Why we do Device Design Day.

Earlier this month, Kicker Studio hosted our 3rd annual Device Design Day. This year’s conference focused on Natural User Interface (NUI) and its intersection with product design. Teaching technology to speak human–to enable natural communication and interaction¬–is the next frontier of product design, and it’s important that designers, technologists and device manufacturers collaborate to make that happen.

But we’re a design consultancy, not event planners, so why produce a conference? There are several reasons why creating D3 was important to us:

Putting forth our agenda.

It is part of our mission as a company to lead user-centered design into a new area. Most importantly, to ensure “natural” in natural user interface stands for “human”, we need to understand and reflect the ways that humans communicate and inhabit the physical world. People are physical beings. We take in information through all of our senses, and we understand the world around us through both mind and body. Technology has finally evolved to be able to respond–advances in gesture, touch, haptics, and a multitude of physical sensors mean that we can confront and control technology like we do everything else in our world, with our embodied minds.

As Jody said, “We’ve lured technology out of the incubator and into the world. Now we can touch it. Move it.” We can finally be physical with technology in ways that feel natural, and not like we’re “interfacing with an application (screen).”

This is the future of product design. And we, the product design community, are the people who are going to create the new and unexplored ways of interacting that today (and tomorrow’s) technology can finally enable. By focusing the conversations at D3 on teaching technology to speak human by jumping off the screen, we plotted to ensure the growth of natural interface that our clients and all users deserve.

Opening the conversations.

As you can imagine, we spend most of our time thinking about natural user interface and how to make technology speak human. The individual conversations that we have with our clients and collaborators every day are so inspiring to us that we wanted to open the dialog to the larger design community so that we can all discuss how together we can bring the practice forward. We can do more to share valuable points of view in one day of concentrated group discussions than in a whole year of closed-door conversations with our clients. If the ideas that inspire us can spark new inspirations across the device design community, interfaces we design, and the products we use, will become more natural. And everybody wins.

Examining natural interface from all angles, and with different lenses.

As the hosts of the party, we get to invite our favorite guests. Every year, we gather some of the brightest thinkers and doers to start conversations by sharing their perspectives on designing for devices. That is standard practice for Kicker: weaving together ideas from different disciplines to create a rich picture. We continually seek out artists, technologists, and neuroscientists, as well as researchers, interaction, industrial and sensory designers to mold ideas from multiple perspectives.

Device Design Day is no exception. Looking at what it means to design a natural interface from multiple perspectives allows us to make connections among a range of different ideas, which creates a robust approach to the way we can impact design. We pulled this year’s experts from fields like neuroscience and robotics, art and emerging technologies to share their insights not only for the benefit of attendees, but for our own greedy quest for knowledge. Together, we gained information about learning fast through rapid prototyping, how scientific research can inform design, and how design makes robots more effective, and much more.

Designing an experience.

As design studio, we expect everything to feel natural and conversational, even our real world interactions. A conference is just that: an opportunity to set the stage for human interface, experienced in real time across multiple touch-points. We approached D3 much like we approach any project: by starting from the human perspective, imagining an experience that works intuitively, and obsessing on the detailed cues and feedback that take the work out of the interface so that people could focus on ideas and the conversations that we were all there to have.

We think it’s really important (and a lot of fun) to design the touch-points around a conference, which together make up the experience of the day. Key elements of the planning, like creating anchors, such as the hub of Spanish courtyard; the rhythm and pacing in the lengths, type and formats the programming; and making space for individual and group conversations throughout the day, during breaks, among the Robot Petting Zoo, and at the cocktail party should feel invisible. It’s a hell of a lot of work, but it’s important that the execution of the day feel seamless to attendees, much like our design work, where we strive to make the interface disappear, so that all that matters is the natural interaction and conversation.