[Editor’s Note: This post provides several basic touchpoints for larger topics in the ongoing conversation of UX and Design. Where possible, I’ve provided links to speakers and resources for further reading.]
The day started at a comfortable pace. I didn’t rush myself or push to be anywhere at any specific time. I allowed the morning to happen and knew I would be to the conference at the start (or close enough). The first few speeches were just introductions anyway.
I had a nice breakfast by myself in the hotel. Traditional Irish breakfast things and a scone with some coffee. It was a nice start. I finished quickly, put on some music and started my 15 minute walk to the convention center.
I wandered around some side streets that were less busy that the main roads that cut through town. It was relaxing. On one road close to the river, all buildings on the entire right side of the road were completely coated in graffiti. This went on for several blocks. All the delivery trucks on the street had also been covered in tags. It was really overwhelming visually. Graffiti is everywhere here, but this was the largest concentration that I have found so far.
I arrived to the convention center just as the opening talks were wrapping up. I don’t think I missed much. It was standard discussion to introduce the event.
Keynote: Luke Williams
The morning keynote was delivered by Luke Williams. He talked about his book, Disrupt, and used that term over and over again to drive home his beliefs. Luke believes through his experience that businesses need to stop being reactionary to changes and instead need to make big changes to provoke a reaction.
Luke wants people to take ideas and turn them on their head. You can do this through seeking out new patterns and this can reveal new strategies and ways of thinking about solutions. The rule of thumb seems to be whatever you are doing, explore the idea of doing the opposite to see if you can carve out a unique business proposition for a new market.
I hate to say it but the whole thing to me is starting to feel like a clichéd design pattern that is just aching to be “disrupted” by someone. There has been success in pushing the idea of disruption and selling it as a new technique or at least a buzzword in your toolbox. There is no doubt that we need to push ourselves and our clients further to really see all sides of a problem to properly identify a solution, though.
Talk: Eric Dahl
Erik Dahl discussed cultural design. This talk didn’t really connect with me, but there were some interesting cultural insights that he brought up. Here are a couple of the ideas that I thought were really good: Let go of patterns because they are different from culture to culture. These patterns create an expectation that just may not be met in a different culture. Another idea that I liked was that stories are the semantics of culture and patterns are the syntax. Finally, culture as performance over culture as object.
Talk: Christina Persson and Joan Vermette, Mad Pow
The next talk was about process, it was a duo discussing it. Their names were Christina Persson and Joan Vermette, both work at Mad Pow. One hates process and the other loves it. It was a decently delivered talk with some interesting insights. Unfortunately the goal of the talk that I perceived was to debate whether or not you need process. What was delivered was more of a talk about the nature and structure of teams.
Essentially their idea breaks down to that all people are either Thinkers, Drawers or Makers. If a team is too focused on any one of these things they become off balance. These factors are like muscles and all need to be kept strong and balanced to function properly. All of this in and of itself seemed like a pretty good justification for some sort of process. In the end I felt like it was interesting and there were nuggets that I could pull out of it. I am more of a Drawer. I like to play with the Legos and see what I can make before all of the research and justifications are tied down. Doing that helps inform my work.
Met a fellow named Aaron who went to IU in Bloomington, IN. He is studying for his phd with Phillips about how teams present and use the artifacts they create. At the same table, I also met a masters student from IU named Kai at lunch. He is finishing up his studies in interaction.
Jared Spool is here as an attendee. That is kinda wild in my mind for some reason. I guess that I just assume smart people are smart and don’t bother sitting in and listening to others. Another incorrect cliché hypothesis that my brain automatically draws. A presenter last night ripped into Jared specifically about mucking up the ux profession and being responsible for a perceived tech bubble. I don’t think he realized that he would actually BE here.
Talk: Tom O’Rahilly
Tom O’Rahilly talked about imagination and identity. His passion is changing peoples perceptions through stories. He is the creator of a place called the Leprechaun Museum. Leprechaun is an image that, to Irish people it seems, is just at charged as racial imagery in US of African Americans. The goal was to use this name as a starting point to create a discussion and get people interested in their heritage and folklore again. The name was used specifically to wind people up and to educate people.
A complete mess of a presentation about mobile was the next talk I walked into. It was a last minute change of plan. I thought that I would just see what would happen. I am not going to really go any further on the topic because I don’t want to be mean. I will say that it meandered and had no focus. No deeper meaning was revealed and there was no power or idea to walk away with.
Talk: Anthony Dunne
The presentations wrapped up for the day with a talk by Anthony Dunne about the need for designers to ask what if questions. The difference between this the what ifs that other talks were discussing was that this one was much more focused on serendipity, absurdism and whimsy. Because of those things, and it’s general lack of direct fibrous connection to interaction design, I kind of loved it. It was refreshing to see a presentation that takes the idea of interaction design to one of it’s furthest points.
He presented the work of his students who were all tasked with finding ways to take a technology or idea and make it work in an unexpected way. An example, and my favorite one at that was a student that took a disk drive and made it get out of the way if it sensed a spill. The student wanted the interaction to be relatable and create an emotional response so rather than simply have it move up, it awkwardly hobbled up and stood as if it were an animal. Very clever.
Anyway, it is late and my mind is looping in on itself like ouroboros. So long for now. Sayonara. Bon Voyage. Toodaloo. That’s all folks!