In many ways, Midwest UX reminded me of the second Interaction conference. In 2009, Interaction was still relatively small, but there were a number of people there that I had met the previous year. Several of my IxDA buddies were attending Midwest UX, so there was a perfect mix of spending time with old friends and making new ones. In particular, I met a number of folks new to the Pittsburgh area whom I hope I’ve convinced to join our local group.
Erik Dahl and his committee did an admirable job of crafting the conference, from venues and speakers to schedules and format. It was a well-designed experience. During Erik’s opening remarks, he mentioned that attendees of last year’s conference had found jobs because of connections made at the conference and how rewarding that was for him. The statement is even more meaningful if you know a little of Erik’s history. The first time I met Erik was at one of our IxDA Pittsburgh events. We were at the bottom of the recession, and he had just been laid off from Maya Design. I was at a loss for words as he explained his misfortune. The next thing I knew, he was leading IxDA Columbus. So yes, I imagine the success of Midwest UX is a particular point of pride, and it should be.
The conference was held at COSI, which turned out to be a refreshing venue for it. Between talks, you could step out into the hallway and enjoy the sounds of children exploring the science center’s exhibits. The talks were a well-balanced diet of theory and practicum. There was also a good mix of seasoned speakers with those that were speaking for the first time. I greatly appreciate the conference positioning itself as a venue for newcomers to dip their toes in the water. After all, if we only ever accept speakers that are known quantities, how are new speakers to be discovered? Some of the talks, like Samuel Bowles’ on pairing, gave me takeaways that I will be applying at my job, while others, such as Matt Nish-Lapidus’ on the history of new media art, simply fed my intellectual appetite.
My own presentation wasn’t as well attended as I would have liked—I had stiff competition from Chris Risdon and Joe Sokohl—but it seemed to be quite well received. My slides are posted on Speaker Deck, and you can see sketch notes from my talk here. In fact, you should really head over to Lanyrd to check out all of the Midwest UX collateral.
Oh, and if you only have time to check out one thing, make your way to Deeplocal’s site and take a look at their work. Nathan Martin gave Saturday’s opening keynote. I don’t know how I didn’t know about this Pittsburgh firm. Their work is amazing.
One thing is for sure: I’ll be planning to attend Midwest UX in 2013.