article28.11.20225 minutes

Canux 2022 takeaways

  • Design

For the 2022 edition of CanUX, nventive sent digital strategist Claudine Audet and I to Ottawa to participate in the conference and bring back what we had learned.

  1. Designing for the future

Unsurprisingly, the future of the tech industry was a big topic. The most explicitly forward-looking talks looked at designing for emerging technology. AR, VR, AI, and Blockchain all made an appearance. Claudel Rheault discussed the challenges in prototyping Machine Learning tools and offered approaches to conducting user research. Lisa Lokshina discussed the potential for AR in education and learning. Filippo Di Trapani’s talk on Web3, discussed how Blockchain enables creators to monetize their content in a mixed reality (AR, VR) future. Seeing these emerging technologies from the perspective of practitioners that are leading the way, was eye opening. It not only gave perspective on where these technologies are going, but also how the design process can support new and emerging problems.

  1. Ethics and Inclusivity

Another major thread that ran through the lectures was ethical design. This is a huge topic, and the conversation took many forms. Sara Grimes looked at age-appropriate design and the mechanisms driving policy in that area. Melanie Buset discussed standards for ethical user testing. Farai Mazima received a standing ovation for his talk on workplace inclusivity. The common message from these talks was one of accountability. If we as practitioners do not take the responsibility for positive change in our industry, who will?

  1. Laws, Principles, Scales

As designers, we look for ways to structure information into logical groupings. At the conference several lectures were centred around laws, principles, or scales. Lynn Boyd framed her service design work at Nasa through Dr. S.R Ranganathan’s five foundational laws of library science. Lou Downe shared their 15 principles of good service design. Giles Colborne described his five levels of customer centred maturity. While slightly less lofty, this theme provides valuable insight into how strategists and designers use frameworks to communicate and structure their ideas.

Personal highlight

Jenny Wen’s talk, Putting Joy on the Roadmap, made a case for emphasizing craft in product design. While there has long been a discourse around using design to “delight” users, she expanded on that thinking and laid out what is at stake in the current moment. It stood out in contrast with Lynn Boyd quoting Edward Tufte an hour earlier, “No one comes to your website for a design experience.

With analogies of digital products as soulless glass skyscrapers, and “web gentrification” I think that Jenny put her finger on an interesting (potential) problem. Intuitively, I do think that new products are increasingly formulaic. As designers, we tend to think of predictability as a good thing, but Jenny’s talk had me considering the trade-off. At what point is something so boring that it is detrimental to the user experience?

Takeaways for nventive

One of the things that I love about working at nventive, is that no two projects are the same. Our team tackles a wide array of new challenges related to changes in both the business and technology landscape. Because of this it felt like the insights from each talk, no matter how specialized, could be applicable to our next project.

Perhaps the most valuable takeaways from the conference were seeing how process driven design translates across all sectors and problem types. It doesn’t matter whether you are working at Nasa, Spotify, or a consultancy, the techniques that we use to identify and define problems are similar. I caught myself several times throughout the conference, looking at someone’s work and thinking to myself, “that’s how I would approach the problem!” This served as a reminder that good design happens with solid process work, not moments of brilliance.