Design. Technology. Cool shit.

Published on 2019/03/01

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by Yevheniia Nikitina

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Last week I traveled to Amsterdam to attend FITC conference 2019. I got inspired both by the city and the conference, and want to share some themes I encountered there.

As a note, I’d like to mention this was the 12th year of FITC in Amsterdam, a smaller version of the original conference from Toronto, and many participants came for their 11th or even 12th time. Which was quite surprising and appeared as a good sign to me!

The speakers were talking about redesigning your thinking and finding extraordinary experience in your ordinary life, how to design for your digital health and for the good of other people, how not to burn out, take your work to the new levels and keep working after the personal failures. We were reminded of a human-centered core of designer’s work, how it consists of a complex web of professional relationships and furthermore sometimes of the battles to negotiate design with your team.

In his speech David Hogue (UX designer from Google), was untwisting a tendency of the teams to mess up and complicate their products. He found 12 reasons leading to complexity:

  1. Sometimes we’re designing just for ourselves instead of the users.
  2. We’re just driven by some new technology (“Woah that looks cool! Let’s add it!”).
  3. The product structure could be mapped to organization structure or technology structure, which gives the incorrect flows and irrelevant needs.
  4. There’s a consensus when the whole team says YES to everything. Don’t confuse it with being on the same page.
  5. It could be accepting assumptions with failure to test.
  6. Thoughtless copying of patterns from other products or teams.
  7. Indirect actions that increase cognitive load.
  8. Trying to do as much of the user’s work as possible (shifting effort to users).
  9. Disorganization and lack of focus.
  10. “Would-be-nice-to-have” functions that create noise and distraction.
  11. Too many features. Everything to everyone means nothing to everyone.
  12. “Just-in-case” things that increases choices and thereafter the complexity.

Familiar picture to the many of us. What is a way to deal with it? Iterate the hell out of it! Here are 5 short methods to simplify the product:

  1. Subtract, remove and reduce.
  2. Consolidate, merge and join.
  3. Redistribute, move and split.
  4. Prioritize, rank and route.
  5. Clarify, organize and reframe.

Of course, it should be mentioned the goals for simplicity must be balanced, and not everything can be simple. And if people have to do something, they’ll tolerate even a crappy product. The right way here is to continually improve your product and follow the customers’ needs.

Since Design Thinking is more of a mindset and an interactive process like learning or agile than just work, I was curious to listen to the talks about doing personal projects. For example, Irene Pereyra from Anton&Irene studio shared her story of balancing between work and fun. In their own studio, the guys stick to the rule of 60% work and 40% fun. This might be a too bold division for many people, but the main idea was not to get burned out at work. Designers often talk about struggling with talking to the customers and overworking due to the tight deadlines. It was fantastic to hear how people get their personal projects guiding to the work projects, where they also get fun and the payment on top.

Talking about the fun, I was fascinated by the experimental art of Mario Klingemann, an artist that works with AI. With his developer skills and neural networks, he mixes Western European art pieces and different photos to create the portraits of inexistent people or videos that are changing with music. While many big companies start doing similar experiments nowadays, Mario was working on this project since many years and managed to produce 4K images, which could be printed in a high resolution or generated on the go by taking the proportions of your face from a laptop camera. Amazing mixture of tech and art for me.

These were just 3 talks out of many during the two days of the conference, I’m looking forward to the next year and even more great speakers in Amsterdam.