10 years of CanUX
In early November, Systemscope joined 500 fellow UX-ers in Gatineau, Quebec for CanUX’s 10th anniversary year. This was a welcome opportunity to meet designers from far and wide and to think critically about how design impacts our work and lives in ways we don’t always realize. The speakers all inspired us in different ways – here’s our staff’s takeaways on their experience at the conference this year:
CanUX marks many things in my internal calendar – the inevitable reality that it is no longer fall, Thanksgiving and Halloween were last month which means Christmas is coming, and the opportunity to deeply reflect on my progress as a UX designer.
Systemscope was once again a gold sponsor for the event and I had the pleasure of meeting people from Toronto, Montreal, and fellow Ottawans. It was a pleasant surprise to see more of a presence of folks from different GC departments, many of whom have heard of Systemscope and our work.
Many of Saturday’s talks revolved around the dynamic of teams in the workplace and working on an institutional level – spelling out some of the obvious challenges we face on the daily. It was especially entertaining to hear some of the reactions of those in the crowd during Farai Madzima’s talk. He joked about how Canadians are accustomed to communicating passively which can come off as non-urgent and that everything is fine. For example, when a project is not progressing well, the conversation would typically start with “thank you so much for all of your hard work on this so far, we are doing great and we are getting there”. Many of his points shed light on the fact that we often get too comfortable with the way things are. We should be comfortable with direct criticism at critical moments and strive to correct the path of the project before it gets too messy.
Building a team dynamic that works best for our context is important to me. I hope to take some of my learnings from this year’s CanUX to improve my own approaches as a designer and try out different ways to build a better design environment for our team.
The 10th edition of CanUX (formerly UXCamp) was the 6th edition for me, and I found myself reflecting on the impact that CanUX has had on my career. I discovered CanUX, and the UX community that has evolved around it, at a time where I was struggling with finding the language to articulate what I bring as a professional. CanUX played a key role in introducing me to a vocabulary to describe what I do, and set me off running in discovering various pathways into the broader UX world. Collecting insights and approaches annually, from the likes of @Abby_the_IA, @leisa, @wittster, and @jessmcmullin has helped me to explore, and develop as a practitioner.
Also apparent at CanUX 2019 is that the discipline of UX and the community around it is maturing. Organizations are adopting the language of UX. Some are even becoming pretty mature in their practices. This is an amazing thing as a focus on UX is being recognized as table stakes for some, and as a differentiator for others.
CanUX has convened a community that I am proud to be a part of and I am grateful for their endurance in re-energizing Canada’s UX community year after year.
Among the impressive presentations at the 10th edition of CanUX, Lining Yao, Director of the Morphing Matter Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, was particularly inspiring. She gave a fascinating overview of the work she and her students do in their lab, exploring materials that can change shape or “morph” when heat or humidity increase.
The potential of these materials and manufacturing techniques evoke a future where flat-pack chairs build themselves with the heat of a hairdryer, and pasta ships flat – reducing shipping costs and fuel, but morphs into familiar (and not so familiar) shapes when dropped into a boiling pot.
Another example was fabric embedded with heat-sensitive bacteria, which led to the creation of dance attire with cooling vents designed to open when the dancers expended enough energy.
The talk reminded me that the world is full of wonder and that our problem-solving approaches should stretch into all of the possibilities, and not just rely on the usual toolkit. User experience practitioners often look for patterns and reusable solutions in the name of consistency and supporting norms, but sometimes it’s just as important to push into the realm of innovative exploration and “dance with billions of bacteria”.
Chrissy Lynch has recently completed her Master in Public Administration at Queen’s University and is now part of Systemscope’s Strategic Business Consulting practice. Her specializations include user experience, lean government practices, and business process management.