The Informed Life With Aynne Valencia

Episode 32 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with Aynne Valencia. Aynne is my colleague at the California College of the Arts, where she is the former Chair of the undergraduate interaction design program. She’s also the Director of Design at San Francisco Digital Services, which designs digital experiences for the citizens of San Francisco and the city employees that serve them.

Prior to working in government and education, Aynne had a long trajectory in the private sector. In this conversation, we discuss the differences and similarities between business, government, and education. As you’ll hear, I was especially keen to learn if projects in these domains follow different cadences. That line of questioning inevitably led to the benefits of long-term thinking. As Aynne put it,

I think we’ve seen the consequences of moving fast and breaking things. We’re dealing with the consequences of a lot of social media, for example, really influencing things that I’m sure and certain that the people who designed them, the people that created them never intended to have happen. At least I hope they didn’t intend to have these things happen.

I often wonder if there had been a point where they were able to really stop and consider all of the ways that something could go wrong, to really be in a situation where you really have to do a proper risk assessment. I’m wondering if those products would have been very, very different because of it. And I think a lot about design as being something that definitely changes the world for better or for worse. And right now, it’s been worse as of late.

I think that it’s really incumbent upon all of us as designers to step up and take responsibility for those things. So I’m really glad that I’m in a place right now where I get a chance to practice one of the tenets of my beliefs, which is to have a good livelihood, where the things that I’m doing I like to think are directly related to making somebody’s life better.

This seems to be a common thread in many of my recent conversations. It’s not a coincidence; the effects of not thinking systemically and long-term are manifesting all around us. (Although it’s worth noting, as I do in the show, that Aynne and I recorded our conversation prior to the current crisis.) I hope you find this interview valuable.

The Informed Life Episode 32: Aynne Valencia on Work Cycles