Interaction 17 conference took place in New York City from Feb 3rd to Feb 8th.

More than 1,000 design leaders, professionals, and students got together for IxDA’s 10th annual gathering — six days of events, talks, workshops, and awards.

Given the latest current affairs of the world there was a lot of emphasis on what is the purpose of our design work and how to make impact collaborating with others.

Some themes kept coming up during the conference:

  • Underlying ethics and purpose of design work

  • Designing for AR and VR

  • Social impact and entrepreneurship

  • Transforming organisations and teams to be more design-driven

  • Using AI and machine-learning in design

Critique of HCD

Monday’s highlight was definitely Thomas Wendt’s talk “Critique of Human-Centered Design”.

Panel after the talk — Thomas Wendt in the middle

First of all, this dude is a bad-ass — gotta love his candor. He challenged the the human-centered design foundation stating that it fails to recognise its own paradoxes:

  • You don’t know the problem, if you have not proposed a solution

  • You can’t propose a solution, if you don’t know the problem

HCD often dumped down just to:

Problem + HCD = solution…?

It also puts human in the center without really thinking what the human wants. Human does not have the same needs than consumer or market. With automation, things are made easy for consumers, but it becomes more difficult to make choices based on your preferences, because the default way is made so easy.

As an example he used dash buttons — it’s super-easy to order that particular brand to your home, whether it is good for you or the environment or not. He encouraged designers to think more about their audience and underlying logics when designing automated interfaces.

While Wendt is right about designers having power when designing UX flows, the design work should be aligned with organisations goals. The real designer is the one who has the power in any given organisation. Of course designers can affect the the decision-makers to consider the underlying logics, if there is better or more ethical choices to be made.

Throughout the conference Chris Noessel and Boon Chew provided these excellent sketch notes to conference guests.

Visual noise interferes storytelling

Gary Hustwit (also maker of Helvetica the movie…!) pointed out in his talk “Unframed” how immersive experiences such as cinematic VR affect the actual storytelling. If there’s a lot visual noise and 360° POV, the users tend to stop following the audible story and start to just look around. For the story’s sake, it might useful to reduce the amount of visual information in those phases the story is moved forward.

During some dialogs he reduced the amount of details to very minimum, when shooting 360° film. This same problem did not exist when the view was just 90°.

Not just interaction design

Although the name of the association remains Interaction Design Association, the trend seems be to going to more general direction among the community. It might be there are more experienced design leaders involved in the community after ten years of IxDA — many of the talks were about how to make impact and change organisations with design thinking. Student design challenge was true to its roots — this year’s theme was “Everyday Magic”

Part 2 coming soon…

The last year IxDA conference took place in Helsinki (home turf), so the Finnish delegate in NYC was delightfully big this year. Special thanks to Mr. Henrik Rydberg being part of the NYC organising team and helping to arrange the excellent workshop sessions for us visitors. Oh, and Taiste and Musiclock won the first-ever IxDA award to Finland!