Curated by @SimonCocking

Guest blog post by Alan Dargan, top digital designer and lead lecturer at @DigitalSkillsAc  and also works at @TERMINALFOUR. A longer version first appeared here.

Rebase, which took place at the end of September, models itself as a conference on design inspiration and education and the organisers have endeavoured to ensure that it’s not just a portfolio show and tell type of event but that the talks will provide plenty of food for thought. It was a packed three days that kicked off with three talks at Wednesday evening’s Fringe event in NCAD before moving on to Royal Hospital in Kilmainham on the Friday. Sandwiched between those two events was a day of workshops.


Over the two days of talks there were plenty of standout moments from speakers covering topics ranging from UX to IoT to service design.

Here are a few that caught my attention.

We don’t hear enough about how to build or manage design teams. It’s something that Lynsey Thornton, Director of UX Research at Shopify, considers  a design challenge in itself. How do you keep good people engaged with their jobs and offer them a sense of career progression without forcing them into management positions knowing that not everybody wants to end up signing off timesheets or overseeing a team’s work. In Shopify this isn’t considered an inevitable outcome; Senior Designers can stay doing what they like doing rather than taking a role they may not want or be suited to.

In a talk based on his blog post, “The UX Revolution in Healthcare”,‘s Henry Poskitt outlined 6 reasons why healthcare is ripe for patient focussed UX.

Frontend have been involved with the sector for over 4 years and it’s become obvious that healthcare is ripe for change. However an initial fervour inflated expectations sunk to the ‘trough of disillusionment’.

Change is hard and often there’s a cultural mismatch when designers meet healthcare. The healthcare sector has many diverse players (with diverse sets of goals), is built on long timelines, and tends, unsurprisingly, to be risk averse. These factors place it in direct opposition to the prototype and iterate methods favoured in the design world.

Claire Rowland is a UX and Product Consultant who has co-authored the O’Reilly book Designing Connected Products and detests the term ‘Internet of Things’. Typically the image of a connected home is one where lightbulbs and washing machines (always a washing machine!) are turned on or off with the touch of smartphone app but, according to Rowland, “There are much easier ways to make a crap remote control without invoking the internet”.

Latency and reliability are a normal part of web use and have been since the outset – we’re used to pages not loading when using the web since our mental model of these systems permits this unpredictability. That’s not a given, however, with products in the real world – we’re used to a light switch getting it right every time.

Interfaces where interactions span devices (like the Nest thermostat device, smartphone app and web interface) lean heavily on UI consistency. The take-away from this incredibly stimulating talk was that designing across devices is hard and we may not be at the point where the ‘connected home’ is a reality yet.

You’ll often hear that ‘design is a conversation’ but Intercom‘s Director of Product Design, Emmet Connolly took it a step further by exploring the possibility of messaging as an OS. Emmett has a background in uncovering new contexts for interactions – he was part of the original Android Wear team and kicked off his talk with the Henry Ford quote:

“progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready and then it is inevitable”

Messaging as a platform has come of age and it could be that a more conversational approach to interaction could be inevitable. Thing of an OS that we use only by messaging commands. Want a taxi? Rather than opening an app just send a message and your OS just pings a cab. This use of ‘Bots’ is already just beginning to permeate the likes of messaging app Slack where Slackbot uses natural language to help you with small tasks like completing your profile. According to Emmet, Bots are to messaging apps as APIs were to Web 2.0.

It’s not easy being the last speaker of the event – audience fatigue tends to set in some time after lunch however Gerry McGoverns keynote talk was brimming with incredulous discontent and a storm the barricades exuberance. Gerry talked about the erosion of blind trust and how designers must be aware that to create trust we should create simplicity. If you need to tell your customers it’s simple, then it’s probably not. When surveyed 80% of companies thought they delivered “superior customer service” while only 8% of customers believe that the same companies deliver a “superior customer service”.

That serves to illustrate the not uncommon disconnect between how organisations are perceived and how they perceive themselves. It’s no longer within an organisation’s power to have their command their customer’s loyalty. A company like Google don’t spend large amounts of money telling us how good their products are because we discover that through use. “A good designer”, according to Gerry, “doesn’t control the design but designs the controls”.

It was an exhilarating end to a packed and thought provoking event. Lots to think about and I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.

Pictures – James Keating

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