Open letter to the future: President Barack Obama
What was the US National Design Policy Summit? (brief)

U.S. National Design Policy Summit

The reason why I have been neglecting my blog is that I have been spending the last few months putting together a U.S. National Design Policy Summit. The event was held last week.



Leaders representing the major U.S. professional design organizations, design education accreditation organizations, and Federal government design assembled in Washington D.C. on November 11-12 to develop a blueprint for a U.S. national design policy.

United by a shared vision of design’s integral role in the U.S.’s economic competitiveness and democratic governance, the Summit generated over 250 proposals for how the design communities and the U.S. government can work together to drive:
-    innovation that supports American entrepreneurial spirit and economic vitality,
-    better performance in government communications and effectiveness,
-    sustainable practices for communities and the environment, and
-    design thinking that advances the educational goals of all areas of knowledge.

Summit participants ranked proposals by their value to the American people and the design communities as well as their operational and political feasibility. Brad McConnell, economic adviser in the Office of Senator Dick Durbin, assisted the group in determining political feasibility. The Summit concluded with the proposal of several immediate action steps for developing a U.S. national design policy:
1.    Re-establish the American Design Council to serve as a unified body representing all the U.S. design fields
2.    Create a report of the Summit and its proposals as the first publication of the American Design Council
3.    Seek funding for a report on the contribution of the design industries to the U.S. economy
4.    Encourage and support the National Endowment for the Art’s proposing of a U.S. National Design Assembly in 2010 and Federal Design Improvement Program in 2011
5.    Develop case studies from each design field that demonstrates the economic, social, and environmental value of design
6.    Engage design industry CEOs to provide testimonials of the value of design
7.    Propose a holistic design award that will represent the highest honor in American design.

Organized by Dr. Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall, Associate Professor of Design Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the U.S. National Design Summit participants included:

From Professional Design Organizations

-    Richard Grefé, Executive Director of AIGA
-    Paul Mendelsohn, Vice President, Government and Community Relations, American Institute of Architects
-    Deanna Waldron, Director of Government and Public Affairs, American Society of Interior Designers
-    Earl Powell, Lifelong Fellow, Design Management Institute
-    Frank Tyneski, Executive Director, Industrial Designers Society of America
-    Allison Levy, Managing Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs, International Interior Design Association
-    Paul Sherman, President, Usability Professionals Association
-    Leslie Gallery Dilworth, Executive Director, Society for Environmental Graphic Design

From Design Education Accreditation Bodies

-    Catherine Armour, National Board Member, Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design
-    Holly Mattson, Executive Director, Council for Interior Design Accreditation
-    Samuel Hope, Executive Director, National Association for Schools of Art and Design

From U.S. Federal Government

-    Clark Wilson, Sr. Urban Designer/Environmental Protection Specialist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
-    Frank Giblin, Director Urban Development Program, U.S. General Services Administration
-    Janice Sterling, Director of Creative Services, U.S. Government Printing Office
-    Ronald Keeney, Assistant Director of Creative Services, U.S. Government Printing Office

Summit Facilitators

-    Renata Graw, Principal Plural, University of Illinois at Chicago MFA 2008
-    Siobhan Gregory, MFA student in Industrial Design at University of Illinois at Chicago
-    Alicia Kuri Alamillo, MFA student in Graphic Design at University of Illinois at Chicago
-    Matthew Muñoz, Principal Design Heals, North Carolina State University MFA 2008
-    Sean Burgess, IDSA
-    Tim Adkins, IDSA


Len Johnson


I want to congratulate you on your efforts to coordinate the U.S. National Design Policy Summit and the vision of design's integral role in the U.S.'s economic competitiveness and democratic governance. Bringing together diverse groups and getting them to articulate common goals is always a challenge. The greatest achievement was to identify and prioritize action steps for developing a U.S. national design policy.
I am eager to support item #5: Case Studies and #6: Industry CEO testimonials on your action list. As a CEO of a branding and design firm in the Washington, DC area, I have had the priviledge of providing design services for major government policy initiatives including the FTC National Do Not Call Registry and the U.S. Agency for International Development branding U.S. foreign assistance as "From the American People." Please feel free to contact me if I can provide support as you move forward on this noble project.
Len Johnson
President & CEO
JDG Communications, Inc.
"Strategic Marketing By Design"

