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1 Post authored by: christopher.rivard

I had the opportunity to attend the Interaction Design Association's Interaction 13 conference January 28 - 31 in Toronto. I have attended the conference twice in the past, once in Vancouver B.C. and in Savannah at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). The association typically partners with a design school in order to open up the association to students as well as more senior practitioners. This year the conference partner was the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD).




I always return to work energized after attending this conference. Whether it's sharing stories or finding out how peers are solving similar problems in business and design, it's always validating to be able to sit down and have a conversation with someone who speaks the same language of design. Many of the ideas that were presented are incredibly exciting and on the bleeding-edge of what's happening at the intersection of design and technology. I'm not sure exactly how they'll work their way into Jive design, but rest assured, they will! Here's a quick recap of a few of of the presentations and some general notes about the conference.




This is the 10th anniversary of the founding of the organization. I'm happy to say that I was working in the design field when the IxDA was formed and am blown away by how the organization has matured into a thriving community of practice. There were about 1000 attendees this year - the biggest number of attendees thus far. I had an opportunity to speak with in-house designers, new designers, consultants, and designers working in large enterprises. I spoke with design team from GE, who is investing heavily in an in-house design team to re-think their core products from durable goods to jet engines (Did you know: Each commercial jet engine generates about 2TB of data on each transcontinental flight. That's truly big data).



IxDA Interaction Awards

This was the second year that the association held an awards ceremony. These were awards chosen by association members to represent what members think is the best representation of interaction design.

The Best in Show award was given to 21 Balançoires, designed by DailyTLJ in Montreal. This was an interactive design that transformed a blighted area of Montréal into a interactive art installation through a set of swings that play a musical note when people are swinging. As more people swing, the melodies combine and the more beautiful the music becomes. I was blown away by the merging of design, community and participation of this piece.

21 Balançoires (21 Swings) - YouTube


Conference Themes

There were some common threads woven throughout the conference presentations:


  • Big data - in the context of data that we are all creating through our interactions, privacy issues around big data and big data as cultural artifacts.
  • UX designers as the new brand architects - this was part of a redux presentation by Cliff Kuang from Fast Company. Why Good Design Is Finally A Bottom Line Investment | Co.Design: business + innovation + design
  • Serendipity, delight and homophily in networks. These discussions were relevant for anyone participating in social networks, in the consumer world or in the enterprise context.
  • Designer founders - designers are no longer seeking technology co-founders, but forging ahead and jumping headlong into business. It's an exciting time to be a designer.
  • Cross channel experiences - there is an emerging need to move away from silo'd apps and toward cross-channel experiences, moving for device to device without interruption.
  • Internet of things - many designers are beginning to realize practical applications of networked devices, from physical products to internet devices, this is an exciting design problem with enormous implications. "The future is already here, it's just not widely distributed. William Gibson"
  • Timelines - we're beginning to design things that will outlive us (Robert Fabricant, macro-interactions). This was specially prescient given the investment companies like GE are making in design. Energy grids, power plants, durable goods - designers need to be aware of the impact they are having on the world.



Conference Demographics

  • Young designers still in school or new graduates, those new to the field (very focused on process and work deliverables)
  • Smaller numbers of seasoned professionals, both in-house + consultants (Motorola, GE, Google, Facebook, Cisco, SAP, Microsoft, Jive)
  • Creative agency designers - working on interactive (device interfaces). (Frog, R/GA, CP+B, Ziba)
  • Fewer numbers of industrial designers (physical product designers)
  • Fewer numbers of interactive artists - although Kate Hartman (Botanicalls and OCAD) keynoted with a presentation on "wearables" A Video of BotaniCalls Improving the Health of Plants and Making Gardening Easy - YouTube
  • Very few data designers (either art or analysis, although Jer Thorpe keynoted with Data and the Human Experience)


Presentation Summaries

A few short summaries from my notes.



