5 takeaways from Loupe Conference hosted by Framer
Learnings and reflections from two days of talks, workshops, and community events
Framer is a company building an interactive design and creative coding tool for designers and engineers. Every year, they host a conference called Loupe in Amsterdam, where their HQ is located. More than 300 people, including Framer team, attend Loupe, and designers, prototypers, and developers from all over the places, talk about their knowledge, learnings, and process. There are also Framer X workshops so that attendees can get some practical stuff at the end of the conference.
It was their second year to host Loupe, and luckily, I had a chance to attend and learn, refresh, and get inspired by a bunch of amazing people. When everything is still fresh in my head, I wanted to share some learnings from speakers and people I met in the Loupe. I didn’t want to spoil everything before the Framer team uploads the video on their Youtube channel, so I pick my top five. Here it goes.
1. Use mental models
Wes O’Haire, a product designer at Dropbox, talked about using mental models to solve problems more than just designing products. A mental model is an explanation of how something in the world works, like the Pareto principle. He made mental model cheatsheet and used it in his daily work to simplify, improve problem-solving, communicate better, and make better decisions.
We all have heard many times about mental models, but what I like about is how he structured it and make it useful in his daily job. First, he defined categories, like problem-solving, decision making, and communication. Second, he set a trigger question. If the category is problem-solving, the trigger questions are like “Am I solving the right problem?”, “Do I need an original solution to a complex problem?”.
Finally, he put a mental model which helps to solve the trigger question. To answer the “Am I solving the right problem?” question, he used abstraction laddering. Ask how to make the initial question more concrete or ask why to make it more abstract so that he could rephrase the problem.
2. Life changes and the change is constant
Tim Van Damme, a principal designer at Abstract, talked about how changes could affect your life. The changes he mentioned were company size, team size, job position, design tools, design trends, and personal stuff. He compared several things to show there are always pros and cons and what you decide depends on what you want and where you are at in life.
Since I was facing a lot of changes at the moment, his talk made me reflect and plan how I should deal with it. To make a long story short, I am slowly thinking of moving back to Seoul from Stockholm. I wanted to build products at the in-house design team. Also, after spending two harsh winters in Sweden, I would like to have financial and emotional stability.
3. Context, constraints, and creativity is the key to create a relevant and adaptive product
Dara Oke, a designer and engineer, head of west and south Africa at Alter, talked about her experience and thoughts of how she is creating products for the African market. She shared three guiding principles to make things relevant to these markets.
One is, of course, understanding the context. Since the context is everything, connect the dots to find what is similar, and identify what is different. Then understand the constraints and lean into it. Still, there are markets that data costs are crucial. Consider network speed, bandwidth, and storage. Uber Lite and Spotify Lite are brilliant examples.
Finally, be creative. As a former advertising agency designer, I always tried to find a disruptive solution to jump over the constraint. I think what she talked about in this principle was in the same context as what I did in my previous job. She mentioned M-Pesa, a mobile SMS message based money transfer service, as an excellent example of this.
4. Don’t let your job title determine what you design
Irene Pereyra, one of the founders of ANTON & IRENE, shared their journey from why they started their studio and how it went till now. She was UX director for a while but found that it was boring. She wanted to go back to the hands-on designer again, so she and her husband Anton started their studio.
They put 60% on client work and 40% on personal work. The former was for the money, and the latter was for satisfaction, which means they put all the money they earn on their work. They did works that they have never done and even invested lots of money. They thought they were in the courage-zone, still confident on what is done, but actually, they were in terror-zone, facing overwhelm and paralysis. But overall, they are good at finance and satisfaction.
She shared one of their project One Shared House done with IKEA, which started from a personal project became a future of living concept project. This talk also gave me an idea of what could be done in my future if I lose satisfaction in a daily job and back to a hands-on designer.
5. There’s no one way to be a designer
On the community show and tell session, eight designers/engineers from all over the places brought their prototypes done in Framer X to the stage and talked about it for 5–10 minutes. What amazed me was how they get there. Almost all of them say that they were code noobs before, but they learned how to code, and now they can build what they need, which Framer founders also didn’t think of.
Lichin Lin connected Tensorflow and made machine learning working in Framer X. Jacky Lee fetched Bluetooth hardware data and created live data visualization. Lily Nguyen showed Figma import and using a Google spreadsheet to connect with data. Max Steitle showed how he prototype zoom and chat. Gusso built Magic Move which animate components super fast, and more.
As an interaction designer who codes in the physical-digital world, I wasn’t so sure where I should head as a designer for a while. But thanks to all the people I met in the Loupe 2019, I was convinced that there is no one way to be a designer. They made me believe I am on the right track, and I need to push myself even further. Thanks to everyone who shared their journey, and I hope I can share my journey next Loupe. Thank you for reading and let me know if there is anything to change 🙏