Interaction 14 Venues

One contributing factor to the awesomeness that was Interaction 14 were the venues. It started with the welcome party Wednesday night at De Bazel, a library and history museum, host to the Amsterdam City Archives. We were in a large, open hall, but we packed it pretty tight.

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Of course, we spent most of our time in the main conference venue: Westergasfabriek (Western Gas Factory). It’s construction was completed in 1885, and it produced gas used for street lighting until 1967. The building was cleaned up and repurposed in 1992 as an event venue and workplace for artists and entrepreneurs.

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The interior of the enormous space was divided in half. One side was set up with vendor booths, Interaction Awards exhibits, and catering stations. The other half was the main presentation room.

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The lighting, in IxDA’s blue-green, highlighted the industrial architecture, creating an ambience perfectly suited to our community. The stage was decorated with props that tied thematically to the conference website. The production values of Interaction 14 were off the charts.

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We finished off Saturday night at Het Scheepvaartmuseum (The National Maritime Museum). We were taken from Westergasfabriek in boats through the canals of Amsterdam, arriving at the pier where the replica of the East Indiaman Amsterdam is docked.

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The center of the building was, at one time, a courtyard open to the sky. It has been roofed with an intricate glass ceiling that, during the day, brightly illuminates the interior. At night, the web of beams supporting the glass are dotted with lights like the stars, and the brick arches that surrounded us were up-lit with colors to match the category introduction slides.

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Fabulous food was served before the awards ceremony. Then the chairs were whisked away and the dancing began. It was the perfect end to an exemplary conference.

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Amsterdam

I spent last week in Amsterdam for Interaction 14. I’ll write about the conference this week, but I want to begin by relaying my observations of the city.

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Amsterdam is a beautiful city. If you look at it from above, you’ll see that it is defined by a series of arcing canals. The streets follow the same curves, and every street is lined on both sides with buildings. The buildings are constructed side-by-side. You can’t see very far down any given street due to the curve. Also, the fronts of the buildings tend to lean forward at slight, inconsistent angles, giving them a quaintly haphazard look.

Bicycles are the primary mode of transportation. Most streets have bike lanes, and you don’t want to be caught walking in them. Of course, walking on a sidewalk doesn’t protect you—bikers are king. Even walks that specifically state “NO BICYCLES” are the domain of cyclists. It’s rather intimidating to a foreigner, and I was constantly looking over my shoulder. The sound of a bike made me jumpy.

Roads busy enough to have crosswalks with crossing signals typically have one, sometimes two, bike lanes in addition to the multiple lanes of traffic. Narrow, brick islands separate bike lanes from car lanes, as well as the directions of car lanes. So a crosswalk may cross as follows:

sidewalk > bike lane > island > car lanes > island > car lanes > island > bike lane > sidewalk

Walk signals are then found on the islands. However, don’t mistake a walk signal as applying to a bike lane. They only tell you when car traffic is stopped. Bikes never stop, and they will run into you.

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When sidewalks aren’t full of parked bicycles, they are often impeded by parked trucks and vans. All of the sidewalks are brick. Workers replacing bricks were a common sight.

There are actually cheese shops! Yes, entire shops with shelves full of big cheese wheels. I walked by one in particular every morning on the way to the conference venue. It smelled wonderful.

As in many European cities, smoking was much more prevalent, but only outdoors. Of course, I smelled pot as often as I did tobacco. Apparently, you are even allowed to drive while smoking a joint.

All of the toilets have two buttons: a small button for number one and a big button for number two. Of course, my first Amsterdam experience, after passing through customs, was the urinal fly.

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Grand Conundrum

Attending Midwest UX last year was a no-brainer. My talk was accepted, so I only had to pay for my hotel room and gas. This year, my workshop proposal wasn’t selected. Given that they received 23 workshop proposals and only had 8 slots, I’m not surprised. But now I have to decide how badly I want to go. My company has already agreed to send me to Interaction 14 in Amsterdam—a rather expensive trip—so if I’m to go to Midwest UX, it will have to be completely on my own dime.

