Designing a panel discussion that engages the participants, the audience and has enough information to take away is a challenge. Most often it leads to droning experts on the podium and an uninvolved crowd. There are a few drivers the DesignUp team defined to make a panel work. And work hard at that.

Driver #1 – Mixed bag of Apples. No oranges. We made sure that the panelists were connected by their vocation, design and the love for technology. However, we also made sure that there was diversity in the unity. They differed in their journey to reach their destination. In Chennai, we had a math major, a psychology major, an engineer and an artist, all design professionals, sharing their stories. In Hyderabad, there was a design-preneur, a pedagogue, an activist and a professional in a large technology firm. Again all of them designers, were throwing light on the path they had taken. So variety creates opinions and opinions create zestful conversations.

Driver #2 – Talk about us designers, not design. Nobody has empathy for designers. So we do. Our panels are about issues that we designers face on a daily basis. As we grow in numbers these hidden concerns need to be revealed and addressed. In Chennai, we talked about being integrated with business and technology teams, mutual respect and future design teams. In Hyderabad, we questioned the originality of Indian design, talked about D-schools and the state of design education. Together we can seek out the truth. And in the process learn more.

Driver #3 – No boundaries, no restrictions. In our guidelines to the panelists, we said this – ‘Do not hold back – if you think what you are going to say is provocative or controversial do not hesitate to say it loud and clear. Your wisdom will be remembered.’ The DesignUp team believes that open conversations are the birthplace of future solutions and a constructive critique is progressive.

Driver #4 – Bring Stories. If at all we can narrate anything with great confidence and panache, they are small anecdotal episodes of our own life. Our panelists are most often experienced professionals who can tell the audience a few of these engaging, informative and most often funny stories. We nudge them to share these. These journeys throw light on drivers and barriers in our growth path.

Driver #5 – Be informative, have fun. The panelists are asked to construct their responses with the audience in mind. Most often the house has a decent mix of designers in startups, large enterprises, self-employed and a smattering of front-end technologists. They are eager to know about the state of the business and the role of design in it. They also want to know methods to better their knowledge and understand the future of design for technology. It is important to be as informative as we can and have fun with the audience while doing that.

It is less than a week to the DesignUp Pre-event in Singapore. I have sent guidelines and a conversation structure document to all in the panel. There will be Julee (Hyun Ju Lee) – Director of Link Design Centre at NTUC, Keith Oh – Head of Product Design, Carousell, Amy Huang – Human-Centered Design Leader, Head of Design at RedMart, Poon Wen Ang – Design Director, Aleph Labs and Priscilla N – Head of Design, SP Group. I am looking forward to yet another inspiring, interactive and informative conversation.

This is probably the only occasion where you can see all the design leads of key businesses and brands of Singapore on a single stage. Be there!