UXPA 2017 Conference Recap

Maia Ottenstein / Monday, August 14, 2017

This year I spent June 6-8 as a presenter and attendee at the UXPA International Conference in Toronto, Ontario.

The conference was full of interesting and informative talks about user experience design, methods, and technology. My favorite talks were two that discussed the potential applications of virtual reality (talk by John Schrag) and augmented reality (talk by Jes Koepfler and Kieran Evans). This is not because I am a tech junkie, because I am certainly not. Before this conference, I had only seen these tools presented through the lens of technology. From this perspective, these tools seemed more like very impressive novelties and entertainment than anything that could be applicable, useful, or valuable for day to day life. Virtual and augmented realities seemed like technologies that would cloud our vision and complicate our daily experiences more than enhance them.


 I really enjoyed those talks because they discussed these technologies through the lens of user experience. Through this lens, each was presented as solutions to problems previously unsolved or unnoticed. They showed how problems like enabling people with vision impairment to navigate on their own could be addressed, by empowering people to be more aware of the world around them, rather than distracted by superfluous information or removed from reality altogether. 

 From Product to Experience Design

In addition to learning about various user experience topics from others, I presented a poster about my transition from product to user experience design. The poster, seen below, compares the skills I needed designing tangibles and services, to the skills I need now, designing digital software.

My poster, titled “From Product to User Experience Design.”


As an example of how useful the design skill set is across a variety of careers, I visualized my personal journey from undergraduate product design major, to the different positions that I found as a professional product designer, to my current position as a digital user experience designer. Each position is labeled with a barcode, in the same style as the larger data visualization, that represents the skills I needed at that time. This timeline demonstrates how a designer’s skillset is used over time, and that you can strengthen or develop new skills when needed.

 My poster aimed to inspire fellow designers by showing how skillsets for different specializations overlap or complement one another. My personal journey suggests that, with a user centered design skillset and a willingness to learn, you can transition between design practices. It might even be easier than you think.

 The enthusiastic response to my poster from UXPA attendees was a wonderful surprise. Many people commented that they had recently switched from digital to tangible design, or vice versa, and they were thrilled to see the topic presented this way.

 It was nice to feel like I was representing a group of people who are not frequently heard from in the design community and encouraging others who were concerned they couldn’t handle the change they so badly wanted to make.

 As emerging technologies and changing requirements continue to effect the design landscape, I believe it is important that we talk about our abilities and flexibilities. In this way, we will be better able to support each other and tackle the challenges that lie ahead. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to support and expand this conversation.