Fortunately, it’s a very affordable conference. $350 is a reasonable price for a two-day conference, and I’m excited to see that they’ve incorporated Excursions Friday afternoon, a concept that helped make Interaction 11 in Boulder a stand-out. Looking over the destinations, I’m very intrigued. The keynote speakers are solid, and I have a number of friends whom I already know will be attending. Besides which, Grant Carmichael, a fellow I’ve come to know and love over several conferences, is one of this year’s co-chairs,

Grand Rapids is a bit farther than Columbus, but still within driving distance for me, so I’m looking at the registration fee and two nights in a hotel. The conference hotel looks really nice, and at $129 per night, it appears to be the best deal within a reasonable distance. That will put my cost right around $700—a fair chunk of change.

Maybe I should give Airbnb a try.

Interaction 14: Call for Participation

Right on the heels of Midwest UX 13’s call for participation comes the same for Interaction 14, which will be held February 5th through the 8th in Amsterdam. For those of you who don’t know, the “14” is for the year 2014—this will be the 7th Interaction conference and the 2nd outside of North America.

The theme of Interaction14 is “Languages of Interaction Design.”

We see language in several contexts. There is spoken language, body language and written language. There is an interface language between user and system. Other languages include the jargon we use to discuss our work and the tools that we use to do our work.

By enhancing the “Languages of Interaction Design” we create new ways to view interactions between people and things. Of particular interest is extending the context from urban to mobile screens and from immersive to sensor based environments.

I don’t know how likely they’ll be to accept an improved version of the workshop I gave at last year’s conference, but I’m going to give it a try. After all, it fits the theme quite nicely. HTML and CSS are languages that an interaction designer working on the web, as most of us are these days, will benefit knowing. I’m talking about true fluency. The ability to translate your concepts, sketches, wireframes, mockups, and prototypes into production-ready code gives you control over the final product. It puts you in the driver’s seat.

They will start accepting applications for talks and workshops on June 10. The deadline is September 1. Selected speakers will be notified on October 15th. Registration also goes live June 10 with early bird tickets going for $720.

Every year, the conference seeks out an academic partner to sponsor the conference. This year, there are two: the Utrecht School of the Arts and Delft University of Technology. Between them and the rich history of Dutch Design, we should be in for a real cultural treat. Of course, the conference will include the Interaction Awards, Student Design Challenge, and Interaction Design Education Summit. I can tell it’s going to be a great year.

Check out the new website. There are a lot of nice microinteractions as you tool around.

Midwest UX 13: Call for Speakers

The Midwest UX 13 conference just went live with their new website and announced their call for speakers. While in past years, themes were left to organically emerge from the submitted talks, the organizers have decided to prepend a theme to this year’s event: Place.

We identify with the places in our lives because they have meaning to us personally and collectively. A place is often more than just a space: it can be the very embodiment of our understanding of the world gained from our experiences within it. From ourselves to our relationships to our spaces and our culture, life takes place and that is the challenge to us all as designers, makers and builders.

I was already planning to submit my workshop, Sitting in the Driver’s Seat, to the conference, and I think it fits the theme quite well. While it certainly gets into the technical details of creating production-ready CSS, it is just as much about making a place for yourself within your development team—a place that provides more control over the end product and thus higher satisfaction with your work.

Submissions for 45 minute sessions and both half and full day workshops will be accepted until June 22. The conference will be held October 17-19 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

IxDA Pittsburgh Workshop Open for Resgistration

My workshop, Sitting in the Driver’s Seat: creating production-ready CSS, which I led at Interaction 13 in Toronto, is getting a second run in Pittsburgh. All proceeds, beyond the rental of the space, are going to IxDA Pittsburgh for use in future programming. Since this is the first event to which we are charging admission, we’re keeping it very accessible. It’s only $100 for professionals and $50 for students. Spots are limited, so register now through Eventbrite. After you register, RSVP on IxDA Pittsburgh’s Facebook event page to let everyone know you’re going.

