What is a Swarm?
It is not an amorphous cloud of equals, where nobody gets any decision power. Neither is it a traditional hierarchical organization where commands are issued top-down and people are expected to follow them. A Swarm may look like this from the outside, but that’s not what it is.
Rather, it is a scaffolding set up by a few individuals that enable tens of thousands of people to cooperate on a common goal in their life. These tens of thousands are usually vastly diverse and come from all walks of life, but share one common goal.
As all the people in the Swarm are volunteers — they are there because they think the Swarm can be a vehicle for change in an area they care about — the only way to lead is by inspiring others through action.
In a Swarm, nobody gets to tell anybody else what to do. (People can take on roles and deliverables voluntarily, though.)
Let us focus on What We Can Do!
Why am I referring to a Swarm?
Lately I have been thinking a lot about a sort of collective around our craft in my city. I currently live in Montreal, and I am a user experience designer. I find myself isolated. Although I used to be part of the group UXMTL, I quickly lost interest in it because it was actually the opposite of what I could do, or even wanted to do. My goals were not met, and I did not meet other designers of other fields. Rather I got into arguments with very comfortable bureaucrates working in small agencies who came to our meetings to mostly argue about our existence.
My goal was to get to know our ever growing community of practitioners, and share methods, books, knowledge and best practices. Rather we were a few meeting in a closed room, complaining about our every day battle — making our boss understand why he/she hired us in the first place. Help our craft be accepted in a design process that is too centered on making things look nice, but not very useful.
This was Montreal back in 2009. And unfortunately, things have not change that much. BUT this post is not to rent about this small city, rather to try once more to fit it.
Why a Design Swarm?
I think that if we gather around a common goal and inspire each other through action and cooperation, we can make a good change. I am part of big collectives, and movements that I deeply believe in and have found myself very inspired, active and motivated when I felt we were all making something better, or doing something together without planning too much. Just getting things done. I’d love for a Design Swarm / Collective to exist in Montreal and to gather people who are working in a design field that is centered on the end user. They don’t have to be making screens, or wireframes, or sitemaps. They should be the new kind of designers who not only care about how sexy the font is, but if the font is accessible/readable, web friendly, and if the message the font is drawing; is understood. Designers with a soul. I am throwing this out there and hope to reach at least one or two other Montrealers who, like me, believe in change, believe in purpose, love their jobs, love people and want to be better at what they do by sharing / collaborating / and occupying their world.