Conference Day 1: Thursday
After a full day of workshops on Wednesday, the main conference began on Thursday with the morning keynote speaker, Luke Williams, who set the tone for the conference with his talk on disruptive thinking in interaction design. Disruptive thinking requires a disruptive hypothesis—which can be intentionally unreasonable—searching for a market opportunity, doing ideation, and finally, defining a solution. Luke challenged attendees to consider how to incorporate disruptive thinking into interaction design. His ideas—which suggested shaking things up, challenging the status quo, and thinking outside the box—kicked off the conference and got the crowd buzzing.
Walking from the Exhibitions room to Liffey 2, I was greeted by beautiful gospel singing and, later, amazing Irish music. Once the musicians wrapped up their set, I made my way to Dave Malouf’s talk, “The Aesthetics of Motion in the Age of Natural User Interfaces.”
Dave opened his talk by bringing up two volunteers: one who was familiar with the game of charades and another to whom this game was a foreign concept. He asked the knowledgeable charades player to act out Toy Story for the volunteer who was unfamiliar with the game. After a few minutes of gestures and blank stares, he sent the volunteers back to their seats. Dave explained that gestures are contextual. If a person is unfamiliar with a concept, he will not be able to interpret the signs.
Gestures should also be learnable, make sense, and fit into a cultural context. Dave went on to explain the similarities between gestures, dance, and percussion. In dance, there are hard stops and fluid slides that distinguish different aspects of a piece of music. Similarly, gestures should communicate differences through form. Dave wrapped up his talk by presenting a five-step process for creating a successful gesture:
- Experience the gesture.
- Externalize the gesture through sketching and explanation.
- Envision the gesture in different situations and environments.
- Evaluate the gesture through prototyping and playing with it.
- Execute by creating the gesture.
Conference Day 2: Friday
Friday morning began like every other morning, with a delicious breakfast and coffee at The CCD. Many conference-goers seemed to be dragging after the Thursday evening Pub Crawl that the interaction design firm Moment had sponsored. But everyone’s energy was quickly revived by Jonas Lowgren’s talk about exploring, sketching, and other designerly ways of working. Jonas explained that framing the problem, designing, and exploring happen at the same time. There are no routine steps that will lead you to a problem, so you must instead explore and sketch.
During the conference, I stumbled upon some amazing sketchers. One explained that sketching his notes helps him to put a talk in context and remember it better. After years of being yelled at in school for doodling, I was shocked to discover the validity of his claim. I’ve begun sketching myself, and while my skills are far from perfect, I find myself remembering moments that I’ve captured in sketches in my notes much more clearly.
A recurring theme surfaced in Ryan Betts’s talk, “Concept to Code: Code Literacy in UX.” Should a UX professional read and write code? During his 10-minute presentation, which was jam packed with 68 slides, he tactfully and amusingly expressed the importance of our learning to code. He defined code literacy as “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, and use rules that shape and reshape information, in order to participate fully in the creation of the new information.”
Code literacy may not be necessary for all UX designers, but it opens doors and helps UX professionals to create well-rounded, holistic experiences. During his talk, he defined four code-literate personas:
- The enthusiast understands the basics of programming languages and can engage in meaningful conversations about them.
- The mashup artist can understand blocks of code, identify the differences between languages, alter code, and use it to communicate functionality.
- The inventor knows a programming language well and can write code from scratch.
- The wizard can learn any language he needs for a job.
Ryan suggested that UX designers should fall somewhere between the mashup artist and the inventor. Code literacy continued to be a hot topic during the conference, and it felt as though the general audience agreed that UX designers should be code literate.