The third annual UX Australia came to a close this Friday and it's safe to say Donna, Steve and the rest of the team had another hit on their hands. I don't know what it is, but there's a vibe to this event that seems to carry from year to year. Even though I was distracted with work a lot and missed about half of the presentations, I still came away with some thoughts and sessions that will stick me with me for a long time.
Leadership as designers
Kim Goodwin opened the conference with a great talk on the value of leadership, and why design leadership shouldn't mean pushing talented designers into people management and spreadsheets, but letting them focus on being inspiring design leaders. Kim also talked a lot about change management, which was mentioned but glossed over in several presentations this year. I've read a few of the books Kim mentioned, (Flawless Consulting by Peter Block, Leading Change by John Kotter...) and, as she said, they're not design books. They are super useful for people in this field, though, because a lot of work now is of a hybrid nature - design, client consulting, co-design and facilitiation. This is not a comfortable fit yet, and Kim's talk really highlighted that nicely.
Cochlear bionic implants
As perennial as the event itself seems to be, the great presentations by Matt Morphett and Shane Morris are worth the ticket price alone. Cochlear implants are ultra complex bionic devices for people suffering from deafness. In one of several presentations, Shane and Matt discussed their work on designing a handheld tuning device for the implants that Cochlear users carry around with them. Aside from some geat tips and insights in to the research and design of the device, an amazing part of the presentation was a video of a patient being 'switched on' for the first time having lost her hearing. It was incredibly moving, and making the ongoing experience a better experience for Cochlear users is a fantastic, inspiring piece of work.
Air New Zealand SkyCouches
Leif Roy is a former industrial designer working for Optimal Usability in Wellington, New Zealand. Leif was involved with the design of AirNZ's benchmark-setting SkyCouch design, which is now in service on a number of long haul routes.
I really liked a lot of this project; the involvement of IDEO, the prototyping 'boot camp', the insights of executives dictating the 'selling of experiences, not plane seats', and the freedom given to the team to 'work out' what was best for the project. Donna mentioned in her session wrap up that this was a dream project, and it was hard to disagree, particularly as I am pretty infatuated with airport and plane UX (see below).
The future of airports
Since coming back from a month-long trip earlier this year that traversed the US and UK at Christmas, Thailand and Vietnam, all with their own crazy airport procedures (and a rather large helping of snow in a couple of places), I've been fairly obsessed with airport experiences and usability.
Ben Kraal is a smart guy, and an amusing speaker. His work on 'the future of airports' really made me think about the challenges faced here, the amazing number of moving parts 'held together by chewing gum and a prayer', and the fact that you need a LOT of data, then have to figure out what to do with it. This is long-term work for Ben, but I'll sure be following the news on it (www.airportsofthefuture.qut.edu.au/).
These were my highlights but I'm sure others had a lot more. I didn't see Jon Kolko's highly rated close, and a number of other presentations that got a lot of Twitter 'press', but when it's dual streams I tend to pick one session and stick with it. Over the last three years this event has been one of my favourite weeks of the year.
Next year - Brisbane
Congrats to the team involved, and thanks for putting on another stellar event. Next year UX Australia will be in Brisbane, again the last week of August. No doubt it will sell out super quick, so you'd best put it in the diary right now.