Bite-sized learnings from the first day of Interaction 17 in NYC — with topics ranging from Virtual Reality, to Design Ethics, all the way to US politics.
Interaction 17 is one of the biggest UX conferences in the world. Organized by IxDA, it brings together design leaders, professionals, and students from different continents to discuss the future of Interaction Design and our role and responsibility as designers in creating experiences for our users — as well as the larger impact the products we create can have in the world.
The event is incredibly inspiring, in many ways. Not only to be able to see so many minds that think alike getting together to celebrate our profession, but also for the fact that the topics covered in the conference force everyone to step back a hundred miles from our day-to-day activities and look at the larger picture of where our discipline is headed.
Here are a few things I learned in the first day of the conference:
Stop with the business as usual
We can’t just discuss business as usual when there are some many terrible things happening in the world.
The political situation in the US inevitably came up, several times, during the first day of the conference. Consciously. “A conference like this can’t just be about business as usual when there are so many terrible things happening in the world”, says Josh Clark, one of the organizers, right at the start of the day.
As you would expect, the topic came up again in pretty much every presentation throughout the day.
When we feel powerless about topics that seem far beyond our reach, we have to remind ourselves about the positive impact Design can do in the world — and how, as a community, it’s our responsibility to keep pushing for the changes we want to see in the world. Let’s hope we talk not only about the problem, but about potential solutions moving forward.
Look at a journey through all its pieces
Chelsea Mauldin shared a bit of her experience working at the Public Policy Lab, in a very inspiring talk about Design and Power. After explaining the concept of the three fiduciary duties — care, loyalty, and obedience — and how that can be applied to Design, Chelsea reminded us that it is our job as designers to be obedient to our users’ requirements and needs.
To get there, we need to start seeing users as owners of the experience. Who owns the jail experience are the prisoners, not the people we tend to think are “in command”. Prisoners are the owners of the experience. They are living their lives in that space; they are defining the rules; they are shaping the stories that happen within those walls.
The opposite is also true: we need to start seeing who we think as “owners”, as the end users. The prison officer is a user of the jail as much as the prisoners are. The bus driver is a user of the bus as much as the passengers are. The experience a bus driver has with the bus defines the experience that everyone else has. It becomes a place of shared experiences, shared stories and shared responsibilities.
The bus driver is a user of the bus as much as the passengers are. Their experience defines everyone else’s.
Point being: we need to look more holistically at the experiences we help design — at the entire journey, including other actors than the one you’ve been asked to focus on, including other channels than the one you’re responsible for.
Intent and capability are intrinsically related
I’ll leave this one on an abstract note. But here’s a quote from Brenda Laurel on her talk about VR and AR (I actually think her talk was about much more than that).
“When we are young, we don’t take action until we feel an intense love for something. When adults, until we lose something and we grieve.” — Brenda Laurel
Immersive experiences reduce comprehension
The wider the angle of the Cinematic VR experience users are viewing, the less story comprehension and retention they will have.
Gary Hustwit, the mastermind behing some of the best design documentaries ever done (including Helvetica, Objectified and Workplace), shared some of his learnings on crafting audience experiences in Cinematic VR. For those who are not familiar with the term: Cinematic VR is a branch of virtual reality that covers high-quality, 360° 3D video experiences, preferably with ambisonic audio, and possibly with interactive elements.
Gary shared an interesting experiment they did with real users going through a story that was told in a Virtual Reality environment:
They ran the test with 3 different group of users, each one seeing the VR environment at a narrower or wider angle (90, 180 and 360 degrees), to gauge how much people were able to retain details of the story such as character names, narrative and words used.
The results showed that the more visual complexity users had access to, the more they would get distracted from focusing on the core of the narrative. When you expand their visual field, they start to pay attention to details that are in the scene that are not really relevant for the narrative — distracting them from the core of the experience they were supposed to be having in a Cinematic VR story.
Look beyond the surface
Another quick learning, this time extracted from Daniel Yang’s presentation on Design to Fight Crime and Save Lives:
“You can rethink the UI of government systems as much as you want, but you need to think at workflow level to make a larger impact.” — Daniel Yang
On unconscious bias
Roughly 11% of creative directors are female, while 73% of consumer purchasing decisions are made by women.
Jen Heazlewood reminded us that, without realizing it, biases can manifest themselves into a lot of our design decisions.
A few years ago, a male-led design team was working on a brief for a major athletic apparel company. When the team presented its work to the client, the reaction was honest: the work was too clinical and serious. Perhaps female designers would help take the work in a different direction? As a result, a few women were brought in to diversify the team. The end result: work which was more simple, friendlier and easier to understand.
Considering diverse teams from the outset is so important as we create work for cross-cultural products and services targeted toward diverse, global audiences.
The concept of “Skeuomorphic cycles”
Interesting concept shared by the folks at Local Projects as part of their presentation on Designing Interactions Beyond the Screen.
This was actually just a quick slide in the middle of a pretty amazing presentation showcasing the work they have been doing embedding interactions into physical systems: the concept of skeuomorphic cycles, or simply reverse skeuomorphism.
When the iPhone was launched and touch screens started to become popular, designers all over the world started using skeuomorphism to make digital interfaces resemble their real-world counterparts.
It was a practical way of helping people understand more clearly the function a digital interface had.
The same way physical objects started informing digital interfaces back then, now we are starting to see digital affordances informing the way physical spaces are designed and built. Moving forward, this mutual influence will start to function as a cycle, and we will see more and more examples of physical and digital design blending in.
But that was just day one.
The conference is only getting started.
More to come tomorrow.
A few things I learned from the second day at #Interaction17 #IxDA17
Bite-sized learnings from the second day of Interaction 17 in NYC — with topics ranging from social entrepreneurship…uxdesign.ccA few things I learned from the third day at #Interaction17 #IxDA17
Bite-sized learnings from the third day of Interaction 17 in NYC — with topics ranging from Designing to Combat…uxdesign.cc