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Design-A-Thon at Brooklyn Public Library Offers Opportunity to 'Flex Into UX!' and Explore User Experience (UX) Design Careers

On Saturday, September 30th,

teams of aspiring designers shared their ideas for innovative apps to help Brooklyn residents cope with the irritations of city life during BPL and KCC’s first-ever Design-a-Thon. The Design-A-Thon was the culminating event of Flex Into UX!, a series of free classes offered in collaboration with BPL's Business & Career Center and Kingsborough Community College's Division of Workforce Development and Continuing Education. During the Summer of 2023, over 90 Brooklyn residents had the opportunity to explore careers in user experience (UX) design by attending free classes that were held both online and in person. 


During the day-long Design-A-Thon at Brooklyn's Central Library, participants were challenged to work in small teams to design an app or website addressing a 'Brooklyn problem' derived from a flash online survey of the borough's residents. Noise pollution, the challenge of finding on-street parking, and the hazards pedestrians face from the proliferation of motorized scooters in the borough's streets figured among residents' top irritations. Three teams competed by delivering digital presentations with mockups of their proposed apps. The winners were determined by a panel of judges that included representatives of Brooklyn-based organizations, elected officials and experienced UX designers.


The program provided 13 class sessions from June through August, introducing UX design, visual design and human-centered design concepts to individuals seeking to begin careers with tech companies and in other fields.


UX designers commonly work as part of product-creation teams to ensure that new apps, websites, devices and other products and services are created with the practical needs of users in mind. Web developers and digital designers who apply UX principles to product design are among the fastest-growing professional fields in tech, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, and are among the tech roles for which short-term preparation and training can substitute for a four-year college degree to qualify candidates for employment in good jobs. 


The innovative Flex Into UX! program aimed to address disparities in the growing field of user experience design that have deterred many job-seekers from Brooklyn's diverse neighborhoods who are underrepresented in the field. A preliminary survey conducted by the Flex Into UX! team as part of the project's design phase found that many Brooklyn residents find tech careers appealing but are unclear about what preparation may be needed, don't know where to find formal training, and can't afford to pay for training classes. 


While UX design classes offered as part of undergraduate degree programs or by privately run boot camps can cost thousands of dollars, the Flex Into UX! program was free to over 90 registered participants. UX designers taught classes on a volunteer basis, allowing participants to connect with working professionals and get practical career advice. During the summer, class sessions took place online during weekday evenings, with in-person sessions on Saturday mornings at Brooklyn's Central Library.


The joint effort by the Library's Business & Career Center and KCC was part of the BKLYN Incubator, an initiative by Brooklyn Public Library to support innovative programs by fostering partnerships between library staff and community partners. BKLYN Incubator is supported by generous funding from the Charles H. Revson Foundation.  

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