2023 Year in Review

A recap of projects, lessons, and learnings from 2023

2023 Year in Review
Photo by Kajetan Sumila / Unsplash

Happy New Year! As we step into 2024, we wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for letting DIA be a part of your lives for the past year. Maybe it was for those few minutes you were reading about what we do or through the monthly newsletters where we keep you entertained with more events to check out. 

Let’s review our accomplishments and failures this past year. 

  • Organization Updates
  • Apprentice Program
  • Game Club
  • Book Club
  • 2023 Projects
  • Thank-you’s

DIA Design Guild is a California non-profit!

As of July 2023, DIA Design Guild is established as a California nonprofit corporation dedicated to education and training for people entering the tech industry. This is a major update for us. Previously, DIA was established as a for-profit organization in 2017. We had wanted to be a design agency and make money for ourselves as a minority-owned company. However, we had been so infatuated with the concept of giving away at least half of our work for free that making money never really took off. Oh, how naive we were!

With the growing stability of DIA’s apprenticeship program and resounding feedback from our DIA community, we realized even more so that wavering between for-profit and nonprofit held us back and prevented us from doing more educational-focused activities and contributing to the wealth of resources and support for people learning and surviving in tech field and user experience industry. In other words, keep it simple and focus on what matters most to us: pay it forward with design mentorship and education.

Making DIA Design Guid officially an educational nonprofit means that we can focus on paying it forward with design mentorship and education.

So that’s our biggest news of 2023. For 2024, we’ll continue to work on getting our nonprofit recognized by the U.S. IRS and figuring out grant writing, fundraising, and sustainably governing a nonprofit. 

Apprentice Program Lessons from 2023

2021 was the year we piloted the apprentice program. 2022 was the year we introduced rituals like orientation and included more mentors to design the experience. 2023 saw the introduction of no-code tools and more structured research projects to gather feedback on our own community experience. 

The apprentice program is still working on its programming. We know that the apprenticeship doesn’t work without actual projects. That’s why we’re working on developing internal projects that feed back into the DIA community, specifically around the apprentice program experience and UX portfolio evaluation. 

Meanwhile, adding to our list of rituals, we met in early December to reflect on the apprentice program and all the things that DIA did this past year. Our biggest get together yet!

Screenshot from our largest community retrospective yet! Including apprentices and mentors from previous and 2023 cohorts, 20 people in our DIA community participated in our end-of-2023 event.

Best moments of the year:

  • Working on a lot of different projects
  • Getting mentorship and learning from others in DIA
  • Making games with the DIA Game Club
  • Learning about practicing mindfulness
  • Completing their Masters program
  • Graduating from USCS Silicon Valley Extension program for UX and Web Design
  • Getting accepted and starting MS program in cognitive psychology
  • Building three digital marketing campaigns - I never thought I would be doing this and I love all that I am learning!
  • Securing two part-time jobs this year after a year of unemployment. 

Biggest learnings

  • Asking for help
  • It’s okay not to know or understand everything
  • Sometimes learning feels slow and hard
  • Making space for my own interests and things I want to learn is important and rewarding
  • Maintaining myself by slowing down – I don’t need to run myself to the ground or burn out to feel like I provide value to the team.
  • There’s a lot to learn, many of which isn’t taught in school. We are all constantly in the learning process.
  • Learning how to do
  • Being grateful for what I have gotten so far and whatever good stuff I am getting
Close-up of team recap where participants shared things that went well, didn’t go so well, and weren't expected as well as shout-outs and learnings this year. 

Apprentice Program Experience Research

This year, Caroline Craner and Alex Forseth lead a research project examining DIA’s apprentice program focusing on the apprentices’ experiences. While they focused mostly on the onboarding stages of the program, they ended up finding out so much more! From their research, they created 7 different apprentice archetypes and a journey map describing the apprentice onboarding experience.

They also found the following strengths:

  • An inclusive application process.
  • 1:1 mentorship guidance.
  • Flexible self-paced learning.
  • A supportive community which provides accountability and professional growth amongst their peers.

Additionally, they found the following opportunities for the apprentice program:

  • Address significant application feedback waiting periods.
  • Information overload during orientation.
  • Include asynchronous options for events and connection.
  • Have clear expectations, structure, and guidance.
  • Create more project opportunities.
  • Remove or mitigate obstacles for apprentices to connect with others.

Stay tuned for the upcoming case study which will dive more into our process and explore our findings deeper!

Slide from research presentation. The research was primarily focused on the apprentice application process, candidate interviews, and apprentice orientation. Credit: Caroline Craner and Alex Forseth

Game Club

The DIA Game Club went through a radical transformation in 2023. Rebranding from the previous title as the DIA Game Studio, the club experimented with monthly game jams that emphasized real-time discussion and community engagement. We got through 9 jams this year, which is a big achievement for a new and unusual endeavor. There were some ups and downs but the club’s excited to make more improvements for 2024 based on feedback and observations from 2023. 

Some things we noticed went well this year:

  • We made the first step in putting ourselves out there!
  • We had more participation than the previous year of 2022. 
  • We found a consistent format that works. 
  • We learned a broad diversity of things as a club.
  • We found making games provides different avenues for creativity and self-expression.

Some things we noticed could have gone better:

  • We're still figuring out how to provide what we lack.
  • Commitment is hard!
  • We compromised our mission to be accessible for newbies.
  • We're on the right path and learning from our mistakes.

Some things we want to try... Stay tuned for updates!

