CanUX 2018: ethics, UX community and design thinking
A cohort of Systemscopers joined several hundred UX designers, coders, data specialists and leaders in Gatineau, Quebec early this month for the 9th edition of this popular and enduring UX event. Here’s five takes on the experience.
This year at CanUX the conversation shifted from talking about users to talking about humans, to human-centered design and the impact our work done ethically (or not) has in our societies. It is beyond a product or a service: it is about understanding humans, their experiences and how that shapes the essence of who we are as individuals, a community, a society and a global community of societies.
Mapping complex human experiences like domestic violence and how individuals become involved with extremist violent factions provides a platform to unravel, illustrate and build a common understanding of important problems. It gives focus not only to the problems to be solved but also the opportunities that lie within them, so we can foster a safe, peaceful and inclusive world. This is something to strive for in our daily practice.
With this being my first time attending CanUX, I can see why it’s been so popular with the design community. Hearing passionate voices like Mike Monteiro and Karen Woods speak about their experience, and what drives them was quite inspiring. As someone who works closely with UX designers every day, this conference provided a good lens on how we can better integrate design thinking and approaches into our projects.
It was fantastic to see the large number of attendees from different Canadian public sector organizations. To answer the most common questions I received in speaking with attendees:
- yes, we are focused on public sector
- yes, we are experienced in UX, service design, and business design
- yes, we know exactly how to implement design-driven change in Government
This year’s CanUX speakers had topics that felt comfortable, relatable, and familiar, while others felt nearly impossible to imagine. Most speakers had one common goal: to relay these topics and experiences back to user experience. Themes surrounding empathy, responsibility, and impact aim to ground and encourage us to take a step back from our typically hectic daily agendas. As a fresh “UXer”, my malleable mentality towards the world of UX consistently attracts new passions and motivation as well as concerns and fear. Outside of these sessions, I had the opportunity to interact with others who may do the same type of work and have similar goals working in UX, albeit in a different context. There were many intriguing discussions of the positive and important role that user experience design and research play in various industries. This provided a humble reminder that there is a deeper meaning and purpose to our work than we often give or take credit for. This conference never ceases to amaze. I’m looking forward to the next one!
CanUX is always an inspiring weekend for the Canadian user experience community. Alongside the impactful and meaningful presentations, we were also treated to a sneak peek at some of the results of the first Canadian State of UX report, presented by Tanya Snook and Cornelius Rachieru, founders and organizers of the CanUX event. The report summarizes the results of a survey that was sent out to the UX community last year. The survey covered areas such as salaries, experience, role, organizational maturity, tools, training and more. Some of the results are encouraging (UX salaries are decent) and some are concerning (men make more than women, visible minorities less than others). What I loved about it is the fantastic opportunity to learn more about who the Canadian UX community is, and how we can harness the tools and techniques of our trade, to understand and improve as a profession. It is clear that having more information available about the State of the UX profession in Canada, is important and relevant work. I look forward to learning more from the full report when it is released at the end of November.
A welcome theme that resonated with me at CanUX 2018 was that of ethics in design, which alluded to how strategic design is maturing as a practice. Various examples were presented that explored how the generative capacities of design have had massive impact and, in some cases, unforeseen consequences.
In Mike Monteiro’s keynote, “How to build an atomic bomb”, he focused on the lack of accountability mechanisms or artifacts built into the profession to regulate or guide how the design profession should operate. As a step towards addressing this, he suggested adopting a code of ethics, of which one point stood out.
Mike’s 7th principle, that a designer does not believe in edge cases, is, I think, part of what makes public service work so attractive for service designers. There are no edge cases. There can’t be. You have to embrace the complexity that this embeds in the specific problemspace that you are working through.
It makes it essential to fall in love with the problem, and not with any particular solution – and that is what makes the work both so challenging and so fulfilling. We owe every single person our best work, and in public sector design work, we get to at least try to deliver exactly that.
Denise Eisner is a content strategist and designer with a passion for creating enhanced user experiences.