DiBi 2017 Reflections

David Bailey from the BBC, talking about their GEL used across all services.

Four delegates from Information Services attended the annual Design It Build It conference, an “an international conference for those shaping the future of the web”, held in Edinburgh again this year. The two-day conference at the EICC featured a wide range of speakers from start-ups to tech giants covering an overarching theme of “risk”.

So, what did we all take home from it?

Marissa – Web Interfaces Team

This year was my first time at DiBi. I was encouraged to attend after hearing the positive feedback from Paul on last year’s conference.

I found the conference to be very inspiring. It was a bit less technical than others I have attended (no screenshots of code), but for me this was just right since I am not in a completely technical role. Rather, I felt that it was looking more at how and why we do things.

Many speakers talked about the difficulty of being innovative and applying design thinking in a risk-averse corporate environment (Chris Hammond from IBM, Mark Simpson from RBS, Stef Huber and Madeleine Kroper from BCG Digital Ventures, and Louise Mushet from Macmillan Cancer Support). This is something that I think we also struggle with a lot at the University. In particular, I really enjoyed meeting Mark Simpson. We have stayed in touch since the conference and are working on coming up with ideas for joint future work.

Another common theme amongst the talks was the ethical and moral obligations that we have to our users. This is an important consideration as go forward into an era where you can find out almost anything about a person by Googling them.

There were many stand-out talks. For me, one of the best was the one from Tobias Ahlin, who presented an idea called Design Bets. This is built on scientific research into good judgment, and embodies this as a set of tools. (He has promised that he will publish a write-up of this on his blog, which I look forward to seeing.) This seemed like a useful way of structuring investigations and measuring impact in a relatively unbiased way.

By far, my favourite talk was Christopher Murphy’s talk on taking a “calculated leap of faith”. He talked about how we sometimes need to take a risk in order to pursue our own passions, and illustrated this using lots of personal projects. I was so fired up about this one that afterwards I went home and started my own blog to write about it.

Overall, it was a great conference – I’m already looking forward to next year!

Paul – Development Services

I really enjoyed DiBi last year, so when the conference was scheduled here in Edinburgh once again I leapt on the chance to attend. This year I left with the same renewed enthusiasm, and I would encourage anyone interested to attend.

A few areas came up that particularly resonated with me this year. David Bailey and Nikos Tsouknidas from the BBC’s talk on their GEL was really interesting, but it was their structure of centralizing and outsourcing designers kept in constant rotation across all their services that I was most jealous of. Both they and IBM spoke about the benefits of prioritising and resourcing design in the same way we might treat project management or development resource. Basak Haznedaroglu‘s talk on “how to be a good agent of change” was fantastic, and it’s always helpful to hear a really experienced designer like her talk about the same walls we all hit sometimes when trying to come up with better designs.

The contradicting list of what good design can be
Espen Brunborg from Primate on the contradicting list of what “good design” can be, in certain scenarios.

Above all, the talks once again served as a great reminder of why we do what we do: why we should care about the details, why we should be conscious of the impact and ethics of the work we’re doing, why we should always be striving to improve how we engage with everyone…

Oh,  and why we should be completely terrified about the data being collected about us on the web (haven’t slept since your talk, thanks Laura Kalbag).

Peter – Development Services

Like most of the others blogging here this was also my first DiBi conference, it was actually my first conference attended as a software developer.

There were two reasons for attending the event, firstly Paul had spoken highly of the event and brought back more than a few good points of discussion from the last one. Secondly I wanted to see for myself what was current, up and coming to see if anything might influence me as a developer.

If inspiration and wide eyed enthusiasm was the main take away from this event then the hands down winner of that category would the day one keynote speaker Joshua Davis. Joshua’s talk was based on the notion that pursuing your own passion was the key to being successful and spoke about his journey. His story started off with mainly posting the results of his workshop experiments on twitter, those being picked up by advertisers and record labels to delivering the stage effects for the last two Superbowl weekends.

The two talks I found commercially interesting were those given by Chris Hammond of IBM and David Bailey / Nikos Tsouknida of the BBC. Both talks gave a fascinating insight into the remodeling of both these large scale corporations. IBM’s story in particular was interesting, they told the story of the companies impending closure. Having recorded losses of around $16 billion between 19901 – 1993 the market speculation was that IBM would be gone by the mid 1990’s.  Hammond told us that the turning point for IBM was the appointment of a customer focused product development model as opposed to the previous model of build it / sell it and an inclusive culture internally and largely credits this for being the driving force behinds IBM’s dominance in the industry as it stands today.

The BBC talk walked a similar ground as the IBM talk, the company had found itself with multiple silo type technology departments developing the same pieces of software for their various products. Eventually the cost of such an amount of duplication caught the attention of the management team. A project was formed which resulted in the de siloing of the departments and the shift to a service based software architecture.

Both these organization took the risk on large scale re structure of their corporate and cultural environments which paid off. We as a university already follow some of these patterns in terms on minimal department siloing and making our users the focus of our software development.

The core ideas I came away with were pretty simple ones. We shouldn’t be afraid to gamble sometimes, we should also be agile and not constrict ourselves with structures which don’t lend themselves to the development of our products. Above all what we are really doing here is making people’s lives better, for our colleagues and our students. I’m looking forward to being part of the team that takes this into the next few years.

Sonia – Graphic Design Team

This was my first Design It Build It and I found it thoroughly enjoyable. I think what I got out of it, was mostly, from the key speakers during the event.

This year’s DiBi had a theme around risk. Interactive design guru Joshua Davies kicked off the first day with an enthralling talk about how he has managed to create a living out of experimentation – just trying something and putting it out there for the world to see. He has been able to create a style of animating design through code and doing this for the likes of Facebook, Nine Inch Nails as well as for events such as the Super Bowl. He was fantastically honest about some of the mistakes he had to make and the risks he had to take before stumbling into what works for him.

Difference between production management and idea management
The difference between production management and idea management – Tobias Ahlin

Other stand out talks on the first day were Basak Haznedaroglu, Design Lead at Microsoft Berlin. Basak gave an interesting talk on the designer’s dilemma: being a good agent of change. With some very interesting animated PowerPoint slides featuring German gothic art, she talked about what was needed to drive and execute meaningful change in other people’s lives. The other stand out talk was from IBM’s Chris Hammond. He was explaining how it was important to create teams of people with varying backgrounds and experience in order to harness creativity and innovative thinking. On a similar note, Tobias Ahlin, Lead Experience Designer – Minecraft Mojang wanted to know about what tools and processes we have to make sure that we are heading in the right direction and how do we know we are building something of value. He presented a really useful strategy for handling this.

Finally, the BBCs UX Design talk was interesting to hear first hand how they are creating BBC. Ex Designer’s Republic, David Bailey, heads up the BBC’s team and shows how design is integral to their UX process. Something we can learn from.