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I have been lucky enough to attend the Interaction15 Conference hosted by IxDa in San Francisco last week. It was a great experience to not only meet professionals but gain some insight into the discussions going on in industry right now. Working “heads down, butt up” at CMU, it was a great way to leave the bubble and validate our learning and curriculum.

Day 1 (Educational Summit)

Keynote: Don Norman

  • Design should grow up; craftsmanship is not as important
  • Need a wider variety of designers
  • Machines require us to do all the things we are bad at. (example: commuting)
  • The day the product team is established, it is behind schedule and over its budget

Some perspectives on teaching design students about value creation: Jeremy Yuille

  • He presented a case study in which he led students through a design workshop to show value creation
  • Translating design education into different cultures is important
  • He is also working on a new program at RMIT focusing on a Master of Design Futures
  • Teaching critique was a “microtheatre” moment where students were made to feel uncomfortable so that they could see what impact their feedback actually had on each other

Can anybody be a designer?: Jhumkee Iyengar

  • She presented case studies of teaching design to high school students in rural India
  • There were challenges in language (communication and confidence), teamwork (gender segregation), travel, energy, access to technology
  • While most of the young generation goes into the “IT obsessed habitual D”, it is important to look at “emerging markets” (which aren’t “emerging” they are just a way of the world on the other side of the world)
  • The harmonious coexistence of contradictions that confuse the world is what makes this area of design so rich
  • She’s done amazing work empowering students through design methods (students standing in a box in the middle of the room to voice their thoughts) and teaching them design methods for them to tackle their own problems locally

Big Ideas brought into Practice: Joel Eden

  • This was a more theoretical / philosophical presentation that talked about “systems thinking and unthinkable thoughts”
  • The concept of distributed cognition (extended mind hypothesis, embodied cognition) came up several times.
  • Design is a process of unfolding a solution of self-organizing systems (according to pattern languages)
  • The lean process is a complex adaptive system that uses cognition as a material to design with

Educating designers and non-designers for impact: opportunities and challenges within the rise of design thinking Workshop:  Diana Miller

  • There is a belief that design thinking is taught as a follow-able replicable process with strategic alignment and facilitation.
  • There is an integration of both the process and the vocabulary
  • Dt to dt: desirability to design thinking
  • Design thinking as an educational imperative
  • What are the benefits of having an embedded facilitator
  • How do we measure this “pedagogy”: knowledge, behavior, nature, learning outcomes
  • Are we putting ourselves out of jobs by teaching design? What is design maturity?
  • Innovators vs. innovations
  • Knowledge process vs. knowledge product

The Role of Technology in the Design School Curriculum:  Panel

  • How much should we actually teach
  • Scaling vs. scaffolding
  • The magic of design should be seen even when technology is taken out
  • We should show our failures as well as our successes (making a “book of shame” on display at the university)
  • Smart cities vs. smart citizens
  • The future is in the middle of what is happening right now

It was great to get to see the beautiful CCA campus as well as take a gander at the undergraduate thesis projects.

Day  2

Keynote: Jan Chipchase

  • Don’t believe the hype. Least of all your own.
  • Create innovation consultancies
  • Longevity vs. impact
  • The money you turn down defines you as much as the work you take on
  • The gutter between consultant as change agent and corporate sell-out is littered with bonuses and broken dreams
  • The Walk/Talk Ratio
  • Understand where you are on the learning curve
  • Learn how to design the design experience

Hosted Cooper Workshop: Service Blueprinting

  • This workshop was a great way to get a hands-on experience in creating a simple service blueprint. I loved the small introduction to service design and then we jumped right in to mapping
  • Everyone at the workshop was thoughtful and gave good insight to the context of blueprinting as well (where it fits into the design process, where are traditional places to look for innovation within it)
  • We also did some great sketching “aerobics” that I’d love to replicate if I ever do another workshop involving drawing

Keynote: Kara Swisher

  • Kara gave a hilarious talk, going into the tech trends going on and giving her anecdotes and advice going forward. It was great to hear from someone outside of design but who also could look in and knew exactly what was going on.
    • The buzzfeedization of all
    • Ubiquity = promiscuity
    • Brandtastic or You Are Who You App
    • Geo  and  sensor Driven: There’s nowhere to hide
    • Always on: continuous partial attention
    • Authenticity: does the online agree with the offline?
    • Immersive wearable wearables
    • Data everywhere: drowning in information
    • Radial transparency: there is no exist
    • Soylent green is people, people?

