The 2017 IA Summit is over, but the excitement and comradery shown by all the information professionals participating on the last day of the conference was still palpable. For me, the excitement of the first day hadn’t depleted and I was thirsty for more knowledge. These are some of the talks I had the chance to experience as the summit drew to a close.
Yellow may stimulate creativity
I started the third day of the 2017 IA summit by listening to Jon Kolko, founder and director of the Austin Center for Design, talk about the ways in which he encourages managers, designers and leaders to create “creative clarity in the midst of ambiguity.” This engaging session started with the claim that people seem to have all the answers, but that his experience in the field has led him to believe that there are at least four relevant characteristics of creativity that have worked for him.
Kolko explained how designers tend to internalize critique and get discouraged in their abilities to create innovative designs and solutions. He urged us to promote trust and build communities where there are group critiques that lead designers to uncover and face the constraints that might be hindering their work. Kolko continued with the notion of taming ambiguity and how this allows designers to have a clearer vision on the goals to achieve with their work. Kolko quoted Kevin McDonald, from Argo design, to expand on the concept of building an artifact as a negotiation that unlocks the process and allows constraints to surface as to be able to focus on relevant challenges.
One characteristic Kolko identified relates to breaking the rules and guidelines that instill a culture where people feel constrained to innovate. He cautioned about the consequences and how, as designers and leaders, we should be prepared to face them. However, Kolko believes that the value gained for the designers and the products they are creating is worth the hassle. Finally, he spent time stressing the importance of having a vision and giving your team a reason to come to work every day. As design leaders, we must make sure to keep the chaos under control and frame strategies that are conducive to the creation of solutions, allowing designers to be creative in their approach.
Overall, this talk was engaging, visually stimulating and amazingly narrated. Jon Kolko was able to instill excitement and wonder into a concept that has been prevalent and widely discussed throughout our professional upbringing. No matter the number of rules and secrets for finding creativity, it seems that it’s about allowing people to be free and comfortable enough to want to seek it.
And now what?
In an impromptu panel session, Amber Case (keynote speaker from Saturday’s evening session)
called for audience members to come up on stage and share their knowledge or experience in voice UX, as the actual speaker about to have a session on the topic was missing from the room.
Professionals in attendance animatedly shared their experiences, bringing different perspectives to the voice UX dialogue and making of this session a fun and enjoyable conversation. Issues on swearing AI, throat clearing issues affecting voice commands and shouting kids in the background sending us back to the initial voice prompt brought levity to the situation and showed the awesome attitude and comradery of the community.
Arquitecto de Informacion
I felt particularly connected to Cristobal Almanza’s session talking about the design of multilingual systems for the benefit of users. Almanza shared his experience as an Information Architect at TradeMark Media to explain the value and importance of doing localization work, as the make-up of users is rapidly changing and includes people that don’t consider English their first language.
Almanza described how a holistic approach to translation must be applied, which would consider local and cultural norms, visual translation and linguistic considerations. Furthermore, he listed the steps in applying localization, urging us humans to do the translations as machines are still highly inaccurate. As takeaways, he pushed us to think about recognizing the scope of the audience of non-English speaking users and to take a holistic UX approach that considers the context of culture.
Being a native Spanish speaker myself, finding a talk that acknowledged that there are people (almost 20%) who do not speak “the universal language of the internet” was refreshing and insightful. I am convinced that this is an example on how design can be made more inclusive and accessible to people that might depend highly on it but lack the tools to utilize it effectively.
A not-so-painful breakup
Kyle Soucy walked us through the cons and pros of her relationship with post-its and their use in user research. Grabbing inspiration from a scene concept in Sex and the City, she named her talk “I’m Sorry. I can’t. Don’t Hate me: The Post-It Breakup” and humorously described how post-its and affinity diagraming were not specifically designed to effectively aid the process of analyzing research.
She talked about UX research being a team sport and how the Rashomon Effect (contradictory interpretations of the same event by different people) is prevalent when people do not debrief, share observations and communicate, which the affinity diagraming process discourages. This leads to incomplete data that might be relevant for the findings of the research. Soucy numbered the drawbacks of post-its and affinity diagraming, noting things like wastefulness, induced fatigue to researchers, and illegibility and vagueness of the notes to underline that the process is not be as effective as we might believe.
As Soucy described the alternative ways of analyzing research data, she pointed out that the alternatives are not “sexy or sophisticated” but extremely effective. She urged us to consider excel our best friend, claiming that she has become so accustomed to its utility, that it has been hard to move to other tools, even if they may provide added value. Furthermore, Soucy recommended having the whole team use the same method to maintain consistency and allow the debriefing process to be smoother.
As she concluded the presentation, Soucy stressed the fact that she’s not against post-its or affinity diagrams, but that she feels that their utility is better suited for different focuses on the user research process. Finally, she encouraged the audience to always question the methods being used and look for aggregated value in other tools. She expressed interest in trying Reframer, Mural and Boardthing to supplement her tool-kit.
And as the curtain drops…
As the summit ended, the co-chairs – Dave Cooksey, Susan Mercer and Marianne Sweeny – bid people farewell, thanking Canada for being a gracious host, first and second timers for bringing warmth and new energy to the event and the speakers and attendees for sharing knowledge with their community.
Cooksey introduced us to the co-chairs for the next IA Summit, which will take place in Chicago on March 21-25, 2018. The highly awaited 5-minute madness took place as people came up and shared their experiences, the love for the community and how being an information architect has affected their identities.
This article is the final in our live blogging series for IA Summit 2017. Many thanks to our UX Booth live blogger, Julieta Sanchez!