackling some of the biggest challenges of the weekend.

I have a feeling that a holistic approach to design, which we not only preach but also practice at Atomic, has also begun to infect the people who are running these organizations and businesses and also our very own design community.

Team Goodwill and I building out user personas.
Team Goodwill and I building out user personas.

Even more exciting was that Weekend Blitz offered designers an unknowing taste of what it feels like to work at Atomic. Poly-skilled teams, diverse in constitution who are co-located and working towards and not shying away from solving big problems. Weekend Blitz didn’t realize that it was truly Atomic in nature.

So if you want a taste of what it feels like to work at AO, want to donate your time and talent to deserving non-profits, and have a great time in the process then I look forward to seeing you next Spring at Weekend Blitz 2016.

All photography was generously donated and shot for the event by Adam Bird and his team.