Jane Vita // February 22 2017

Interaction 17 – The place to be….

It isn’t new to say that technology improves and innovates quickly and that we have to adapt and move even faster, as individuals, as designers, as clients or as a society. However, adapting might not be enough, sometimes you have to show the way.

Interaction 17, like its previous editions, has proven to be the place where designers get directions on where the world is heading. I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to not only attend the conference, but also to be part of a group of like-minded speakers that were selected to show where we are going next.


My conference credentials


Why Interaction 17 for me?

My love for the IxDA (Interaction Design Association who are behind this outstanding conference) started about ten years ago in Curitiba/Brazil (incidentally, this is the city where I was born and had the opportunity to spend at least a third of my professional life). I joined the local IxDA – Association community, humbly, without any significant role, just to observe great minds talking about their passion for design, especially interaction design… to the sharing and caring levels.

I felt so inspired, that later when I moved to Helsinki, I joined the local IxDA community.  Not only did I find a way to take my love of design forward, but also I met a group of lovely friends with common goals. IxDA Helsinki is my home now, and we went crazy two years ago when we decided to host Interaction 16 (I prefer not talk about it) and even crazier when we decided to join Interaction 17 in NYC, all together. It was fun! I loved it.

I have also been involved with the IxDA community in other cities where I’ve previously lived. The conference is the strawberry with the meringue on top of the cake.


The Interaction Week

Interaction 17 is what we call the central part of the Interaction Week 17 Conference. The other parts are the Education Summit, Student Design Challenge, and Interaction Awards. The Education Summit has its primary focus on teaching and learning interaction design. The Students Design Challenge is a design contest where eight students are pre-selected from around the world to join the conference and to compete by prototyping their design solutions. I was honored to be part of the pre-selection jury this year. The Interaction Awards recognizes and celebrates industrious examples of excellence in interaction design across domains, channels, environments, and cultures.

I had the pleasure and the opportunity to attend several talks and few workshops during the Interaction Week. I also engaged in some very productive conversations during the non-official hours. I participated in a Speakers’ Dinner, where I met many design leaders that inspire our work on a daily basis.

The conference covered a vast range of design related topics… from low-tech and human behavior- challenging and questioning the direction of design- to virtual reality and futures scenarios involving high-level production – close to sci-fi movies – showing “positive situations” where technology and humans can do great things together.

Below are a few recommendations for you to look at later when the videos are out (meaning “ready”) and some of my takeaways from the conference days. I’m not going to mention all talks I attended and what was presented, as I don’t want this post to be huge. But I will make a few general conclusions at the end of this article.


My takeaways from the conference

On the first Education Summit day held on Feb 3rd, I attended the opening keynote, titled “Track Changes Live” with Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. This was live recorded and soon it will be podcasted.

The following morning, Feb 4th, I went to the Local leaders’ workshop where we workshopped around the idea of best practices and future actions for the IxDA local leaders. In the afternoon, I went to the talk “Teaching & Learning Disruptive New Mediums – AR/VR, AI, IoT” with Molly Wright Steenson from the Carnegie Mellon School of Design and Philip Van Allen from the Art Center College of Design. The major takeaway from this was that teaching and learning emerging technologies have been on a great joint adventure, combining teachers’ experience and good intentions with students’ curiosity to experiment, find out patterns and best practices and to take the unclear on a journey to certainty.

Feb 5th was the Workshops’ day. I visited Fjord’s office and attended their sponsored morning workshop with the topic: Behavioural Modes. It was nothing extraordinarily new to me, but it was a great start to the day, it was light and wise. Behavioural modes are a great way to tackle diversity. They are classifications of user needs and motivations that occur over time, in different contexts. I noted these words from Kane Albarron (Fjord) presentation slides. “Behavioral modes can be used standalone or better yet, as lenses on a persona”. I couldn’t put it better myself.

The same afternoon, I co-facilitate a workshop with Maria Lumiaho from Futurice about “The Meaning of Technology in Services and Hybrid Services”. The title is not particularly catchy, I know, but this is why we changed it for the actual workshop. We are always looking for improvement, so the current title of the workshop is “Seeking for the best experience, Ambient Intelligence meets Service Experience Design”. If you are curious about the workshop, here is the link to the slides or feel free to contact me.


