For a long time I had experienced and been inspired by design events around the world. There UX circuit is amazing. Events every month in different cities around the world, with one glaring discrepancy, Africa. There is UX London, New York, UX Briton, name it. In Africa however, a continent of over 50 countries, there wasn’t an event like this in any city. This was particularly disturbing, because it is in Africa that Human Centered Design methods are most needed. Why not Africa? In my head I visualized a UX circuit map of the world and Africa being this black hole while the other continents shone bright HCD lights. I was determined to change this.
WHY DO A UX MONTH IN AFRICA?
1. There was and still is a need to develop the awareness and skill of human centered design in Africa.
2. We face the problems and understand the context the best, it therefore makes sense to create a pool of UX talent as opposed to flying designers into the country from other places to do design work here.
3. It would put African UX design on the map and create awareness of the raw talent the community possesses. The idea being designers everywhere would be inspired to work wit this community.(we prototyped remote lectures that worked amzingly)
4. It is in Africa the HCD is most urgent and can have the largest impact.
5. I believe in HCD
Part of the reason I wanted to be involved with setting up the first UX lab in sub-sahahan Africa was to provide Human Centered Design opportunities to the local community. The idea of creating awareness and growing a community of skilled Human Centered Designers was central to my involvement.
This nagging concern bore the idea of creating UX Nairobi. The team at the UX lab and Shiku Gitau (working for Google at the time and super supportive) set out to define what the UX month would be about. We did not just want to replicate what was happening elsewhere, but to be true to our context and reality. This was particularly important to me. UX skills were nascent and there was no UX community to speak of. As such, the setup in content and context needed to be empathetic to these facts.
To farther entrench the context, we named Nairobi UX month Tajriba, which means experience in Swahili, the national language in Kenya. The idea was to once a year invite leading thinkers and doers in the UX world to spend their time sharing practical skills with the community.
One of the most profund UX minds saw and agreed with out vision. Susan Dray of the famous quote if the user cant use it, it doesn’t work came over and worked tirelessly in a well attended few weeks of marathon practical UX skill training. It was a resounding success given the feedback from participants (watch video on the header for some of feedback).
The evening of the final day I remember sitting back and feeling a deep sense of satisfaction and relief. Satisfied with quality of skill exposure we had brought to the community and the profile we were growing for UX in Africa. We had done it! We had put Africa on the UX map! We had pulled together as a team and done something about this nag I had. Africa had its first UX month. Tajriba! For 2 years now, we have done Tajriba with the kind help from Google and it grows bigger and bigger as the community grows. Check us out next year in October for the third one of this amazing design culture we continue to propagate with the help of a tireless team at the iHub.
1. Over 30 new designers have been introduced to and continue to be nurtured as human centered designers.
2. Over 15 other engagements with different design companies (including thoughtworks, google, IDEO) providing training to the community.
3. Tajriba continues to be a yearly event for university students, startups and the community in general.
4. Different groups go to universities and meet up to share and continue growing their UX skills.
In a small way, we are playing our part in growing a Human Centered Design culture and living our design passion.