Highlights from CANUX 2019

Day 1

Cyd Harrell — UX for Institutions: This is how we win the time war

I was pretty excited to hear Cyd speak. I’ve been following her on Twitter for awhile, and her experience with Code for America and 18F is incredibly relevant as I’m currently a Code for Canada fellow.

Cyd Harrell with slide behind her that says ‘public servants make more design decisions than the entire design industry’
Cyd Harrell on the canux stage 2019
Sketchnotes by Eva-Lotta Lamm

Dr. Tarek Loubani —Every second counts: product design for the front lines of Gaza

This was a tough session to watch. Tarek is a Palestinian refugeee, a doctor and a member of the Glia project. The Glia project “uses an open-access research, development and distribution model to create high-quality low-cost medical devices.”

Sketchnotes by Eva-Lotta Lamm

Eva-Lotta Lamm — Visual Literacy & Visual Fluency

My words can’t do justice to Eva-Lotta’s talk.

Bryce Johnson — Recognize Exclusion, Design for Inclusion

Bryce Johnson from Microsoft was the first of many speakers to refer to the Microsoft Inclusive Design principles and toolkit.

Livecaptioning from canux as the speaker discusses the impact of disabled veterans trying to assimilate back into civilian life” “society and you can’t even play fucking video games, your social life is just gone. Hearing these stories..”
Embedded video with title “Microsoft and VA partner to bring Xbox Adaptive Controller to Veterans with limited mobility” (YouTube)

Farai Madzima — Cultural Bias in Design(ers)

Farai spoke about the importance of recognizing and celebrating culture and diversity. He even mentioned a mathematical formula that demonstrates that diversity reduces errors!

Amy Ross — Space Suit User Experience

I always think these applied/case study type talks are going to be too niche for me, and then I find they’re the sessions where I learn the most.

Tweet that reads ‘“I can test hardware and show I meet requirements. The hard part is getting users to tell me they’ll use it”, attributed to Amy Ross, NASA Spacesuit Engineer #canux’

Kim Goodwin — Beyond Design Systems: Decision Systems

The first day of the conference wrapped up with a keynote from Kim Goodwin. The overarching take-away was something Cyd had planted in our minds several hours before: that what we tend to think of as UX is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much below the form factor for us to consider.

Speaker at canux in front of a slide that has the label “design system” at the top of a pyramid. Below that label is a line depicting what’s visible to the user, and then below the surface are other labels, including “corporate goals”, “terms of service”, “security policies”, “revenue models”, “technology stack”, “laws and regulations”, “training and incentives” and “algorithms and training data”.
Sketchnotes by Eva-Lotta Lamm

Day 2

Steve Portigal — Stop Solving Problems!

Steve started us off in the morning with an admonition to focus on people, not technical problems. He shared some humorous things that exist in the world under the guise of ‘innovation,’ and lamented the fact that when something is poorly designed, no amount of messaging or training can fix it.

Large bin for collecting sleep equipment that looks like a trash bin, with three different labels requesting people not put trash in it. (Which they did regularly)

Lining Yao — Morphing Matter as Both Intelligent Medium and Media

Wow! This presentation blew my mind, and I still have more research I want to do. Lining Yao works with the Morphing Matter lab at Carnegie Mellon. the lab’s vision is to “challenge the definition of traditional human computer interface which was constrained on a computer screen, and encode information and interactivity into physical materials.”

Self-shaping pasta

Alastair Somerville — Mixed Reality Design Framework

By the time Alastair took the stage after brunch with what even the MCs referred to as a soothing voice, it was difficult to stay engaged. His idea of using jenga blocks and sticky notes to illustrate the concepts of user perception vs our ‘god view’ of the overall system structure was pretty brilliant.

Lego figure standing in a space filled with blocks. The blocks are label “perceivable” from the viewpoint of the lego person, and labeled ‘meaning’ from the viewpoint of someone standing above the entire scene

Emma Howell — Designing an Inclusive Government Drug Information Service for Young Adults

Emma’s talk centered on a public health/information campaign in the UK, which reminded me of the work I did when I worked at Worldways Social Marketing a few years back. It can be difficult to communicate the content in a way that’s informative and engaging, in an authentic way.

Meme of an adult trying to appear cool and fit in with teenagers, saying “How do you do, fellow kids?”
Slide text at the canux conference: “We mustn’t further marginalize disadvantaged groups with privileged design” — Emma Howell

The drawing!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this. Immediately before the keynote, they held a drawing for a trip to UX New Zealand — and I won!

Tweet with text ‘holy friggen rabbit paws Andrea F Hill . She’s going to New Zealand! #canux”

Bill Buxton — Wild Design for Living in the Wild

So unfortunately, I was a bit distracted for the first part of this session!

Conference slide with text “Ultimately, we are deluding ourselves if we think that the products that we design are the ‘things’ that we sell, rather than the individual, social and cultural experience that they engender, and the value and impact that they have. Design that ignores this is not worthy of the name” from a presentation by Bill Buxton
Tweet reading “CanuxConf steps it up again: offering pronoun buttons for all attendees” with a photo of a closeup of a button reading “she/her”



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Andrea F Hill

Andrea F Hill

Sr UX Specialist with Canada Revenue Agency, former web dev and product person. 🔎 Lifelong learner. Unapologetic introvert. Plant-powered marathoner. Cat mom.