Looking back on a second This happened – Utrecht

Some more catch­ing up with things that occurred recent­ly; on Mon­day Feb­ru­ary 23 we1 had our sec­ond This hap­pened. I am quite sat­is­fied with how things went.

For one; we had some unplanned cohe­sion2 amongst talks.3 Three out of four talks dis­cussed the use of field research (to use the term broad­ly). It was good to have some dis­cus­sion of how this is put in prac­tice, as I often find ethno­graph­ic tech­niques being pre­sent­ed as some kind of sil­ver bul­let, but with­out any clear demon­stra­tion of its appli­ca­tion. It was also cool to see field research being applied effec­tive­ly in such dif­fer­ent con­texts (pri­ma­ry school, the elder­ly, South Africa).

To my relief, a sig­nif­i­cant­ly larg­er per­cent­age of the audi­ence (com­pared to last time) was female.4 This was some­thing we had worked con­scious­ly towards, since the first edition’s testos­terone quo­tient was a bit too high. In my opin­ion, a more diverse audi­ence is con­ducive to the kind of relaxed, open and hon­est atmos­phere we are pur­su­ing. The main way we tried to draw in a more bal­anced mix of peo­ple was by invit­ing more female speak­ers. Three out of four talks were by women. All of them were great. It seems to have worked.

I love that This hap­pened seems to be a venue for the kind of unas­sum­ing and hon­est pre­sen­ta­tions we some­how stop giv­ing once we leave design school (or at least I have). I can’t think of oth­er events where I am treat­ed to such won­der­ful war sto­ries from the front-lines of inter­ac­tion design.

The dis­cus­sions after each ses­sion were good again as well. Lots of thought­ful ques­tions, crit­i­cal, but fair. Alper was kind enough to keep min­utes, and has blogged the most salient parts over at his site (in Dutch).5

Our friends in Lon­don launched a new web­site that now con­tains videos and slides of all talks from past events. The Utrecht ses­sions are on there too, so go have a look. It already is an amaz­ing col­lec­tion of high-qual­i­ty con­tent. Some of my cur­rent favourites are Troi­ka, Crispin Jones and Schulze & Webb.6

The next This hap­pened – Utrecht (num­ber three) is set for June 29. Hope to see you there.

  1. Alexan­der, Ianus and I []
  2. Iskan­der spot­ted it first, this is a blog post in Dutch dis­cussing the par­al­lels between the talks []
  3. Hon­est­ly, this was not some­thing we had aimed for before­hand. []
  4. I real­ize in the tech scene this has once again become a hot top­ic, see for instance this dis­cus­sion over at Chris Messina’s blog. []
  5. I’ve col­lect­ed more posts on our sec­ond edi­tion over at Deli­cious. []
  6. While you’re there, why not vote for This hap­pened in the Brit Insur­ance Design of the Year 2009 awards at the Design Muse­um? []

The 2nd Dutch ‘This happened’ is coming this way

We’re less than four weeks removed from the sec­ond edi­tion of ‘This hap­pened – Utrecht’. As you may know, this is an event I am orga­niz­ing and curat­ing togeth­er with Alexan­der and Ianus. We’re try­ing to offer an alter­na­tive to flashy prod­uct-focused (and fuzzy the­o­ry-based) ses­sions that are preva­lent in the inter­ac­tion design event land­scape. ‘This hap­pened’ pre­sen­ta­tions are short sto­ries about how a project came to be, warts and all. Think of them as the DVD extras for inter­ac­tion design.

This happened – Utrecht #1

On Mon­day Feb­ru­ary 23, we’ll return to The­ater Kikker in Utrecht, the Nether­lands for #2. Our first edi­tion was a suc­cess, and I’m real­ly look­ing for­ward to con­tin­u­ing the exper­i­ment. Here’s who we’ve invit­ed this time to come and shed light on one of their projects:

  • Niels Kee­tels, a game design researcher at the HKU, will be talk­ing about Soft­body. A game that is inter­est­ing because of its lush expres­sive visu­als, as well as the clever bal­anc­ing of open-end­ed and goal-direct­ed play. Oh, and how many games fo you know that had their mechan­ics inspired by hon­est-to-good­ness field research?
  • Sanne Kistemak­er of Muzus will present Piece of Fam­i­ly, which was devel­oped in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Voda­fone. It’s a com­mu­ni­ca­tion device designed for the elder­ly, com­posed of a sketch­pad and a scan­ner, which instant­ly posts whatever’s writ­ten to a blog. The design won a pres­ti­gious Dutch Design Award.
  • Irene van Peer, a cel­e­brat­ed prod­uct design­er, will talk about the Mahlangu Hand-wash­er, which was fea­tured in the New York Times 8th Annu­al Year in Ideas. It is both a prod­uct (devel­oped as part of a san­i­ta­tion project in Africa) that involves con­vert­ing the cap of an emp­ty bot­tle into a home­made tap, as well as a set of instruc­tions that can be passed on from per­son to per­son.
  • Final­ly, we have Nao­mi Schiphorst and Mieke Vullings of MIMOA, who will show how their free and open online guide to mod­ern archi­tec­ture came into being. The site is aimed at a broad audi­ence, not just archi­tects, and aims to build a durable com­mu­ni­ty.

Head over to the This hap­pened – Utrecht web­site for expand­ed descrip­tions of the talks (in Dutch). The reg­is­tra­tion will open on Mon­day Feb­ru­ary 9. I hope to see you there!

Announcing This happened – Utrecht

I’m hap­py to announce This hap­pened – Utrecht; a series of events for inter­ac­tion design­ers that I have been work­ing on togeth­er with Ianus Keller and Alexan­der Zeh. On Mon­day 3 Novem­ber we’ll have our first edi­tion at The­ater Kikker. I’m keep­ing the line-up to myself for now, but I can assure you it is awe­some.

At This hap­pened, you’ll get four to five short lec­tures by inter­ac­tion design­ers about the process behind one of their projects. Each lec­ture is fol­lowed by ample time for dis­cus­sion. We invite speak­ers from many dif­fer­ent domains, such as prod­ucts, web, soft­ware, games, archi­tec­ture and art. This way, we hope to show that although the out­comes are dif­fer­ent, there is a lot to learn from fel­low design­ers work­ing in areas oth­er than your own.

This hap­pened has been going on in Lon­don for some time now, with great suc­cess. I can’t remem­ber when exact­ly I first came across the con­cept, but I do know that from the start I want­ed to intro­duce it in the Nether­lands. Imag­ine my excite­ment when I received an enthu­si­as­tic response to my pro­pos­al from the guys in Lon­don.

I believe This hap­pened real­ly adds some­thing to the design event land­scape. It isn’t often you get to go some­where to hear about the hard work that went into fin­ished projects. Usu­al­ly, you either get a demo of what has been achieved, or you hear some­one talk about what it is he would like to work on, not what he’s actu­al­ly done. Nei­ther is very infor­ma­tive for prac­tis­ing design­ers. At This hap­pened, the focus is firm­ly on process, not on out­come, and on mak­ing & doing, not (only) on think­ing.

Reg­is­tra­tion is free and will open around two weeks before the event starts. Watch this space, or keep an eye on the offi­cial This hap­pened – Utrecht web­site (in Dutch).