CSS 3 has handed the keys back to designers. With a syntax and structure that speaks our language and a fine-grained level of control, it empowers designers to not only prototype in the actual medium, but to contribute production-ready code. The days of pointing at the screen over the developer’s shoulder and trying to explain how something needs to shift three pixels are over. In fact, much of the JavaScript currently employed for simple UI behaviors can be replaced with well-architected styles. Take the driver’s seat, and make the CSS your UI specification document.

This workshop is intended for intermediate designers interested in gaining more control over their team’s final product. Participants are expected to possess a working knowledge of CSS. They should be able to read a stylesheet and understand what it is doing in the HTML page that references it. They should be able to write CSS styles and apply them to HTML elements to achieve a desired layout on a page.

As a participant, you will:

  • Familiarize yourself with the tools you’ll need to integrate with your development team.
  • Learn how Object Oriented CSS (OOCSS) can lead to cleaner, more maintainable code.
  • Discover how to replace heavy-handed, inefficient JavaScript with CSS-driven behavior.
  • Get started on your own library of CSS components.

About Jack Moffett
With a BFA in Graphic Design from West Virginia University and a Masters in Interaction Design from Carnegie Mellon, Jack has been designing web, desktop, and mobile applications for over a decade. He has worked in both research and industry environments and has been teaching design part-time for more than eight years at WVU. As Senior Interaction Designer at Inmedius, a Boeing Company, Jack’s responsibilities cover the gamut from initial user research and product conceptualization through to implementation and testing. As such, his skill set includes visual design, information design, and front-end implementation. He has designed software tools for Lockheed Martin, Shell, DaimlerChrysler, Eaton, and many organizations within the U.S. military, including Joint Service Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Naval Reactors, and NCIS. Jack has spoken at conferences and led workshops to teach designers how to integrate with their development teams and participate in implementation. He writes about design on designaday.tumblr.com.

Sitting in the Driver’s Seat… in Pittsburgh

Some weeks ago I mentioned that I would be holding my workshop, Sitting in the Driver’s Seat: creating production-ready CSS, for IxDA Pittsburgh. Plans are firming up. The workshop will be held in East Liberty Carnegie Library on Thursday, May 30th, from 5:00 to 8:30 pm. There will be 15 seats at $100 and 10 student seats at $50. Mark your calendar now. I’ll let you know when we have registration set up on Eventbrite.

While I’m at it, let me throw in a plug for our Interaction 13 Redux this coming Tuesday, April 16th, at Brillobox from 6:00 to 9:00 pm.

Unforeseen Benefits

It seems obvious now, but when I was working on my conference workshop of Interaction 13, I really wasn’t thinking about it being of particular benefit inside my company. I’ve been the sole interaction designer for so long, I don’t give as much thought to knowledge sharing as I probably should. Since the acquisition, however, we’ve had an influx of work, and due to a number of mostly unrelated circumstances, I’ve recently been charged with training a junior graphic designer to assist in front-end implementation. The exercises I developed for Sitting in the Driver’s Seat are perfect for this purpose, and she is quickly coming up to speed on OOCSS and the standards I employee.

On a related note, IxDA Pittsburgh is currently planning to put on my workshop in May. If you are in the area and interested in learning how you too can participate in implementation and contribute production-ready CSS, stay tuned for an official announcement.

Interaction 13: Program

Having attended all of the Interaction conferences so far, and having helped plan one of them, I can’t help but compare each to those that have gone before. The program for every single one has been very good. This year’s program had a lot to offer, from PechaKucha and posters to 45-minute keynotes. I think it’s safe to say that it had the most variety of all the conferences. Every morning began with a short presentation by OCAD students and faculty. There were a few panels, a debate, and the newly introduced ReDux Live, in which design industry journalists gave their interpretations of what happened during the week. I’m afraid I missed the latter two, due to sickness, but I’ve heard really good things about them. I’m looking forward to the videos.

45-minute presentations were often run in one track while three 10-minute presentations ran in another. While I understand now the way they set this up, it was not represented well in the Shortlist application that I used to create my schedule. I had selected a mix of 10-minute and 45-minute talks that didn’t line up. As such, I ended up seeing some that I hadn’t intended to see while missing some that I wanted to. It was easier to see the parallelism in the printed program, once you realized that’s what they were doing, but it wasn’t immediately obvious.