Responsible & Responsive Design

27 Jan 2016 by

Experiences at the O'Reilly Conference 2016

“If designers own anything, it’s the process; and our role is to facilitate it.”
— Dan Brown, EightShapes

Makes sense? When I first heard this, I wasn’t convinced one bit, but after hearing eminent folks from different design disciplines with powerful roles,
I began to give it a lot more thought. Where did I hear this? Read on...

Manas and I began 2016 with quite a kick! We got the opportunity to attend the O’Reilly Design Conference in San Francisco in January. With the underlying theme of ‘Design the Future’, SF was the place for it, in more than one way. Spread over the course of three days, that included one day of workshops and two days of talks. The attendees ranged from hard core interaction designers to researchers to coders and developers and business folks. I went in with an open mind, a ton of hope and an empty notebook.


The conference started well, setup in a highly calm, open and rather scenic environment and allowed for a great deal of networking with the almost 700 attendees. There were a ton of sub themes and topics- some highly focussed on UI/UX Design and some more towards generic design, its application and the future. The strategy amongst the two of us was to attend what interested us and of course what could/would apply to our roles at the Studio.

Some talks were inspiring, some exciting and some highly engaging, and some had me daydreaming (read distracted).

Here's how I've compiled my experience.

Part 1. Things That Made Me Go ‘Wow’
Part 2. Some Powerful Statements That Resonated
Part 3. What I Really Took Back

So, brace yourself for a long post!


Part 1: Things That Made Me Go Wow

Tony Fadell’s session on 'Breaking the Habit'

Former Product Designer at Apple, and now at NEST, Fadell’s discussion was on ‘Breaking the Habit’. One of his key points was that design must not try to oversimplify, but it must bring in clarity, even if it means to do an extra task within a workflow.

His take on future of design was tipped towards ethics and responsibility of design. "Think about what you are doing for the world".
He also spoke the on Future of Design in the Enterprise,
“It was earlier for designers solely, but now it’s for everyone, environments, spaces, et all”. Think about the processes, not just the system”, he emphasised.

On thinking about the future of as a designer, he put it quite simply, technology is advancing on the exponential scale and society in the longitudinal. (graph). In other words, tech is advancing much faster than society being able to grasp it.

Watch the full video here

Humble Systems and Not Smart Systems

Alexis Lloyd is part of the Research and Development Lab Group at NY Times. Her talk focussed on how automation has made us value only what we can measure, or rather, what we measure becomes what we value. Through two examples she brilliantly made this fact evident. An app that measures sexual performance, and a fitness tracker that doesn’t match what you want your goal to be. Her point was to identify the unique skills of humans and machines and then, design for interpretation and feedback.

"We have reached a tipping point, with all the conversations and dialogues and the communication",she said. “Relationship Design is the new UX” was something she mentioned in passing, but that one quote became what I probably took most from the entire conference.

Dan Saffer’s talk on ‘Practical Creativity’

It made me draw hearts in my notebook for him. All through the talk, I was nodding my head, waiting to put all that thought into some action.


Reframing ‘Creativity’ to ‘Practical Creativity’:

P.C = Imagination + Knowledge/ (Outside) Constraints x Time
*Outside= business, users, clients, hardware

Complicated, I know, but the elements by themselves kind of do make a lot of sense. (I’m going to try and apply this to work and play)

The Grappling Hook:  Building the Creative Habit






On Failure and Getting Stuck:
Focus on making a body of work, not an individual piece.

When You’re Stuck:
Procrastinate- walk, take a shower, take a drive, drink alcohol, 
go somewhere new.
Power through it.


Design Government
a discussion with Mike Bracken and Tim O’Reilly

Mike is the former Chief Data Officer of Government Digital Service, UK.
The GDS is known for having disrupted digital information design with the Government systems and brought about a huge change, by making citizen get what they wanted. They had to shut down almost 2000 digital power systems to make happen.

The point was clear- it was key to think about what people want, making Government services simple and convenient. Mike highlighted on
“ The user will tell you what s/he wants”
“ Simple answers to often asked question”
“ Content Design is key, there is huge value in making collaborative teams of editors, designers and developers. There were writers who rewrote policy is simple, easy to digest and understandable by all users.

Framing design principles and applying them to the digital systems and platform of was one thing, what’s more exciting, amazing, crazy and truly user centric is the fact that the platform is constantly updating and allowing for the citizen’s voice to be heard, for real.

One of his last points were that designers need to be designers and developers. “I’m fed up of designers making pretty things, LEARN CODE.”

Watch the full video here

Amazing people create amazing cultures that create great products

Steve Johnson from LinkedIn sharing things that really help in making good teams and cultures. His presentation was crisp, where he shared some bite sized statements. Here are some:

Unique personalities= unique ideas.

Build super strong structures, between silos

Trendsetters define the era

Guts = Glory

Turn failure into fuel for success

Adaptation= Flexibility + Speed

Stay a kid at heart, will help solve problems better

Dream big, have fun and get sh*t done with quality.

Watch the full video here:

Part 2: Statements that Resonated With Me

Things I heard, saw and thought made a ton of sense. 

Part 3: What I really took back

Apart from a bagful of goodies, a half filled notebook and some beautiful pictures in my memory- (you know the kinds that are etched forever, the kinds you dream of and you see in movies), I took back some thoughts - while the theme of Design the Future got dissolved somewhere in the middle of all the speaker sessions- also giving me an insight that the future of design is the kind, that is merging everything. There are no set structures, boundaries, rules and things to stick to and everyone is excited about the application of design thinking in their spaces.


The future of design lies in the power to be applied all across the spectrum, especially in areas that haven’t been explored much- education, healthcare, civic and community design. And the base or at the core of it lies, human relationships, interactions and stories.

Most importantly, design in itself has a huge role to probe the future, if not to disrupt and create (parts of) it.