DesignUp 2018: Open Call for Talks & Workshops

DesignUp Conference is back in Bangalore, India, on October 26–27, 2018.

We’re inviting practitioners, researchers and academics to submit their ideas, drafts and proposals for talks and workshops. This post is to help you understand the conference, the audience and the way we select talks—and why you should send in your proposals early. Last date for submissions was 22nd May, Tuesday. But to know about any updates please subscribe to the DesignUp newsletter.

Meanwhile the call for demos is still open: This year we have an added category: demos. If you are an creator/maker who wants to showcase a unique piece of interactive art or installation (involving visual art, motion graphics, food, music, bots, games or more), then we need to talk.

If you want to jump straight in, and get started on your submission — here’s the link to the Google form. However, would advice you to go through the post in detail, before submitting your proposal.

The Conference

A short backstory: DesignUp started with the idea of raising the design agenda within tech companies and tech-led businesses. DesignUp is volunteer-driven and community led. There are no full time salaried employees—we all have our day jobs. For us, DesignUp is a passion and unifying force. Over 2 editions, we grew DesignUp from 230 attendees to 580 for the main conference. And a combined 800+ attendees across multiple event formats in 2017, making it possibly India’s largest gathering of Designers in technology. But being the biggest is never the aim.

Mayukhini Pandey on Designers as Co-founders and CEO, 2016

Here’s a short video recap of the 2017 Conference and the ‘10-Things-You-Didn’t-Know’ published by YourStory in 2016. And you can relieve the 2017 Conference in tweets via this LinkedIn article.

The conference has gone on to be called ‘the definitive Design-in-Tech event’, ‘the Gold Standard of Design Conferences in India’ and listed amongst ‘the most exciting Design events for 2018’ by Quartz. But we have a long way to go — and the only way to continue being a great destination for the growing community is by having the most insightful speakers, diverse voices and inspiring content. That’s where you come in!

Alysha Naples, former Director of Experience at MagicLeap at DesignUp 2017

Themes & Tracks

We don’t do an over-arching theme for each edition. Some speakers have to force-justify (and that’s something we don’t want speakers to do) and some stray off it. Some do get it right —but it’s often a hit and miss affair.

Rasagy Sharma from MapBox, talking Data and Design
Our foundational theme remains the same: Design-in-tech and Design-for-tech — to make Tech and Businesses more human and humane, to impact human lives, and the broader ecosystems, for better. And to contribute to the craft and practice of Design discipline in it’s new, ever-changing but high impact tech arena. Our Keynotes often explore myriad areas within this broad theme.

However, each year we focus on specific tracks —2016 was dedicated to Design-in-startups, 2017 was focused AR/VR and emergent tech, Design & Data and Designing for India. This year, we have four new tracks.

Khoi Vinh at DesignUp 2017

Our Four Tracks for 2018

  1. Design for Participation & Inclusion: increasingly Designers are working with, and in complex systems where multiple systems, platforms and people participate, directly or indirectly. Intentionally, or unintentionally, we affect them, influence them, empower them for greater good or exclude them to make the participatory systems and the collective experiences poorer, biased, unfair or flawed. The examples we are looking for are those that connect, include and help people and systems participate for greater good and for group and individual empowerment. We’re looking for case studies, best practices, insights where the sum of parts adds up to much more than it’s parts.
  2. Design Systems: How do you create an ecosystem of scaleable parts that adapts and adopts — and moves seamlessly across platforms? We are looking forward to best practices, to seeing demos, understand evolving processes, relive complex constraints and celebrate failures, trials and learnings!
  3. Front-end Development: Time to revisit grids and guides, adaptive and responsive, performance and pixel-perfection—and to visit what’s new and emergent. From Demos to best practices, from celebrating craftsmanship to future-gazing, this track is for people who love elegant code and hard-working design.
  4. Rich experiences: how are sound, motion, animation, sensors, IoT, augmented-reality (and more), creating layers of rich interactive patterns: from aiding flows to un-complicating, creating or co-creating art, or crafting culinary experiences, helping in learning or simply entertaining in new unique ways. We would love to see, hear or even experience first hand by providing you spaces to demo at DesignUp.

For workshops, the emphasis is a lot on learning processes, methods and systems as well as tools and techniques—broadly located within the tracks. But we are also a bit more lenient on the workshops going off-track. And we encourage Analog Workshops, focusing on hands-on creation—from Origami to Sketching to Photo-walks.

You can share a project, a processes, hacks, approaches or philosophy, share insights or unique journeys. We encourage you to share failures (it teaches us a lot) but strongly discourage using the platform to market your team, sell your product or organisation.


Two flavours: Workshops and Talks.

Two Variants: Long and Short. Apart from the new demo spaces that is.

Our long talks are 30–40 mins and the short ones are 15–20 mins. Long workshops are upto 2.5 hours, short ones can be upto 1.5 hours. Keynotes are usually by invite — but if we find a promising proposal, we’ll discuss and convert it to keynote.