7389 Lee Highway,
Falls Church, VA 22042
P: 703.207.0933 x101

niti bhan

please accept my apology for incorrectly assuming your academic affiliation on bruce nussbaum's blog comments,


David Malouf

I was watching Iconoclasts this week w/ Cameron Sinclair of "Architecture for Humanity" and was really inspired by something he said about architects that I hope translates to other areas of design and that is "we build things". We don't just come up with ideas, but we execute manifestations of these ideas. I think this speaks to your point and I agree.

Something I'm thinking for myself as a new prof of design is how to do this work in my new environment. I have a lot to learn and that will take up initial time, but eventually I want to embed both evangelism and social change into my curriculum. projects around any aspect of gov't and design would work in both of these regards.

This brings up for me an interesting point. It would seem that not just the content but the culture of various organizations can lend different ideas around how to engage in this topic. I.e. a strong affinity towards open sourcing and transparency. I bring this up b/c this is a personal blog, but a discussion like this really would be better served in a wiki or similar format.

Please look at the work that or just generally the initiative of the new administration.

-- dave

-- dave

Gong Szeto

sorry if i "misundersconstrued"
i am glad your tenor is better and brighter
i have no doubt that suddenly your org(s) leap into the national stage overnight with brilliant aplomb.
some of the more interesting things to watch is how the public and government starts to view design - and i think the more atomic the representation the better (design is not single thing and everyday life has many specialists working on many specialized design problems)
i think this first summit is the right first step. but as in any sports analogy, it was simply the coin toss.
not that my opinion matters much, but i think your constituents should look at all the places where people interface government, all the places where political conversations take place, and codify them a la 2008. then boldly go into visioning those issues a la 2012, 2025, 2050. bring up the population pyramids for the US on and use that to plot a course. i will tell you with utter certainty that social interactive systems will be key and core, and who best to plot that course than you. what we know now as web 2.0 should pale in comparison to your vision. think 3.0, 4.0.
what america needs is VISION. and who better to illustrate vision than designers. you can be the one. and no one has to invite you to anything for you to express with verve. i just did it, you can too.

good luck. i hereby decree dori is our guide and muse. but most importantly - our dam breaker.

ps - nussbaum, perhaps, as evangelist/catalyst. but i place my bets on people like you, not bruce.

Elizabeth Bacon

Hi Dori,

Making this National Design Policy Summit a reality is a tremendous achievement for the United States, and I’d like to personally thank you for all your efforts.

I am presently the Vice-President of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA). IxDA now has over 8,000 subscribers to our discussion list, over 7,000 members of our LinkedIn group, and local group meetings in over 60 cities around the world. We recently reiterated our core value and purpose as an organization, which stands as follows:

We believe that the human condition is increasingly challenged by poor experiences. IxDA intends to improve the human condition by advancing the discipline of Interaction Design. To do this, we foster a community of people that choose to come together to support this intention. IxDA relies on individual initiative, contribution, sharing and self-organization as the primary means for us to achieve our goals.

As a member of the Board of Directors of this fine young organization, I know first-hand how challenging it can be to motivate action and how hard it is to manage dialog with a large group. I’d also like to make it clear that Dave Malouf does not speak for IxDA’s leadership, as dedicated as he is to our cause.

Your efforts, Dori, are fully in the spirit of our organization, and I hope that IxDA members can lend our passion and energy to the re-established American Design Council. Our membership includes some very well-known and helpful individuals who could support many of the immediate action steps that were identified at the Summit. Many of us are extremely interested in ensuring that our country better recognize the contributions of design to the power of our people and value of our businesses. The United States should stand as a better example to the world.

Please do reach out to the IxDA Board of Directors in order to help pursue your next steps. I welcome your contact, and hope that we can develop a constructive dialog for the betterment of all.

Best Regards,

David Malouf

Thanx Dori for the response. I know gov't policy work is REALLY difficult and it is always difficult to keep everyone happy in any sort of summit work like this.

