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.
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.
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.
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).