Dan Saffer of Smart Design


Microinteractions refer to the small details that make or break a successful interaction. Dan's talk showed examples of good design in existing products and stressed a renewed focus on the details. Some examples included a billing flow where the credit card is auto-selected when the user enters the first few digits if the card. My interpretation is that as designers, we need to make a better effort to move our interactions from reacting to user input to anticipating user needs. A few additional examples include website handling a right-click on the logo by offering the user a choice of logo sizes and file formats. Typically users attempting to save a public image will right-click and save. Akismet anticipates this and handles the flow in an elegant and helpful way.


Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 1.55.42 PM.png


Dan broke microinteractions down into:

Triggers > Rules > Feedback > Loops and Modes


Dan recommended looking at opportunities to present useful information using existing interface. In the window chrome to show subtle indicators (the way that search results appear in the browser chrome in the Chrome web browser.)


In physical product design, the Nest thermostat was referred to as good example of adaptive technology put to good use.


Data and the Human Experience

Jer Thorpe of The Office of Creative Research


Some people have an entertaining and relaxed presentation style, Jer is one of them. His presentation touched on the human aspect of big data, privacy issues around the data that is being created by us or on our behalf. He showed some of his work including an interface using G-speak (Minority Report gloves) to navigate the data set provided by the Kepler telescope. Wow.


One of the great takeaway principles for data visualization is the OOH/AHH principle - as a designer of data products, you want viewers to first say OOH (recognize the beauty of the design) and then quickly get to AHH (understanding of what the data is presenting). Very very useful to our work here at Jive.


Jer showed some work from his time at the NYTimes, including Cascade:


We've moving quickly to a period where we will have access to high resolution analytical tools as a result of better ways to manage big data and better tools (and designers) to present the information in meaningful way.


He ended his presentation by exploring how data serves as cultural artifacts. His example was location based data that is being collected on your phone, data that you do not easily have access to - yet is personal to you based on the context in which the data was created.  e.g. location data for where he ate his first meal after arriving in NYC. This is data personal to the owner, data that tells a rich story.



How to Design Social Experiences

Paul Adams of Facebook


Paul provided excellent insight into the behaviors around social interactions from his work at Facebook.

Much of the presentation was delivered in very Tweetable snippets, I've included those below.


People want to feel unique and people want to feel connected.

Social as a term is going away (not: go to a party and "be social"). Sharing is a means to an ends.


We're no longer designing apps, we're designing systems, we need to think about design from a systems approach.


Thoughts on mobile:

It's not a horse… but what is it? Referring to the introduction of the internal combustion engine and the impact it had on society and the landscape. We need to stop thinking about mobile as a technology. It's much much bigger that that in the same way that the automobile changed commerce and changed the landscape. Mobile is similar in this respect.


We have at our disposal a massive network of information, available at any time in any place. And we're using our network of friends as a filter to this information.


Me (Identity), story of my life.

Us (Everyone), relate to people I know.

Everyone (Connections), connect with new people.


Personal identity is distinct from social identity. Design for one or the other, but not both.


Focus on lightweight interactions over time, tools are more heavyweight.

Focus on feelings not facts (more applicable in the consumer context, business maybe not so much).

The internet is made of cats - emotional, visceral.


To illustrate, the most shared stories of 2011 were before and after images of the Japanese Tsunami, but no actual news.

People talk about feelings, not facts.


  • Show people what they have in common with others
  • Design lightweight ways for people to interact
  • Give suggestions for who to communicate with
  • Design the story first
  • Design the friends experience


There is no way to do research in social. Instead establish a hypothesis, develop simple product, launch it, iterate, learn.

Hypothesis, build, ship, iterate


Slides from many of these presentations are being posted to Slideshare, you can also follow the hashtag #ixd13 on Twitter.

I highly recommend getting involved in the Interaction Design Association ( There are chapters in cities around the world and meetups happening regularly.

Get out and meet your fellow designers.


Redux slides by Jeroen van Geel:

Interaction 13 Redux


Thanks for reading!

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