This article was originally published on Medium.
With 2020 coming to a close, I’ve had the good fortune of attending several online design conferences. It was a dream come true: listening to world-class speakers in my pajamas while taking notes on my laptop vigorously and unabashedly. Honestly though, after countless online conferences and webinars, my notes started looking the same, and I started to question if I had learned all I could from these events.
One conference showed me otherwise — yep, you guessed it — UXPH Conference 2020. I felt drawn to it because the theme, “Navigators of Change”, because seemed to go beyond remote workflows and challenged itself to think of the role of designers, given all the hullabaloo happening in the world now.
Needless to say, I was stoked.
The Slack and Swapcard chats were bustling with energy in the morning, with people rushing to do personal introductions and social media posts. Check-ins were popping in from different parts of the world — some people were sending pics of their breakfast, while others were sending swanky pics of their dual-monitor setups.
Once it was time, hosts Reine Bantang and Stella Pangilinan officially started Day 1 by introducing Aldrich Tan and Rhea Matute. Aldrich, the Managing Director of UXPH, spoke about the power of community — multiple initiatives to grow UX in the Philippines, including the conference, brought to life by a growing group of passionate designers doing these voluntarily! Rhea followed with an inspiring talk about how designers are called to lead the change for the better, “not simply towards a new normal, but a better normal”. > “We as designers are called to lead the change for the better, not simply towards a new normal, but a better normal.” — Rhea Matute
To make it easier to look back on, I wrote the insights that stuck with me into a handy list:
Dice’s opening statement — 3D model of himself dancing — quickly became a hit among us attendees, and was a great opener to the stories Dice had of IDEO’s unique take on interaction design and being designers. What especially inspired me from his stories were the ones of d.Camp, where designers teach design-thinking to non-designers. Dice wants non-designers to believe that they have the potential to design, and this can happen when we share the culture of creative confidence. The next step we might have to take is to create awesome outputs that are easy to spread, and can inspire the people around us.
LaDonna’s talk was a powerful reflection piece for the attendees, even moving some to #EarlyMorningDeepThoughts and tears. It’s not that people don’t have a voice, or anything to say. It’s just become ingrained in our culture for some people to feel like they need to ask for permission to speak from the people who created the culture of silence in the first place. LaDonna gave us all a gentle reminder: our voice is our power, and when we’re ready to stand up and speak, our story can give others the courage to use their voices as well.
In case you’re doing a double take (I mean, I did), this is an idiom! It says that we shouldn’t be quick to throw out something that didn’t work out, especially if there are good parts we can keep. Trixia Pama shared this along with her personal stories of shaping her career using the design tools and frameworks we’re all familiar with. It’s true — if we move on to a new field, or try a new job, our experience from our old work isn’t rendered useless. Take the good stuff, and bring it forward.
Styliana Sarris’ talk on how to pioneer change gave us a peek at how our minds work, especially in reaction to failure. We feel the pain of loss twice as much as we feel pleasure from gain, which encourages us to avoid failure altogether. However, because we’re attached to designs we worked hard on and don’t want to see that they failed, we miss out on iteratively getting closer to the best design. **We have to form a healthy relationship with failure — welcome it, accept it, and try again. **#NoteToSelf
We obviously know not to boil something as big as the ocean. But when we’re trying to make waves in our organizations (especially bigger ones), we tend to get disheartened if change doesn’t happen overnight. Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng is no stranger to this, and she gives us some tips to keep the fire alive realistically: start with small wins, bring in knowledge from outside, make change fun and sexy (my favorite), and communicate your successes.
As a user researcher, Ruth Ellison shared about the transformative power of empathy in the ways that we work, especially when times are changing. Our users might be experiencing horrors — such as bushfires, loss of jobs, floods, loved ones getting ill, and many more — and there’s a challenge of designing for minimal negative impact to them. At the same time, we are also people: we also have our own challenges of putting research together despite social distancing. Empathy is important in being kind to each other, especially when the going gets tough.
Michael Tam introduced us to some next-level designing, which begins with the premise of considering that uncertainty and change can be a pivotal moment for designers to shape the future. He shared about VR, XR, MR, and about how digital and physical are starting to merge with the body as an interface. With scenario visioning, we can use our imaginations to get ready to solve for the volatile, the uncertain, the complex, and ambiguous, unbounded by what we see around us today.
Community, and taking care of the people around you, was a running theme of a lot of talks so far. We were fortunate to have Felix Lee, Grace Ling, Chi Amisola, Aldrich Tan, facilitated by Chelle Gray and Michelle Obligacion to share us the experiences of growing their own design communities. It was inspiring to hear that a large part of building those communities is to remember that they’re built up of people. Growing a group meant growing the individuals as well, and to help them grow by understanding them, nourishing their vision, and giving them opportunities to give value to the community.
Even with the end of a jam-packed day of talks, some attendees were still so full of energy when we headed into our Socials Night. Grace Ling from Design Buddies (she also spoke in our panel that day) and representatives from UXPH hosted the night of quickies of getting to know each other.
I had the pleasure of being matched with new faces, much more experienced designers (hello Ely and Aldrich!), fellow UXPH volunteers, and even Grace Ling herself!
Day 1 took me by surprise with the stories the speakers shared, as well as my fellow attendees’ own commentary and stories shared in our Slack. so much that my head was whirring with new ideas. I was so excited to see what Day 2 had in store, and was already readying my notes pages to be filled again and again.
Check out my summary of Day 2 next!
🧩 Help out in organizing UXPH initiatives by volunteering.