“I really just wanted to know what other cool people were doing in the city,” remarked Founder and Executive Director, Poppe Guthrie, on Indy Design Week’s inception back in 2018. “I wanted to be exposed to other areas of design. Other similar-minded people in different industries or different practices. I just wanted to talk to other nerds. I wanted to find people who cared about these things.”

Five years later, the conference continues to do just that. Indy Design Week (IDW) is a multi-day interdisciplinary conference, under the capital “D” design. The purpose is to elevate and expose human-centered design in Indianapolis by providing a network of partners, educational outlets, thought leaders, and businesses that support the Indianapolis design community. Attendees can hear from a range of local leaders with backgrounds as architects, community managers, graphic designers, and UX designers all giving insights on what being a designer means to them.

This year, the conference returns with virtual workshops where individuals can learn and create something brand new. There will be talks from inspiring local leaders, a job fair to connect you with hiring companies and other designers, and a volunteer opportunity for you to get involved and give back to our community. At all IDW events, attendees will have the opportunity to meet, collaborate, and hang out with other Indy-based designers & creators.

But attendees should know that IDW isn’t just for individuals, it’s for organizations as well. Noelle Webster-Milam, the Director of UX at SEP, has gotten to merge her individual interest in the design field along with her company’s values. “We are a software product design and development company. In my role, I am responsible for improving and safeguarding SEP’s UX fitness. This means continually working to integrate UX service delivery into our overall product outcomes for clients, build and integrate UX into the SEP culture and ecosystems, encourage UX growth and excellence, and advance the community,” she explains.

“It means so much to me to help build a practice where our designers have agency and autonomy in their practice. UX is included from the onset of a project and is sought after because design drives fantastic outcomes for our clients. As Indy Design Week has grown, we [SEP] have supported the Indy Design Week mission because we believe in the impact of design on products, systems, and our overall culture. Indy has such a strong design presence and some amazingly talented designers of all kinds.”

Noelle also found time to support the conference by volunteering. “I attended in 2018, and every year after. It’s been great to see the community grow and rally around design year after year. This year, Poppe asked me to take on the President role of IDW. I had been very active in our local design community in a previous phase of my life. I took a break as I got married and had a child. In my current phase of life, I had been feeling like there was something missing—community is in my core values as a person. So, I decided it was time to get back into it and continue to put Indy’s design community on the map for our amazing talent and capabilities. IDW has grown over the years to be a sought-after event; something designers look forward to and bring connections to celebrate all we’ve built in Indianapolis. How could I say no?”

Conference attendees turned volunteers are not uncommon for IDW. The sense of community and support has drawn people in and kept them coming back. This was the case for Chris Hartley, who discovered IDW in 2019 on social media. “I first attended one of the evening meetups. I had been searching for my place in the design community, and I found it there,” he reflected. “Fast forward to now, this is my third year volunteering on the conference’s marketing committee. On top of that, I was actually hired for a job I love at SEP because of the people I met during Indy Design Week.”

“It’s really amazing to see people get hired and have jobs and opportunities because of this event existing,” professed Poppe Guthrie. “It’s so fulfilling because the reason I became a designer is because I wanted to make a positive impact on people’s lives. That’s what I think IDW can do. It means hope and opportunity to me.”

That impact did not go unnoticed in the community as Indianapolis-based TechPoint, the nonprofit growing the next generation of Indiana’s tech sector, announced Poppe Guthrie as a member of the Tech 25 Class of 2020. The awards honor 25 people who are “critical and exceptional performers helping to grow Indiana’s tech and tech-enabled companies.” Winners are chosen from a competitive pool of nominees based on their professional contributions, energy and attitude, and community commitment.

“Pretty surreal,” is how Guthrie recalls being a Tech 25 honoree. “It felt validating that all the effort put forth building Indy Design Week and IxDA was being seen. Being recognized in that way really made it feel like it was making a difference because it’s really hard to know if anyone cares. Because I care. I care about the design field and practice. I care about education. And I feel there are people that don’t have access, knowledge, or the opportunity to be an ethical practitioner. It was great to be a part of that cohort and it also does great things for design. It’s making a statement to the rest of the technology crew that we’re here and we’re doing it.”

With the fifth iteration of Indy Design Week returning in-person for the first time since 2019, the theme for 2022 will be Emergence. Looking back on the growth of the IDW, Poppe Guthrie reveals what makes the magic of this community and conference come to life every year.

“We have a great team. I’m honored to work with other people that are passionate about this event. They help make the event happen, and that’s fun. I think that is the future of Indy Design Week. I hope, as we move forward, we see more fresh faces that are interested and passionate about keeping the event going. Our board helps hold this event together. In a way, the future of Indy Design Week is determined by everyone who chooses to continue to be a part of it and the individuals who find success in attending it.”

Indy Design Week starts August 22nd and culminates with Saturday, August 27th’s in-person conference. Tickets for Indy Design Week are still available for purchase at Indy Design Week’s website.