IDEA 2010 Recap

IDEA 2010 is officially to a close. I am not going to write about any of the presentations, not going to summarize table topics, and not going to say what an inspirational experience the conference was (though I did learn a lot). Instead I want to highlight a few recurring themes, most of which came up during conversations at the restaurants and bars during the after hours events.

Design is Young

Interaction Design is young. While this was brought up in a handful of the presentations, it was also clear in my own conversations. Discussions around career path (both my own and the general) and discussions around how we treat deliverables. The best example of this is the automobile industry and wireframes. Talking with Adam Connor and others about automobile and toy design, it came up that designers model a car at full 1:1 scale. Using wood, metal, bondo and a variety of modern materials the physical form of a new car is rendered at full scale for the most visceral impact (and ease when creating digital models). When testing new interactions within the center stack, designers build fully functioning prototypes and build out the elements as they would be constructed. Expensive and time consuming, this leads to a clear and unified image of what the new product could be. Now I mentioned wireframes. A constant question on the IxDA board is what level of refinement to my wireframes (or any deliverable) need to be. The simple answer is they need to communicate your concept appropriately to the audience, whatever that may be. So when comparing to the auto industry, who communicates a refined full scale model for that purpose, are we as interaction designers cutting corners and selling ourselves short in our deliverables? Or have we simply not found the equivalent of the ‘full scale’ representation being a much younger profession.

It’s How Others See You

Self reflection and honesty is one of the hardest things. Especially with yourself. Having the confidence to move forward with a design or a lifestyle choice takes a lot of chutzpah and getting the conviction to make these decisions may be hard. I am forever thankful for the conversations over the last few days about this. It’s the support of the UX community that encourages us all to achieve and push ourselves.

Forget How Others See You

While it is very important to have the support and confidence of others, take it with a grain of salt. In one conversation it came up that a freelance designer has started questioning ‘Am I pursuing my dreams and my goals or the dreams and goals others have set for me’ paraphrase. While it’s the perceptions and support of our colleagues that might help us make difficult decisions or take leaps of faith, this was an important question to hear. In the end, these are my decisions and directions and striking a balance of the different suggestions is critical to finding your own place in the overall community.

We Don’t Have a Name

The greatest conversation all weekend (or most common) was the elephant in the room of what do we call ourselves. Almost every presenter tipped their hat in one way or another to the debate on IA/UX/IxD/whateverothertitleyouprefer/andsomethingelsealltogether titles. The long short of it is that it does not matter. Sure, we all know this, but it is the determination of a definition for new members of the UX community to hang their hat on. A unified definition should be made for their sakes. Practitioners, call yourself what you want. If it makes you happy, finds you work, then the more power to you. But we work in a young and ever growing field and while UX formed from a variety of professions there are programs focussing in this practice (topic for a different debate). Having a collective definition will help future designer better transition into the working world.

Conclusion

I wanted to get this out much closer to the end of the conference. Surely there is a lot more I could have written about, and a lot more I will. The greatest takeaway of the weekend though is that everyone is in the same boat, and there are no simple or one off answers. There is always more to learn and I am always being reminded (thankfully I might add) of the long way I still have to come.

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