November brought us the 6th Annual UX Awards Conference, held in Silicon Valley, hosted by SAP. We gathered, we listened, we talked, we took notes, we provoked and were provoked.
What was clear is that folks are asking some BIG questions. Alan Cooper, one of the founding fathers of UX, and a powerful voice in the field, catapulted us into some pretty critical existential territory, calling out the shadow side of humans’ creativity and innovation, framed by our inability (or unwillingness) to consider the long-term consequences of our impact. And we’re certainly seeing those sentiments reflected in the crumbling egos of some of tech’s biggest executives.
Designers and leaders in the Design / UX field referenced edgy territory like using nonviolent communication as a practice in their design studios; shining a spotlight on inclusion and questioning who’s in the room when it comes to qualitative research; going straight to jugular of empathy in a case study asking men to explain what a speculum is; really considering UX as a scaffold meant to support an organic process of discovery, vs. a rigid set of directions; and, delightfully, a group of students from SCAD bridging beyond wearables and into the dynamics of interactive physical space with all the freshness of new digital and UX native perspectives.
All in all, the day celebrated some brilliant projects and finalists striving to tackle some of our most complex and seemingly intractable challenges. It was heartening and inspiring to see that some of the most beautiful, powerful designs were striving for social impact at the heart of their success metrics. Rays of hope and optimism, indeed, as we hopefully integrate care for people, planet and profit into the fundamentals of a new era of wonderful design. Just remember, we created these tools — they didn’t create us.