I do think that just letting us know this is happening would have been helpful and let me explain:

1. We might have been able to add resources that you might not be aware of.

2. It would have just cooled the rather negative response you got till now. ;-)

3. You might not actually know our size as well as you think you do. Our membership is actually quite large (IxDA's) because of our cost of membership is so low. So we actually have a very high representation compared to even the big boys (AIGA and IDSA for example).

But most importantly, I'm glad this work is moving forward and I look forward to hearing how all the organizations that want to bite at the bait can jump on in.

BTW, Bruce Nussbaum should definitely be involved. He understands the business and governmental realities of design and his connections to IDSA through the IDEA award program make him a wonderful representative for the design community. Not to mention his deep commitment to the "design thinking" movement (for lack of a better term at the moment).

Again, I would challenge some of your basic assumptions about moving forward the way you have. I also would challenge that AIGA + UPA has got it covered. Obviously, I would say they don't. They do both have experience in gov't, but that's about it. I hope you do not make that assumption moving forward.

-- dave



I am saddened at your response--not because you mistakenly lumped myself and David as having the exact point of view and tone--but because it is clear that you did not bother to read our responses before you posted yours.

We have a right to raise these issues with Dori, and I think you'll note that I mentioned to Dori that I am looking forward to how things move forward, and I was not bad-mouthing her.

There was no name-calling, and I do not believe that Dave did that, either. It is unfortunate that someone as respected in the industry as yourself could make such a claim--and then mistakenly mislabel UPA, who actually did participate with Dori. Truly, it is unfair that you did that to them, just as it would be unfair if you did it to either of us.

Dori has done a great job of defending her position--just as we of other groups have tried to articulate that we do not believe that UPA covers all disciplines. It is no more out of line for us to ask for inclusion and consideration than it is for Dori to choose to not do either of those.


I'm sorry that this was mis-positioned as such, Dori. You, and the UPA, certainly do not deserve that.

And, indeed, I will look forward to hearing from you, potentially working with you, in the future. The Information Architecture Institute would appreciate future consideration, as I am certain that Interaction Design Association, and nearly every other group who would feel as if they could have some skin in the game. I'm certain we would all want to do what's best for our membership, and working on such an initiative would be a welcome challenge.



Gong Szeto

couple of things:

first @dori: i really hope you are able to recoup all the expensive long distance phone calls and expenses that you paid out of your pocket because no one came forward to sponsor. no one. and no one will repay all your allnighters and ulcers when the government agencies were distracted by the bailout. and perhaps the one bet that paid off was an obama win. the years you spent dreaming about the possibilities and rolling the dice just might pay off (i won't say now that it will, but the odds are better now than with a mccain administration.

second @david and russ: what's UPA? i wasn't born yesterday, and i don't even know, so maybe that's why you weren't on anyone's radar. that i know about UPA, given your missives here, i now think of "UPA" as an org full of name-calling sourpusses. well done, dudes.

dori deserves only 3 things from us right now (hey, i wasn't invited either) 1- thanks 2-trust 3-focus on your own splinter groups' take on the role of design and governance; ie, yoda's famous quote "do or do not." - for if you were indeed asked, you'd be asked that single question. better have a good answer. this country's crisis-mode waits for no one.

from the bottom of my heart, dori - THANK YOU. let me know how i can help. i know you will call.

Dori Tunstall

Dear David and Russ,

I can explain more of the process and decision making in terms of the invitation list and what you consider the lack of transparency.

The small invitation list was based on my selection of the professional design organization, design education bodies, and government agencies already involved in the creation of informal U.S. Design Policy and with fairly large US memberships. This was because the first set of proposals needed to be actionable, meaning grounded in experience with the difficulties of creating government policy and the bodies having the resources both in money and staff to follow up on Summit proposals.

I selected professional organizations to not just represent the various design constituents, but that they also have existing initiatives (AIGA's Design for Democracy, UPA's Usability and Civic Life) regarding design and government policy.

As to debates within the UX community about who represents them, I believe that between AIGA and UPA the important issues were raised regarding UX design for economic competitiveness and democratic governance. Note: I also invited ACM-CHI, but they did not respond.

