An Evening of Ideas (Before the Break)

From Nazis to psychology to ants to getting lost, they had it all covered.

Interaction Design experts converged for one evening to share insights and inspiration at Defuse Dublin. Organized by Ben Arent and the IxDA community, designers were asked to share stories of “some of the most compelling design challenges they face.” The sting in the tail: They had to do it quickly.

The set up was simple, if intimidating for the speakers. They got 20 slides with 15 seconds on each one, for a total talk time of 5 minutes. MC Des Traynor (@destraynor) of Contrast said the format “scares the shit out of you.”

And what do 12 speakers do when allotted just five minutes each? They talk very quickly, making it really hard to take good notes. To be honest, I don’t think I can do them justice here, so I intend to follow up with many of the speakers later to flesh out their ideas.

Randall Snare (@randallsnare), Content Strategist at IQ Content, spoke on space, public transportation and the art of  getting lost. From New Orleans by way of New York, Snare spoke of her frustrations when she first moved to New York and then to Dublin two years ago.

But Snare recalled stumbling upon a late night festival in a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, and finding these new things is all the more rewarding when discoveries are unexpected.

This sense of discovery comes in to web design, according to Snare. Her lesson is that being lost is a good route to discovery and ultimately helps creativity.

Colm Brophy (@colmbrophy) spoke on game design lessons for interaction design. A user experience architect, Brophy now runs Orangered in London. He spoke of the influence of games on app design. He said much software has become game-ified, but wondered what benefit it provided.

Breandán Knowlton (@bfk) told of how miscommunication and misunderstanding can lead to disappointing results when websites are created — “a fabulous Franken-project that meets no one’s expectations.”

A New Yorker now working at Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the title of his talk summed up the difference in approach: My dog thinks it should be blue. Knowlton spoke of how hip designers tone down their work to meet their perceived perception of stuffy corporate clients. Meanwhile, clients are disappointed with the results and suddenly find themselves using words like “edgy” when reviewing the designs.

Aileen O’Toole (@amasinternet) said print can survive the digital onslaught. Managing Director of AMAS, and one of the founders of the Sunday Business Post newspaper in Ireland, O’Toole claimed print still has a bright future as a medium. Newspapers still need to improve, and the online versions have become increasingly important, but reading on screen is still a problem for lengthy periods, she said.

“Newspapers record history more than the internet ever will,” O’Toole said, and she promised to be buying them long in to her old age.

Seamus Byrne (@SeamusByrne) asked, Why do stories matter? Co-founder and Creative Director at GrahpicMint, Byrne ran through the history of story telling from the Lascaux Caves to the oral and written traditions. Now the internet has come along, and that linear approach has been changed, Byrne said.

But, “we are not just homo sapiens but homo narrans,” and the old form of story telling can “inform us as designers,” he said. But, when all is said and done, “The best relationship you can have with your customer is a love story.”

Ian Walton and Marcel Twohig (@designbynotion) set themselves a challenge by speaking to every second slide in, Where Physical Meets Digital. The founders of Notion, they gave an industrial designers’ perspective on how trends are bringing the two spheres together. Digital is “sexy and cool,” they said. The physical world not so much so.

On the other side, dealing with the digital world has been mostly solitary until recently. Walton and Twohig, among many others, are trying to merge physical and digital for more engaging experiences. One example they cited was Nike’s talking shoe. Although it has been around a bit, the increasing sophistication of social networks opens up many more possibilities.

Part II of this exciting two-part post is here.

Image of Aileen O’Toole copyright IxDA and used with permission.

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