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UX Australia 2012 reflections

Ruth Ellison & Kim Chatterjee - UX Australia 2012, Day 1
Kim and I presenting our 21.5 ways of adjusting attitudes to accessibility (photo credit: Sarah Isaacson)

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending UX Australia 2012 as a presenter and attendee. Every year I attend, I say how brilliantly awesome it was…and this year was no exception. Great speakers (I had great trouble deciding which talk to attend at many instances), fantastic attendees (everyone was so friendly and interesting) and a great overall experience. What made this year particularly interesting for me was that I learned how reliant I am on my voice to interact with people and how important verbal communication is in building relationships (for me anyhow).

This year, I lost my voice.

I lost it some time between my first presentation, 21.5 ways to adjust attitudes to accessibility  with my friend and colleague Kim Chatterjee, and my second presentation, Mindful Designs, thanks to a cold I had picked up along the way. It was frustrating at times when I hear an interesting conversation and I want to contribute something but I just couldn’t keep up with scribbling down thoughts on paper. I spent significant time watching and listening, while battling the fuzzy brain that came with the cold. I watched shifting clusters of people. I saw lots of great sketchnoting happening (mine was a bit of a dismal failure but all I can is practice!). I occasionally helped with our Stamford stand (we had the UX Rocks t-shirts) and was proud of the fundraising efforts with our Attitude Adjuster cards.

This experience is a gentle reminder about people that rely on alternate communication systems and has given me a new-found appreciation for the vocal method. In hindsight, I probably should have downloaded an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) app for my tablet!

Stamford UX Australia 2012 t-shirts
Our UX Rocks UX Australia 2012 t-shirts
Codral and Berocca
What I heavily relied on to get through the conference (there was also lots of herbal and lemon honey tea)

But despite the challenge (and it was a great challenge!), I throughly enjoyed the conference. There were many interesting talks that I attended and here are some of the highlights.

Bill DeRouchey on stage at UX Australia
Bill DeRouchey, The Power of Why presentation

The power of “Why?” by Bill DeRouchey–  Bill’s talk resonated strongly with me. He talked about the need for compassion and curiosity, but most importantly, that we need genuine interest in the people and contexts that we’re designing for. He talked about the need for tackling the big problems (food, water, energy) and that we all need to live to be at least 90 years old to do this.

The design anthropologist’s mindset by Stephen Cox looked at what it meant to be human and asked how the designs we create enhances our humanness. He talked about using stories to give context and meaning, learn what people are really saying and that nothing is normal.

Joji Mori raised a number of interesting points in Memento mori: Remember your mortality, around what happens to your digital legacy when you die. He looked at the different policies from various social networks (facebook, Google etc).  He examined various  commemoration methods, including the crossover between physical and digital, particularly around community commemoration. An example was the use of craft based workshops where people worked with interactive technologies to create meaningful mementos.

Real world user experience or when channel finally dies by Harriet Wakelam & Jessica Ukotic was a fascinating insight into the physical world of the design of the NAB retail store concept. Harriet and Jessica covered the methods their team used to collect data (hours and hours worth of data!), the things they learned along the way and the importance of focussing on the end to end experience, not just on specific channels. They asked, ‘what does a bank smell like’ (scent design is quite fascinating) and reminded us that we shouldn’t just test the small things. What particularly resonated with me was how they brought the teller staff along the journey, by helping them to understand the ‘why’ of the changes.

I only caught half of The rise of the design-smart city: emergent hope in Adelaide’s 5000+ by Tim Horton, but I really enjoyed this inspirational case study about design thinking applied to policy and urban design. Check out the 5000+ project page for more inspiration.

I’ll be writing up my two presentations over at our Stamford blog, which will have the slides and useful resources.

It was lovely catching up with my extended UX family at UX Australia 2012; I made some new friends and caught up with old friends. Thank you to Donna and Steve for organising another wonderful conference and the sponsors that help make it happen. I’m also really pleased that my wonderful workplace, Stamford, could take part again with our music themed goodies (t-shirts, guitar pics, guitar hero and more).

Formulate summed up the conference well:

“Theme for #uxaustralia 2011 was mobile and multi-channel. Theme for #uxaustralia 2012 was being human.”

Published inConferencesUser experience


  1. […] a number of presentations this year, including UX Australia 2012 (I did two presentations, which I had lost my voice!), OZeWAI 2012 (accessibility conference) and a […]

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