Seattle Interactive Conference 2018
Savannah & I had the opportunity to attend the annual Seattle Interactive Conference (SIC) last week. The following are some of our thoughts and impressions from the event:
After starting my Master’s in Human-Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington earlier this year, I’ve been looking for more ways to get involved in the Seattle design space. Attending the Seattle Interactive Conference was my first real foray into this community.
One of my research interests is the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to design with accessibility in mind, so I was really excited to see both of these topics emerge as distinct topics at SIC this year. One overarching theme across all talks I attended was the importance of User-Centered Design. A few of my favourite talks from this year were:
· Alvaro Soto’s Building Artificial Intelligence for People which highlighted that even in crowdsourcing annotations for machine learning/artificial intelligence training data sets we need to be wary of bias. On his team, they are using annotations (bounding boxes) on frames of videos digitized by crowdsourced users to train their AI. He emphasized that even though crowdsourcing eliminates some bias, there can still be inherent bias in the training set as a result of each annotator’s own biases. As a result, we need to ensure that our images we are training on, our annotators and teams building AI are diverse and representative. Steps to limit bias in AI (or real any system being built): get the right dataset, hire the right humans, limit the scope of the AI (or your product), build for people first (aka User-Centered Design!), and be transparent to users about potential bias.
· Devon Persing’s Accessibility and UX: Why Designing for Some Leads to Better Solutions for All emphasized that accessibility is really a task of building experiences for everyone on every device which sounds trivial but in practice is no easy feat! Devon, an accessibility specialist at Shopify, focused on the practical web principles that should be followed when building a digital product but also emphasized that the most crucial thing about accessible design was designing with empathy and awareness. They highlighted the ways that people access a digital product are diverse (e.g. via screen readers, a variety of different tools depending on dexterity levels, with inverted colours, with animations disabled etc.), and showed examples of design that missed the inclusivity mark.
· Selina Petosa’s How to Build Customer Profiles that Designers Can Actually Use aimed at encouraging users to move beyond the typical persona employed in user research. Selina emphasized that we need to pair design thinking with user-centered design to create an image of the user that focuses more on a human rather than demographics. With a greater focus on the needs, desires, and stories of our users, we can create better segmentation and really zero in on the experience we need and want to create. Personas are a good place to start but they aren’t enough to really be effective.
Overall, the talks I attended were informative and provided me with more context for how to integrate human-centered design into my own work. Next year, I’d love to see some deeper dive talks on human-centered design and the process involved in using it in practice.
I have been looking forward to going to this year’s Seattle Interactive Conference (SIC). I was not able to attend the last 3 years and so my attendance at the conference was way overdue. It was great to see how much the conference has grown and how many great topics were offered in this year’s agenda.
In case you haven’t heard about the Seattle Interactive Conference before, here’s their mission statement from their website:
“SIC is a celebration of the incredible work happening at the intersection of technology, creativity, and commerce. Our aim is to shine a light on Seattle’s best and brightest to give the world a glimpse of what we’ve built. We invite visionaries from across the globe to inspire our city to reach even higher. We are a community of thinkers and makers, of dreamers and doers. We gather together to get better together. We believe that innovation and success comes with responsibility and opportunity. Each year, we spend two days sharing inspiration and forging connections so that every attendee leaves motivated and empowered to push further.”
True to their mission, the conference’s agenda was broad and diverse and networking opportunities were plentiful. I opted to listen in on a myriad of talks that ranged from pure design, to the importance of content, to leveraging SnapChat as a great marketing and advertising platform, to diversity and inclusion in advertising and marketing. A few highlights for me:
· Blink’s Creative Director Benjamin Shown shared his 100 days challenge of producing a graphic design a day. His honesty about this journey: the “dry design spells”, the days where he lacked inspiration but also the days his creative juices were flowing was a reminder that creativity has its ups and downs and that working your creative muscle on a regular, regimented basis is crucial to get through the rough creative patches. My favorite quote from his talk (and I probably will end up stealing it): “Design is never done… it’s due”.
· Snapchat’s Jeff Miller talk “Mobile: Create for Impact” was a great overview of how brands use the Snapchat platform in a creative, interactive way to advertise and market. Snapchat, which is not about “likes” but about people you know and communicating with those people is focused on using the camera to allow people be most expressive and communicative in a fast and playful way. Brands are capitalizing on this and adding value to their brand by providing not only entertainment but also utility. Amazon’s collaboration with Snapchat is a good example: Snapchat users can hold and snap with their camera on a product they see and Amazon opens in a new browser with that product page. Jeff also reminded us that AR is truly native to Snapchat and one of the core features that are up and front for the platform. Some of the biggest consumer brands are taking advantage of this and leveraging Snapchat’s AR in some fun and engaging ways.
· One of my favorite talks of the conference was Betti Fujikado’s “People Not Like Me: An Industry Call for Relevance and Purpose”. Betti Fujikado is the co-founder of Copacino+Fujikado, one of Seattle’s most well-known and established advertising agencies. I was looking forward to this talk not only because of our recent collaboration with Copacino+Fujikado but mostly because of the subject matter. Betti discussed the responsibility and opportunity to communicate effective, appropriately and authentically to different people. Listen when groups of people speak so we build empathy and understanding and inclusiveness. Sounds easy right? Unfortunately, this still doesn’t seem to be at the forefront of many advertisers’ work and there’s still a lot of work to be done to get the marketing and advertising world to a truly diverse and inclusive place. Betti shared with us a great talk by Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of P&G about the importance of diversity and inclusiveness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwoJUh9OWrI&t=9s
This year there seemed to be quite a few talks around the topic of diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. It’s great to see that the SIC organizers chose to spend time and thought around these topics and that people are making these conversations more top-of-mind. There was, however, a striking contrast between these talks and the actual diversity of the attendees (or lack thereof) at the conference. I think that SIC can take these topics even further by giving access to a diverse group of creatives and marketers, starting with the ticket prices for the conference. Making a certain quota of tickets more affordable can attract a much more diverse and inclusive crowd.