Over 20 years ago Steve Jobs uttered the words, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.” Some point to this moment as the birth of Design Thinking or Human-Centered Design.
Keep Austin Weird - and Human-Centered
"Design thinking isn't just a methodology, it's a mindset." - Idean
This was the refrain heard 'round the conference. Design thinking isn't just something you pick up and do once in a while when you feel like it; it should instead become your modus operandus, your way of being. Frankly, that makes it way more palatable than it being just one more tool teams have to adopt.
Pink 'Welcome' banner for the conference at the JW Marriott in Austin, TX
As someone new to both my role as a Community Manager and to #ConferenceLife, I tried to absorb as much as I could. The conference's 3 themes were Customer Empathy, the ROI of Design Thinking, and Digital Transformation. These themes were present in all facets of the event, from the content of sessions (shout out to everyone who took a ride on the Austin metro to evaluate it's human centered design-ness), to the tools speakers used in their sessions, to the means of communication throughout the event.
Brainstorm results from a "How might we...?" question in the Design Thinking University track
The majority of my time was spent at our booth, equipped with a 68" Avocor touchscreen, an iPad, and several laptops, all ready for participants to come and try MURAL out for themselves. MURAL exists at the intersection of all three of the conference's themes, and watching people have lightbulb moments about this made the whole experience for me.
Ideating on the Windows 10 app in MURAL
Something else that caught my attention was how many different industries were represented. I got the chance to talk with people from A/V, food service, freelancers/entrepreneurs, higher education and financial services, in addition to design firms. One attendee told us about prototyping a scuba mask that allows two-way communication between divers. Another mentioned the importance of co-creating with their customers, but feeling stuck because of the geographical distance between them. Our CEO, Mariano Suarez Battan, co-presented with Charles Schwab on the necessity of digital transformation at scale. Teachers came to talk about the importance of teaching design thinking to young people.
A conversation that stands out is one with a professor from the University of Northern Texas who'd worked with the state's education bureau to get Design Thinking added as part of their students' general education curriculum.
He said, "just like every student will have to take English 101, they'll also have to take a course on the principles of design thinking."
It only reinforced that design thinking is the new frontier for driving change across the globe -- and you don't have to be a designer to do it.
Finally, the conference presented a great opportunity to bond with my own MURAL teammates. I work remotely 100% of the time, so collaborating outside of a mural, a Zoom call, or a Slack chat - which, don't get me wrong, are fantastic tools - helped me form a fuller picture of the humans I interact with daily in my professional life.
The team at our booth on day 2 of the Design Thinking conference
Overall? 10/10, would recommend.
Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know 🙌
Mary is the Community Manager at MURAL. She's passionate about building relationships with people, especially if coffee and good food are involved. Only introduced to Design Thinking once starting at MURAL, she quickly bought in and believes human-centered design can be leveraged to affect positive change in the world.
April, 29 2019