I’ve been working in Service Design and UX for well over a decade now but had never had the opportunity of attending UX London, until this year. Now, a proud Clearleftie, I had the perk of attending the event for the whole 3 days and it certainly lived up to my expectation.
I always find that conferences provide a space for reflection on your career, your experiences and the industry as a whole - so here are my top five reflection points from UX London.
One theme from a number of speakers was the broad application of design at both a macro and micro level. Erika Hall highlighted that “design isn’t artefacts its decisions, so every decision maker is a designer” she added “we must widen our view, step out of the detail and consider the broader impact of our work on people and the environment, not just the immediate user.”
Similarly, Molly Nix discussed the need to design at all levels of zoom; from an interaction, to a feature, to a product, to a service and finally to the system. It’s something I’ve always appreciated coming from a service design background but it’s so easy to lose sight of the broader picture when your remit is on the design of one component. It’s important to remember that everything you work on is connected to everything else in the system, and it’s part of a designers job at every level to consider the impact to the individual, the business and society as a whole.
The industry legend Jared Spool gave a really engaging talk, where he reminded me of the ‘growth stages of understanding’ model. The four-stage model is intriguingly simple, describing a person’s path from ignorance to mastery. The final mastery stage is appropriately named ‘Unconscious Competent’. At this stage, the designer has essentially mastered the skill of design and has internalised all knowledge and intuitively produces good quality outcomes. It made me reflect that whilst I’ve always been against following a structured process/framework, preferring to think on my feet with a constant eye on where I’m going, it has a place for unifying a team with different levels of understanding. Indeed, Jared highlighted the need to work at the lowest team member’s level of understanding.
A couple of speakers and workshops highlighted the need to design for endings. Joe Macleod’s talk highlighted a number of good and bad endings and the implications of these on the overall experience. Whilst the Behavioural Design workshop by the Coglode team pointed to the peak-end rule. This rule, grounded in research, states that people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak (i.e., its most intense point) and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience. I also think that considering this rule during your design process will help you identify the moments of truth for your product and where the value lies.
The first two talks on Thursday morning made me reflect on the similarities between the practice of Service Design and UX/Product Design and how the merging of these disciplines is becoming messy as services become more and more digital. Certainly the principles and methodologies that Jamin Hegeman highlighted in his ‘So You Want to be a Service Designer?’ are used at the Clearleft studio daily, but his example highlighted that it’s often the nature of the design problem that differs - with ‘Service Designers’ focused on experiences that have digital and non-digital touchpoints.
The following talk by Katie Koch from Spotify, a purely digital business, interestingly highlighted that Service Design for their business is squarely in the domain of the ‘UX/Product Designers’. I suppose, at the end of the day, we are all designing services just our areas of expertise means we are more suited to different types of services.
We had two excellent talks from Babylon Health who are on a mission to leverage the ever-growing power of AI to make health affordable and accessible. Jane Austin gave some excellent advice on how to take control of your own career progression but the most interesting thing to me was the rate in which she had managed to grow the design team, from 8 to 60 in 8 months! I’ve done a little bit of recruitment over the years but can’t imagine what it is like to hire and onboard designers at such a rate. She gave some insight into some of the tools she’d put in place to make this process smoother, as did Emmet Connolly who is responsible for growing the design team at Intercom. The growth of the internal design team is not a new phenomenon, but I’m acutely aware that that challenge seems so much harder than designing the experience of a product or service.