First-Ever UC San Diego Design Conference sponsored by Design Lab Unites Students with Leading Design and Business Professionals

By Kaila Lee, Design at UCSD

In late May, over 150 students and leading industry professionals representing top design-centric companies such as WorkdayIDEO, and Intuit attended UC San Diego’s first design conference. Among those in attendance were Scott Robinson of Freshform and Alex Waters of the Downtown San Diego Partnership. The all-day event was hosted by Design at UCSD, a pre-professional design organization on campus, in partnership with Delta Sigma Pi, UC San Diego’s premier business fraternity, and drew attendees from a variety of disciplines including cognitive science, computer science, economics, international business, and more. The conference was aimed at teaching attendees the interdisciplinary nature of design and why it is essential to business.

The conference kicked off with a keynote address presented by lecturer Michael Meyer of the UC San Diego Design Lab and the Rady School of Management. During his address, Meyer dispelled the myth of the “genius designer” and conveyed that the true vision and creativity driving human-centered design emerges through acknowledging that we are designing for people who have diverse human needs.

Meyer empowered attendees through stressing the importance of embodying the qualities characterized by a balance of professional competence and a genuine, insatiable thirst for knowledge. Moreover, he illustrated that successful designs are achieved as a result of combined expertise across a wide range of skill sets. He inspired attendees to strive to integrate various disciplines across the spectrum of design and business into their professional endeavors.

The opening address was followed by a panel discussion featuring Neema Mahdavi (Workday), Nastasha Tan (IDEO), Sharon Carmichael (Intuit), Oz Chen (, and Erwin Hines (BASIC Agency). The panelists shared their unique insight into the roles they play as designers in their respective organizations and how they envision design and business intersecting to optimize success in the workplace and beyond. Panelists emphasized the importance of showcasing tangible, real experiences to support skills learned in the classroom.

In addition, the speakers collectively echoed the value of candidates who exude the depth of technical expertise in addition to a breadth of knowledge paired with strong communication and problem solving skills. Panelists further engaged with the audience to address questions and provide advice pertaining to professional development and differentiating oneself as an aspiring designer and business professional.

Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in interactive hour-long breakout sessions facilitated by experienced design and business professionals. Breakout sessions highlighted topics such as navigating the design process, delving into UX Research, and creating an effective design portfolio. Following the breakout sessions, the conference concluded with a networking session in the forum of Price Center Theater where attendees were encouraged to speak to industry professionals. Conference participants left the event feeling motivated and excited to continue exploring the rapidly evolving fields of design and business, equipped with a plethora of new tools and key takeaways to apply to their own professional journey.

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