Recap & highlights: UX Australia 2012

This year I had the grateful and honored privilege to speak at the annual UX Australia conference in Brisbane on a Citrix success story, based upon our newly introduced “3-in-a-box” model of collaborative dev (slides publicly available here on Dropbox, 42mb PDF). Below is my conf recap and highlights…

Overall the conference was a very well done affair, nicely proportional and structured for a regional event, supporting ~ 350 attendees with a balance of workshops, keynotes, 45 min talks (as dual tracks in side-by-side ballrooms), and quick “lightning round” 10 minute talks…and of course social events! Held at the conveniently situated Sofitel in Brisbane’s CBD, the conf was well worth the 15 hour flight with lots of good nuggets and stories of design thinking & doing! 

Bill DeRouchey kicked things off with an inspiring keynote around the necessary and sustained questioning of “Why”, despite changing tech and processes and problems (related to Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” book/TED talk). Also went further, extending the notion of “empathy” with “compassion” (via the Dalai Lama), suggesting we need to have “genuine interest” in people & contexts to be truly effective designers of worthwhile impact. Designing with compassion! Hmm.

There were several success stories of design innovation and collaboration as well, which was heartening to hear. We’ve become so used to hearing “learning from failure”, so it’s nice to relay positive anecdotes too: mobile apps, “big data” information design, banking interfaces, even the Australian Post news redesign. Many of these nicely conveyed in the 10 min quick sessions:

A couple talks I enjoyed were on the more alternative, edgy side of things (shades of SxSW perhaps? ;-) which grabbed my interest strongly. For example, a very heartfelt, sensitive ethnographic journey into the lives and minds of graffiti writers and street artists–how should you delve into such a subculture while preserving their anonymity, your personal safety, and deliver useful insights and solutions? Or dealing with your online presence after you die..what happens to your content and data? Some tough questions with no easy answer but thoughtful reflection is needed. Both were quite fascinating!


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Stephen Cox’s entertaining and touching take on the anthropological mindset for designers inspired a deeper sense of “being human” and enhancing human abilities through our methods and tools. Gotta absorb that curiosity and genuine interest for humanity to be a better designer!

Quite a few talks around collaboration and innovation from various perspectives.

Steve Baty offered a compelling set of exemplars for innovation, encouraging attendees to avoid taking the easy way out, and instead “be bold, ask extreme questions, think big” to pursue something like a Nike Air, Yellowtail wines, etc. Be disruptive! (and consider the ecosystem, your stakeholders motives)

Jeremy Yuille took a different approach, examining design as performance (not theater per se ;-) but distinguishing amongst pragmatic, critical, and enterprising performances (ways of demonstrating, acting) in design. Most interesting to me was the relationship between “ambiguity” and “affinity” in terms of problem discovery and framing and solving. Good intellectual stuff, also speaks to innovation.

A couple speakers delved into the need for design process transparency for stakeholders, citing various lessons learned and tips for keeping cross-functional teams all informed about design progress. Another spoke of the near-symbiotic relationship between design and development, and championed the cause for greater ties to devs who want to achieve high-quality products. 

Finally, the closing keynote was a valuable, inspiring demonstration of a regional govt.’s desire for design thinking in public policy and urban re-design, further extending the promise of “user experience” from digital interfaces towards entire service-driven ecosystems and cultural design itself (i.e., the 3rd and 4th Orders). Kudos to the Adelaide govt and Integrated Design Commission for raising hope that design can lead to resilient, productive economy and civic exchange!


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There were other many useful, memorable, engaging talks and presentations but these are just the brief key highlights from my view. I look forward to hopefully attending UX Australia in 2013 at Melbourne! Cheers…



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