Screenshot from Game Club retrospective using the Rose-Thorn-Bud approach. Credit: Justin Kim and Alex Forseth 

Read Aloud Together Book Club

The Read Aloud Together Book Club was launched in mid-2023 as an open-to-public community event. This read-aloud format was an idea borrowed from other book clubs that Julia joined, UX Stars led by Randy Bapst (LinkedIn) and UX Book Club led by Frankie Kastenbaum (LinkedIn).

Julia runs this book club to foster critical thinking and an open dialogue. Readers take turns reading sections and Julia leads the discussion by sharing takeaways from the reading, pointing out parts that resonated with her work experience. 

We started the summer off reading Changemakers. However, people felt that it wasn’t practical enough so we switched to Mapping Experiences, which had more relatable examples that readers could bring to their projects. This book is about journey mapping, customer experience mapping and other types of mapping to bring teams and organizations together. Intending to read 9 chapters, we covered eight chapters due to the end-of-year holidays.

The DIA Read Aloud Book Club will be starting up again in late March. Feel free to join us and help choose the next book we read together. 

Projects in 2023

Screenshot from CIID. Taken January 5, 2024.

Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (website) reached out for help to redesign their website. Led by Julia DeBari, apprentices Kerry Sutherland and Josey Dies completed the design, content strategy and information architecture work. 

Screenshot from BEI. Taken January 5, 2024

Brinkerhoff Evaluation Institute (website) commissioned us to redesign their website, which we completed in 2022. They reached out again to help them add a resource library for their community. 

Reverie Mental Health (website) reached out for some design and content strategy support on redesigning their website. Led by Grace Lau, apprentices Justin Kim and Jenny Ear completed the design system, design and information architecture. 

Kunverj, the event planner behind community conferences IAC and EuroIA, requested our support for social media marketing for their 2 community conferences. 

  • Apprentice Caroline Craner took the lead on crafting the digital marketing strategy for the first time for IAC23, learning from previous volunteers and mentor, Alesha Arp. She was able to use interview highlights that apprentices Miguel Castillo and Alex Forseth created for IAC22. The three-month campaign resulted in a 31% increase in LinkedIn followers and a 46% increase in engagement rate when compared to previous campaigns.
  • Applying insights from IAC23, in their following marketing campaign for EuroIA, apprentices Caroline Craner and Jenny Ear boosted LinkedIn followers by 137% in just two months.

Meanwhile, the IAC Redesign project that had started in 2022 went through a number of changes (volunteers joined and left, client priorities and focus changed). Originally planning to launch the new conference website in 2023, the team has reworked the content model and user stories for IAC24.  

World Information Architecture Association (WIAA) is another long-time partner when it comes to projects.  

  • WIAA conducted its 3rd State of Information Architecture survey. Led by Optimal Workshop’s principal user researcher, Martin Bulmer, apprentices Miguel Castillo and Chun Ling “Vanya” Hsu completed the survey design, implementation, and analysis. Report forthcoming.
  • WIAA also needed assistance with a new event series, World Information Architecture Café. Apprentice Nehar Sultana is learning about product management while developing the roadmap and coordinating events for the series. Check out the World IA Café calendar of events.
  • Supporting World IA Day 2024, apprentice Jenny Ear is the global event producer learning about communication, social media marketing, and coordinating global events with no-code tools for World IA Day.

Jorge Arango and Karl Fast developed a successful workshop series, Building a Personal Knowledge Garden, around personal note-taking and note-making. Apprentice Justin Kim supported in compiling market research and competitive analysis. 

To 2024 and you

Looking back, we’ve accomplished a lot and learned what worked and what didn’t. We can’t promise that we’ll definitely post our monthly newsletters on time or host more events, but here’s for being more mindful and appreciative of each other’s time and impact

Thank you for your gifts of time and guidance: 

(Incoming mentors)

Adam Shreve

Amit Patel 

Amy Silvers

Anna Vasyukova 

Daria Aleksandrova

Isabel Aneyba 

Laura Cochran 

Mehul Mehta 

Sruthi Vaylay 

(This year’s participating mentors)

Aimee Gonzalez-Cameron

Debbie Levitt

Elizabeth Arostegui

Jennifer Du

John Khuu

Julia DeBari

Marissa Klymkiw

Martha Magsombol

Sara Bond

Temi Aminu

(Board of Directors)

Grace Lau

Julia DeBari

John Khuu

Kao-wei Chen

Temi Aminu

Justin Kim

Caroline Craner

Christine Lau

Thank you for being a part of DIA Design Guild this year:

(Participating apprentices)

Alexander Forseth, 2021

Ashlyn Riambon, 2022

Chun Ling “Vanya” Hsu, 2022

Danielle Egipto, 2022

Elizabeth Mitchell, 2022

Jessi Shakarian, 2021

Josey Dies, 2022

Justin Kim, 2021

Katherine Chen, 2021

May Ng, 2022

Miguel Castillo, 2021

Nasimeh Taghavi, 2022

Beula D’souza, 2023

Bianca Lindblad, 2023

Caroline Craner, 2023

Freddy Ramos, 2023

Kerry Sutherland, 2023

Jacq Lewis, 2023

Jenny Ear, 2023

Jessica Rodriguez, 2023

Nehar Sultana, 2023

Oghogho “PJ” Ekhator, 2023

Sharnya Govindaraj, 2023

Sirikhwan Pamornkul, 2023

Sulaimon Salako, 2023

And thank you to everyone for subscribing and reading this.

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