World UX Championship — one competition, learnings for lifetime.

Awesomest ten people in the world. From right to left: Cheong, Daria, Vishnu, Bing, Dhruvil, Janmesh, Kavitha, Tejas, Prasangme.

As a dev turned designer, I have always felt coming short in terms of design theory. Coming from a productive summer of 2016, I wanted to explore at the visceral level of what goes behind well designed products. As the tradition goes: I signed up on all the UX (User Experience) courses I could find online, bought books and created a roadmap. As I said, as the tradition goes: the roadmap bites dust on the second day ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

One of my Google Alerts pinged me about World UX Championship ’16. The prospect of having a pragmatic approach to theory has always worked with me. Fast forward a couple of weeks, Prasang and I submitted our poster. With bated breath, we awaited the results. To my surprise, we got in! The feeling of being amongst the top 10 students in the world is always surreal.

The finals were held in Graz, Austria. The perks involved tickets to the World Usability Congress, tour of the UNESCO city of design, eating at a castle, dining at a hilltop, visiting a chocolate factory and meeting who’s who of the UX industry. Not to forget the free tickets and stay ⚡️

All credits goes to Hannes Robier and his team. This post attempts to summarize one of the most profound trips that I have been on.

Day 1

Bags packed!

We landed on a rainy Saturday in Graz. Courtesy WUC Team, a driver was waiting for us who took us to our Hotel.

IBIS Hotel. Tip: Don’t miss their on-the-house breakfast 🥞

Day 2

Sunny Sunday. Since we had a free day before the conference begin, we decided to explore the city. It’s apparently visible why Graz is called the city of design: the entire city is designed in a way to be explored on foot. Tip: Lose yourself to the visual sights of the city’s architecture and don’t fret if you take a wrong turn. 😉

At Hauplatz. In Graz, you won’t need Instagram Filters
Love how Graz blends modernism with heritage.
On the banks of river Mur.

You can get a tourist map anywhere and plan your trip beforehand. We mixed 2 tours: Graz Historic & Modern + Above the roofs of Graz. Wherever we went, the architecture drew heavily from the culture Graz wants to portray: blending modernism with heritage.

Get lost in the streets, it’s so quiet.
View of the entire city from Schloßberg Hilltop.
🍦= ❤

Day 3

Monday. It’s finals time! We were given 2 tasks. In the end, we had to give a 5-minute pitch of our design proposal to the judges. I was quite nervous since the judges involved UX Directors from Google, LEGO, NASA etc. 😅

Inset Daria Kosheleva, winner of World UX Championship 2016, pitching her app design.
Inset me pitching my design to all the judges.

In-depth coverage of the tasks and my submissions for the same:

Day 4

Tuesday. World Usability Congress commences!

Opening Keynote by Russ Wilson, Director of UX at Google.
In the following 2 days, I learnt as much as I learned in 2 years when I started my journey in design.

The talks were all by Industry veterans coming from different backgrounds. Some of the talks were eye opening: In a technology company like Google how do you design for scale? How does NASA use UX in flight simulators? How does Lego think about product design?

Chalk talks in between. Inset Klaus Hofer, CEO of CAT-i.
Lunch served to all the conference participants and speakers. It’s gobbling time.
With the MVP of the conference: Mr. Hannes Robier, CEO of Youspi.
Day 1 Ending Keynote by Joe Lanzisero from Walt Disney. UX process in developing Disney theme parks.

After simulating discussions and networking, it was time for dinner! All the participants and judges were whisked away to Burg Oberkapfenberg. We thought it would be a normal restaurant.

Burg Oberkapfenberg. Couldn’t have been more wrong.
Valar Morghulis. We had to become Knights for the Knights dinner.
🍗 Gobbling time again! Oh you could order as much alcohol. 🍻

Day 5

Wednesday. After last night, we skipped breakfast as we wouldn’t be needing it for the entire trip. On the second day of the conference, talks were about finer aspects of UX process. Some of the talks validated my notions, some led me in creating more hypothesis and some were amazingly insightful.

Yasushi Kusume, Innovation & Creative Manager at IKEA, being cheeky.
Conference Day 2 Ending Keynote by Mr. Willy Lai, Director of UX at Apple.

The conference ended with Daria adjudged as the winner! All the participants were amazing designers and talking with them (while gobbling) gave me tremendous exposure as to how design is being taught around the world.

With Mr. Kwan Min Lee, Samsung VP of UX and Mr. Willy Lai, Director of UX at Apple.

After 2 eventful days at the conference, everyone wanted to celebrate and part ways on a good note. Hannes didn’t leave any stone unturned as WUC team had made arrangements. Where? On the edge of Schloßberg hilltop.

Schloßberg hill.
Left — Tram service to take us on the hilltop. Right — Me being fancy looking at a menu where I don’t know half of the things. But it’s gobbling time (again)!
Our table. Ambience was lit 🔥

Day 6

Thursday. Styria tour begins! First on the list was Schokolade Chocolate Factory.

Schokolade Chocolate Factory. (Yes it is what you think it is 😅)
At the entrance we all were given CHOCOshot. It could be ingested directly into the bloodstream.
There was chocolate in every possible corner of the factory.
The factory had water dispensers installed at every 10ft. For if you get a sugar rush ⚡️⚡️

Next on the list was Riegersburg Castle:

Haven’t seen a better view in my life.
View of the entire countryside. Could see 2 layers of cloud.

As you might have realized by now, Hannes get’s the true essence of the quote: “The way to a person’s heart is through their stomach”.

With the food, we were served freshly prepared wine from the local brewery at Riegersburg Castle.

As we had to leave on the next day, it was hard to say goodbye to all the wonderful people we had met on the trip.

As a goodbye gift, Hannes giving his autograph in his new book: UX Redefined.

This post was an attempt and attempt it was. It falls short of all the varied experiences and personality changes that I underwent. The network that I earned from the conference is and will be priceless. It was my first time in Austria and it wouldn’t be my last. I learnt a lot in the above 7 days and realized that design is something I want to do in the distant foreseeable future.

World UX Championship 2017 has started accepting entries. Do participate!

Over and out,