IxD16 – Day 3 – wrapping up the future

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I wrote much of this story in March, a few days after the conference. Then we got a son, and I forgot about the whole thing. So here is a timewarp back to IxD16.

There were some changes in the program, so the first keynote of day 3 was Tricia Wangs’, who was originally slated for thursday afternoon.

She was killing it with a passionate and funny keynote. Her keynote ran the gamut from venetian glass design and art to institutional racism in products. But also, very much: big data, which isn’t ‘neutral’, but designed, and VR, which also has the maker choose perspective and other things.

It did get me thinking on how to integrate this is my daily design – being more open to the fact that, as a person, you always have a certain perspective – this isn’t a problem by itself – and the fact that your work is always influenced by that – which is a problem. I guess part of it is just being aware of this fact, and not falling into some traps that are associated with it.

After that, it’s on to the aptly named Kyle Outlaw, giving a keynote about the world after the snowden revelations, and the UX implications for it. To be honest, this was a bit of a letdown for me. If you wanted a primer on Snowden, the NSA, TOR networks and privacy stuff, he surely delivered. But I knew most of that already. So I think I missed the UX part of te talk: our responsibility as designers to design with privacy in mind, and practical primers for that. He, imho, barely skimped the surface on that.

Phillip and Emmi (Finnish!) from New York’s potion design gave a great talk about how we could design more natural notification systems. The inspiration behind it, long trail walks, and the silence that can surround it, really resonated. They proposed a system with more intelligent sounds, based on groupings of persons or entities around personal importance. Practical thing I’m going to try: give all my friends a slightly different birdsong ringtone. Let’s see how that works :).

After lunch, it’s off to the big stage again, for Rob Girling’s talk about the maturity of design and design thinking in bigger companies. As he explains it, there’s a sea change going on in the business, with designers breaking through inside the C-suite at some companies. Businesses that take design thinking seriously, greatly outperform firms that don’t. At Artefact (the speakers company), a Design Maturity Model was developed, that assesses this based on five keywords. At the link there are some findings that, to be honest, were kind of expected to me. Still nice to see assumptions validated!

Room 2 had a great talk by fellow Dutchman Alper Çuğun, who talked to us about conversational interfaces: apps that chat with you, but also as it applies to work he has done in the museum space. This was great stuff, and he gave a really good delivery. Really unexpected was the main example he used: an exposition called vrije vogels, which was at a museum only a few kilometres from where I live. So I found myself learning about the wartime history of my hometown in downtown Helsinki… weird…

Kaleem Khan’s talk about ’the futures we want’ started 30 minutes late, the speaker was not there yet. To be honest, the talk was kind of a deception to me. He mainly touched on privacy, Snowden and other stuff Kyle Outlaw already discussed this morning. He was better. Also, using the whole ‘target knew my daughter was pregnant’ story should be outlawed (Ha. ha.) in 2016. I was hoping for a more philosophical discussion, instead of 10 example stories.

On the completely different end of the spectrum was Cameron Sinclair, architect by trade, who rammed the conference like a sledgehammer, with a strong appeal to us to use our design skills to help better humanity (go watch this!). It’s really hard to put the amount of energy and truth coming from that stage in words. Let’s just say that it was the main topic for the first two hours of the closing party, and I think at least five designers decided on the spot to stop doing empty freelance gigs, and start giving a damn. Powerful.

This was a fitting end to a conference that really isn’t about design (as in pretty things) anymore. We are catalysts of social and business change, talking to everybody from users to CEO’s, and designing everything from social interactions through devices up to complete systems. As designers, we bring a different, and welcome, perspective to the table, and the conference was really more about that change, and we’re it is bringing us, than about anything else.

As for me: I’m happy and excited to be a part of this world and this change, and can’t wait to see what the hell I’ll be ‘designing’ 10 years from now. See you at #IxD26 everybody!