It was not possible to invite representatives of all communities representing the design process, but the intention is to have wider forums in which other organizations could participate, when there is outside funding to accommodate the increased scale.

The event wasn't kept in secret, per se. I had decided to keep it low profile because I was not sure of its success in getting government people involved. The process of getting government involvement was very time consuming with confirmation coming within two months of the Summit. Then when we got government people involved, it was made clear that government PR people would get involved (i.e. need to attend the event) if there was any press before the Summit. This was to be avoided because it was a working event not a presentation giving event.

As for getting others involved, that is the intention of sharing the information that the Summit took place and some of the first action steps. The primary activity until January is getting out the report from the Summit, so that we can share the contents of the ideation and prioritization, so I ask that you be patient until then.

I look forward to your future participation.


David Malouf

I have to say I'm totally dismayed to be hearing about this like this. Your excuses of non-inclusion of "other UX orgs" is on a level of presumption that is truly arrogant. The other orgs exist b/c we find ourselves to be UNIQUE and don't share core common understandings about design. Some like IxDA may even challenge the notion of being a UX org as we see so much of our work to transcend the "user experience" (but that is a completely different issue).

THAT is the other question. UPA is NOT a design organization. Your membership is focused on engineer evaluators and do not come from the design schools that you were working with (yes, there are exceptions, but these define the rule, not excuse you from it).

I see you had 2 clear choices for getting our organizations to work together in a more diplomatic way: 1 go to UXNet to be a facilitation body and get agreement or 2 contact the organizations directly.

In lieu of doing that, you presumed too much and so much trust building now needs to be re-built.

Further, your excuse that you already have deep gov't ties is circular and self and short-sighted. Maybe other organizations can bring in deeper differentiated points of view b/c we LACK those ties and those issues.

I am glad to see this work going on and I know through my personal connections working at a design school and through industrial design I'll find a path towards inclusion, but I am saddened to see that UPA is still playing the role of divider in the UX community, something that IAI and IxDA have been struggling to overcome since our founding.

I hope you will NOW move forward to get IxDA, IAI, CHI, IIID and others involved. I hope that most importantly we make everything in the development of this program transparent in the spirit of the initiatives going on at this most historic time.

-- David Malouf
Founder, IxDA
Professor of Interaction Design, Savannah College of Art & Design
(Titles used for identification purposes only)



Thank you for your response, although I have to admit it seems that there should be some way to invite to participate, or some way to allow the organizations to know that it is happening.

It would be great to understand the selection criteria that allowed the UPA to represent all of us--I don't think all of us feel represented by them, so that's the type of blanket statement that I suspect we're seeking to avoid.

I'll look forward to seeing how this progresses and hopefully hearing more about how the other groups can become involved.

Dori Tunstall

@Russ. There were many organizations that could not be invited due to the fact that it was a working Summit. Meaning, the group had to be small enough to support ideation and prioritization exercises in one room and affordable since most of the Summit expenses was coming out of my own pocket. Although AIGA, AIA, and IDSA gave money and staff to support the Summit.

There will be follow up activities that can be more inclusive, but I needed to start with a small group. UPA represented the user experience community well and they already have deep programs involving government, so they were the UX-representative choice.

Rachel Powers

Very cool, Dori! A much needed summit!


It would be really great to see such key organizations as the Information Architecture Institute ( and the Interaction Design Association ( included in events like this, as well as a variety of other organizations for Design Research, etc.

As these are thriving, growing fields--even in times of economic uncertainty--I'd say there is a benefit in including them.

Gabriel Harp

Wow Dori! What a great achievement! You are probably aware that the National Science Foundation is having national workshops for developing design as an interdisciplinary discipline in graduate education. I'm wondering if and how other fields came into the conversation among design professionals-- seeing other methodologies (if not issues) being made possible through cooperation and integration via a national design policy.

This time last year I participated in the development of India's design policy. Interestingly, there were many who were only tangentially associated with design. Am wondering how a public comment & participation process could happen in the U.S. for something like this. Is it necessarily a professionalized endeavor or is there a compelling space for design policy from everyday experience?

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