It was great to end the day at the Opening Party at the San Francisco Old Mint Building.

Day  3

Keynote: Tim Brown in conversation with Allan Chochinov

  • Anyone good enough to hire is good enough to start their own thing
  • Behind every success is a crime
  • Organizations are becoming really good at designing one thing
  • Cameron Tonkinwise’s precautionary  principle
  • We cannot claim responsibility to know the outcome of everything we do
  • We swing between a world of abundance vs. a world of scarcity
  • We don’t have an idealized version of what a good company is
  • What do we do with our short “privileged” design life”?

Jumping to the End: Practical Design Fiction at Google Creative Lab & BERG: Matt Jones

  • We should look to sci-fi books to “try on future for size”
  • Lying about the future makes history
  • Macroscope- we should see the systems we are embedded in
  • (Im)material exploration
  • Being sold stuff <-> marketing <-> “pre-experience design” <-> “first cognitive contract
  • Cognitive unboxing
  • It’s not about making seamless systems but beautiful  seams

Reality is Optional: Creating an Interaction Architecture for Orchestrated Human Experience: Jason Severs

  • How sensitive are you to the nuances to experience?
  • Authenticity and novelty are the result of brand forces
  • Increasing customization drives relevance
  • Gradual progression toward collective meaning
  • “Experience” has become a formula for consistency, efficiency, breadth and deeper “relationships” with the brands we love
  • Social reality is being reduced to value-based systems and lifestyle options that reduces our humanity
  • Value-based engagement (calm and seamless, experience) vs. meaning-based engagement (immersive experiences for social awareness)

Designing for Impact: Margaret Gould Stewart

  • Success metric: how much satisfaction is kept after subtracting the amount of time spent on it
  • Diversity, empathy, and humanities as points of design

Voice and Gesture: Abi Jones

  • “Guessability studies”
  • Different devices take different form factors in different places
  • The interface should change after it’s shipped

Keynote: Gentry Underwood

  • Simulacrum- a representation or imitation of something real, often with associations of inferiority
  • Simulate the simulation the simulation that was once weal
  • Is the machine going to crush humanity or serve humanity
  • Technology creates possibility, design choses what it becomes

After a day full of talks, I headed over to LinkedIn HQ, Fitbit HQ, and IDEO HQ for the Open Studio Tours and the Coroflot Job Fair.

Day  4

Keynote: Adah Bdier

  • Design is a tool to create language: it is a system of symbolic communication with semantics (alphabet), syntax (grammar), and social context (community)
  • Can design make electronics a language?
  • Every interaction in the world is a ready-to-use buck

Beyond Handwaving: The Role of Performance in Interaction Design: Elizabeth Goodman

  • You have to perform the project to make the product
  • (Careful staging + skillful roleplay)/ Authoritative witnessing
  • Both parties need to be able to speak each other’s language
  • There is always a performance gap- the prototype can never explain itself

The Future of Wearable Technology: Max Burton

  • Any advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic
  • Miniaturization of components
  • Rise of infrastructure
  • Function -> expression
  • Interaction vs. intranet vs. internet

Get over yourself: how humility and empathy can save design: Panel by Thoughtworks

  • Less working with CTOs and more work with CEOs
  • Improving design in product development through empathy
  • Cognitive walkthrough and analysis
  • Visual radiators and team problem solving
  • Sketch to code and living style guides

Design in Challenging Governance Settings by Panathea Lee

  • This was one of the most inspirational talks at the conference for me.
  • What drives you?
  • Are we tackling core, systemic problems or tinkering at the edges?
  • Can good intentions, human-centered ethos, and appropriate tech solutions create a veneer of good that will ultimately enable global systems of injustice?
  • “Development” to what end?

Keynote: Mike Monteiro

  • This was also the perfect note to end on. Mike was an awesome speaker who spoke on the 13 biggest mistakes designers make during client presentations.
  • Good design does not self itself
  • A good designer who can sell work is more valuable than a great designer who can’t
  • Your boss is a choice
  • Selling is a core design skill

The day ended with an amazing Closing Party at the Exploratorium where got to see past alumni going great places as well as seeing the former head of the School of Design speak.

The conference overall was a great experience and I look forward to going to Helinski, Finland for the next one! While I don’t think I necessarily learned anything brand-spanking new, the talks provided good grounding for all practices in design.

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