There’s nothing quite like the buzz you get from a creative conference. So many new ideas, rich conversations, and memorable characters.

The annual Interaction Design Association (IxDA) conference, held right here in San Francisco this year, just came to a close today after three days of engaging sessions, keynotes, and workshops. My head is swimming with new ideas, my notebook is filled to the brim with sketches and notes, and I’ve made a number of new friends in the community.

Here are my top 5 takeaways from Interaction15:

1. Selling the design is as important as doing the design.

Like many designers, I often assume that a strong design will speak for itself. In actuality, any design relies upon the designer to make it come to life. And as such, designers need to be sellers. And performers. Just as a realtor sells a house by helping the client envision their life in that home, we as designers must sell the vision of our designs.

2. Communicate the vision throughout the project.

I realize now that I often start meetings as if we’re picking right back up from where we last left off, as if clients have spent just as much time as I have thinking about and tinkering with each aspect of the project in the days since our last meeting. In actuality, clients are often coming in from other meetings and need to be reminded of the status of the project, the connection between what will be covered and the project vision, and how they can contribute.

3. Confidence is part of the job. Humility is expensive.

Being a designer can be a vulnerable thing. It involves presenting incomplete ideas to people, often clients, who could rip them to shreds. And because the clients are the ones who have the final say, I see myself as below them, serving their needs, when in fact, it should be the other way around. Not for my benefit, but for theirs. They are paying me for good design, which means I need to be a confident designer and be the leader they’ve hired me to be.

4. Make physical, tangible prototypes.

In the world of digital design, it’s easy to fall into the habit of presenting prototypes filled with static screens. This is my go-to method for prototyping and iteration. However, through the Presumptive Design workshop I attended, I learned the tremendous value of putting something tangible in users’ hands. Giving them something to touch, to hold, to examine, grounds them in the experience and brings up elements of context that they would not have thought of otherwise.

5. Participant exercises allow you to dig deeper.

As far as users go, I personally have not thought about or gone deeper than focus groups, interviews, and light user testing. The Participant-Led Insights workshop I attended opened my eyes to a whole world of additional activities and exercises to shed light on user perspectives and help dig past the superficial layers. Activities like sorting different tools, tracking emotions in different situations, mapping relationships, and role-play exercises can create both balance and a bond between the designer/researcher and the participant, leading to much deeper and more valuable insights.



On top of all the lessons, all the sessions, and all the conversations, I learned that I’m not alone. As a designer, I’m part of an innovative and diverse community of creative thinkers tackling the world’s most interesting problems. And this work we do, it’s something special. Worth fighting for.

Thank you, Interaction15. Looking forward to the next one.