IoT Service kit by Futurice, understanding IoT capabilities


The first day of Interaction 17 started with Chelsea Mauldin, Executive Director of the Public Policy Lab, talking about Design and Power, reminding us of the many situations where designers face the power of “non-client” others against real customers needs. Talks that I recommend you looking into from day one:

– VR and AR: What’s the Story by Brenda Laurel, Independent scholar and designer

– Suspending Disbelief: Building Immersive Designs for the Future by Brad Crane and Jon Mann from Artfact

– Conversation is more than Interface by Paul Pangaro from College for Creative Studies

– Prototyping Conversational UI by Greg Vassallo from Fidelity Investments

– Space, The final Frontier: Designing Interactions Beyond the Screen by John Ryan & Eric Mika from Local Projects

The second day of the conference started with Juliana Rotich, Executive Director of BRCK.org and her keynote: A Journey in Social Entrepreneurship – Pitstops & Lessons. She presented about Ushahid.com, Kio, KioKit and BRCK.org, which are a few of the products and platforms that her team have created to bridge powerless, suffering and the non-physically-connected areas to anywhere. She also highlighted that “understanding the context for where you are designing is so important that design what would fit in” and “that design quality is equally caring” Wise words! Other recommended talks from the day two:


Slide from Juliana Rotich’s presentation


  • Sh*t Sh*w: Finding Focus in the Midst of Ambiguity by Jon Kolko, Founder and Director at Austin Center for Design
  • User Research War Stories by Steve Portigal, Principal at Portigal Consulting
  • Best Practices for Smart Spaces by Nathan Moody, Co-Founder and Design Director at Stimulant
  • Field Notes from the Future: Designing Tomorrow’s Interactions by Christian Ervin, Design Director at Tellart
  • Pace Layering of Interconnected Layers by Mayo Nissen from Frog


Methods and tools from Christian Ervin’s presentation


The third and final day of the conference started with the keynote – Respectful Design: The Canadian Context by Dori Tunstall, Dean of Faculty of Design at OCAD University. She presented about the importance of respectful design that values inclusivism, taking into account people’s cultures and ways of knowing and understanding. She also talked about how we might design for the emergence of Flourishing Enterprise, which casts the vision that the primary aim of business should be to create well-being, happiness and wholeness. Recommended talks from the last conference day:

– Mindful Technology by Liza Kindred, Author, Future of Commerce; Founder at Third Wave Fashion

– Agents vs Agency: Battle for Control in the IoT by Zachary Jean Paradis, Global lead, Experience Strategy practice at SapientNitro

– Preparing Business for the Rise of Homebots and the Next Wave of Innovation by Natalie Phillips-Hamblett and Madoka Ochi at McKinsey & Company

– Past and Future Speculations on Smarter Homes by Kevin Gaunt, Senior UX Designer at Samsung Research America

Check also the Interaction Awards, the finalists and the categories’ winners.


What’s next then?

There is no design to be done if there is nothing to be improved or changed. We are shaping the next generation of things. The “things” that will considerably impact people’s life, for the better or for the worse. As designers, we can be the wizards who use our enchantment to make the best for people or use our spells to curse humanity.

Tech will certainly play a big role in this and it will teletransport us to a new world of information and entertainment. How do we keep up-to-date and follow the pieces of emerging technology? Explore and experiment more, try more and provoke, but also follow and define design patterns and behavioral modes. Break a few rules to help you escape from the paradigm, to uncover the unexpected. Remember tech is great, but the quality of the design is equally caring.

Let’s take a breath and think what we can do to influence our stakeholders in making better decisions, to help our company advocate more ethical, accessible, respectful and sustainable design and fulfill ourselves with the knowledge and tools that help us to reach customer needs honestly and seamlessly. We need to create services that help people to make better and more conscious decisions, protect and prevent them from harming and bullying others. Design more mindfully, for human connection.

I think we all recognize that sometimes people just do “whatever” and don’t appear to care much about others, they just want to make money. They are afraid of  challenging and losing  their jobs or clients. So, as designers (and as people) we sometimes ask ourselves the question about our work “Will it make us rich? Or will it make our clients richer”? I’m not sure, but what I know is that by doing the best you can, you always will get the best, sooner or later. If the best is to become wealthy, then it will come.


Why Interaction 18 for you?

Interaction 17 “..WAS AMAZING! More than 1,000 design leaders, professionals, and students converged in New York City for IxDA’s 10th annual gathering—six days of events, talks, workshops, and awards. We learned, we laughed, we loved. And now we’re all looking ahead to Interaction 18 in Lyon, France.” – interaction17.ixda.org

Yes, you read it right, it says Lyon, France 🙂


Just one more thing…


Volunteers and committee take a bow at the end of Interaction 17. Photo by Christina Noonan.


A zillion thanks for the people behind IxD17. A million thanks for all people that somehow get involved with our IxDA Global and Locals, especially IxDAHel, for making all these events possible. Another zillion thanks to Interaction Latin America, my lovely people <3

See you all next year! Or do you thinking that I’ll miss it 😉 Do you?


Maria and me with Clark Valberg from InVision at Speaker’s dinner


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