Even IBM is Helping to Keep Austin Weird

Scott Francis
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Well, maybe not exactly weird. But is it really a surprise that if IBM was going to put a design team somewhere, that they would pick Austin?

The real surprise is how successful Phil Gilbert has been getting IBM turned on to their own legacy of industrial design and to re-energize behind it.  Some of that history was simply lost in the 90’s and 00’s with a focus on back-end software and enterprise software where “design” was viewed as optional.

I’ve written before about the effect that Phil Gilbert and Lombardi have had on IBM’s priorities, and also about Austin’s brand, and its relentless drive toward full employment.  IBM’s Design studio is reinforcing both Austin’s brand, Austin’s employment, and the adoption of Lombardi-style priorities… The Austin Business Journal covered the unveiling of the Design Studio two weeks ago

Company executives said IBM has already hired 100 workers for the new facility but plan to eventually grow it to 1,000 designers by 2018. The software development center in Austin will be one of four such centers across the U.S.
The nearly 25,000-square-foot “design studio” in North Austin — which was aligned with the Keep Austin Weird philosophy from the start — is part of a company-wide plan to improve IBM’s approach to the design of software-based products and the way users interact with software, company executives said during a new conference attended by company CEO Virginia Rometty.

Hiring 1000 people into design roles in Austin is going to greatly improve the level of design talent in Austin – not unlike the effect companies like Trilogy had on Austin’s talent pool for software talent overall.

But it also could help create momentum, and inertia, behind IBM’s design efforts.  This is a serious commitment by IBM to improving the experience of IBM products.

A second ABJ article includes a slideshow of the design center space.

I’m looking forward to checking out this space in person in a couple weeks – always interested in seeing other companies’ office remodels.