We are also inviting ideas for long full day, in-depth workshops. You can use the same form to share your proposals.

Our Attendees

We attract some of the most diverse audiences—by organisation type, gender, location or roles. By Indian standards, DesignUp is on the tad expensive side ($150–$250+ per ticket) but that hasn’t deterred attendees, if anything — it has only attracted those most committed to learning and sharing.

In 2017 we had people coming from over 90 organisations—from Adobe and Amazon to home-grown Indian startups like Zeta and Zomato. Young product companies, VCs and well-funded startups like Flipkart and ClearTax were all represented. Listed companies like Microsoft, MakeMyTrip and Google, to established consulting orgs like Accenture, EY, TCS, BCG as well as boutique studios and freelancers participated. Competitors and disruptors, funders and funded—all became part of the community for the 2 days.

Alan & Sue Cooper with the Women of DesignUp — March 8, 2018 #WomensDay

Almost 20% of attendees are non-designers: product and program managers, engineers, front-end developers, data scientists. And 10% attendees were students. The remainder were mostly Designers in the 3–7 year experience bracket with a healthy mix of very senior practitioners. Some are self taught engineers turned designers — some went through Design school and a few loved it enough to get a Masters too.

A lot of attendees have come from outside of Bangalore—from Delhi, Pune, Mumbai (or Bombay), Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chennai, Dubai, Singapore, Sydney, NewYork and SF. The questions they asked were mature, thoughtful (though sometimes a bit long winded).

Our attendees don’t like Usability 101 lectures and the basics aren’t what they come to DesignUp for. And India has moved on as a country, and Asia as a region, when it comes to design-in-tech—after all it’s not 2008 anymore.

The Process

Over the next 15 weeks we’ll accept proposals and tweak it to the long-list. Whereas we are looking to fit most talks within a broad track, we’ll also consider outliers. We’ll speak to a few folks on the long-list, and we’ll share the long list with a cross-section of past attendees, volunteers and advisors to vote on. Once the short-list is ready, we will call you, and discuss the presentation in greater detail. The programming schedules will be out 6–8 weeks before the event, although another team will be working with you on the travel part much earlier.

Alan Cooper at the DesignUp Speakers Series: March 2018

Why apply early

DesignUp has events in Singapore as well as Hyderabad and Chennai this year (spread across June to August). If we find some proposals compelling, we’ll schedule you in for these.

Fees and Flights

Speaker fee is a touchy topic. We don’t pay speaker fees. Or let me put it this way: we can’t. Some stellar speakers have requested anything from $15,000 to $60,000 but that’s a non-starter for a conference where the ticket prices average $200. It’s India and DesignUp isn’t there yet on the commercial aspects (and not sure if we want to get there).

But flights and stay? That’s what we cover. Not business class but we’ll aim for Premium economy if you are likely to remain in air for long long periods of time. However, we’ll have a limited availability of flight tickets which we can cover — if your organisation can fund the travel, we’ll list them and acknowledge them as Conference supporters. If you need childcare at the conference, we’ll work with the hotel to organise that.

Ripul’s workshop on ‘Research Sprint’ 2016

Diversity & Inclusion

Those are not words on our site or a policy statement. It’s not intent. It’s action: it’s what we do. Having lived and worked in many different cultures and countries, some of us have actually lived what it means to be ‘different’, what it means not to be part of a majority, to have a marginal voice. We understand.

And we want DesignUp to represent voices and perspectives that are different and diverse, non-conformist and non-majoritarian. We had 45% women speakers in our first edition—our very first opening keynote was by a woman. We have had women CEOs and non-Designers: VCs and Engineers and Educators, present on our platforms. And we’ll continue to encourage diversity—gender, roles, organisations, races, regions, perspectives.

Our code of conduct

We want DesignUp events, irrespective of how small or big they are — to be safe places for sharing and learning. We celebrate diversity and hope and expect thoughtful, considerate and respectful behaviour from all. And we know you too share these beliefs too.

Our code of conduct applies to every participant, speaker, sponsor and organiser. Speakers and workshop leaders set the tone for the event and are looked upto for the thought leadership they provide. So this may be a specially relevant place for a reminder. We do not tolerate—

  • Demeaning, offensive or derogatory verbal comments, content or depictions (e.g., related to religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, disability, country, ethnicity);
  • Inappropriate physical contact, verbal abuse, deliberate intimidation or stalking or recordings with an intent to harass.

As you put together the content for your talk or workshop—we’re sure you’d be thoughtful about these. We’re committed to providing a safe place for you to share learning, share inspiration—and to learn and be inspired.

What’s Next?

Hope this gives you a decent overview—and here’s the form to get your proposal started. We look forward to your proposal. Soon!

If you want to stay in touch with the events and the DesignUp Community, subscribe to the sporadic newsletter I send out

And please share with, forward to people who might make fantastic speakers, have a point of view or inspiring work to share.

Akshay Kothari, Co-Founder/CEO of Pulse and Head of LinkedIn India shares his journey, 2017