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Behind The Scenes Vol. 1 Recap

Our first Behind The Scenes event happened on 21 October 2020 — you can watch the recording here.

The discussion was led by Ana Domb, from the IxDA Board of Directors, and the guests for this session were Alexis Morin, Montreal Co-Chair and Manon Gruaz, Montreal Program Director.

What is Interaction 21?

AM From 31 Jan to 06 Feb 2021, the 12th edition of Interaction Week will be happening online for the first time. We will be addressing our theme of Design In Perilous Times throughout various types of events for 6 days. There are 3 days of talks from international speakers, a 2-day Education Summit, workshops, an Awards ceremony as well as a Design Charette.

What is changing this year for Interaction with COVID-19?

AM At first, everything was planned to be able to host Interaction 21 in Montreal, but COVID times call for COVID measures. Nothing is normal this year. Instead of trying to fit an amazing event like Interaction Week into an online experience, we’ve taken the stance of resiliency when it comes to building Interaction. So rather than just fitting into that mold and simply moving to an online conference, we’re asking “what would Interaction look like had it been a purely online event from the start, 12 editions ago?”

"What would Interaction look like had it been a purely online event from the start, 12 editions ago?"

How are you going to deal with timezones?

AM Timezones are so tricky! But we had to focus on staying inclusive and accommodating all timezones. IxDA has always been this global family and from this desire to be inclusive, we wanted to offer the same experience to everyone without the need for attendees or speakers to get up at unreasonable hours. We’ve seen speakers get up at 4am — yikes — throughout the year for other online events but we’re taking a different approach: our content will be streamed for 24 hours. We did some hard timezone Tetris math so that nobody has to stay up at unreasonable hours to enjoy it.

"Our content will be streamed for 24 hours"

What about price?

AM The expectation with online events is that they’re cheaper, it’s seen as sort of the norm. To match that, tickets this year cost ⅓ of what they usually do. Considering you don’t have to pay for travel, accommodation and food, this is the most affordable Interaction Week in a very long time. Also, a lower price means accessibility to more people. The conference tickets are $500 this year. While it is a lower price, it’s still not nothing, so we’re making the offering even more interesting with a 1:1 ticket matching program.

Can you tell us a bit more about this ticket matching program?

AM This is something new we’re trying this year. Again it’s about reimagining Interaction as an online-only event, what if it was that? Since we’re not limited by the capacity of a physical space, we thought it would be awesome to open our doors to even more people. This is how it works: for every full price ticket we sell, we give a ticket to someone who can’t afford it. For anyone who would like to be considered for such a ticket, you can apply here.

What’s happening with the social aspect of Interaction 21?

AM Everyone you meet at Interaction Week is a fascinating person but let’s be real, socializing online is like breathing through a straw, it’s terrible. We’re thinking of many ways to solve this. We’re creating space for sharing and interacting with speakers after and also during talks, something you can’t really do if a speaker is on stage in real life. We’re also working with speakers to include interactive and participatory content to their talks. We’ll have dedicated virtual rooms and time for socializing and sharing. And we’re also thinking beyond that, what about social events, games we can include, performances, artists and even more.

"Socializing online is like breathing through a straw, it’s terrible. We’re thinking of many ways to solve this."

What is the format this year, what shape is the content taking?

MG We had to completely reinvent the format, the templates we had didn’t work, obviously. We rethought the format as a TV channel; 1 channel, 3 full days of content streams so that everyone can watch it. Some content will be recorded, some will be live. We’ll host participatory roundtables to foster the exciting and uncomfortable conversations we need to have. And when we say a TV channel, we don’t mean an 8-hour Zoom call. We want you to have a brain-shuffling experience, but in the safety and comfort of your home. Prepare your pens and Moleskines, grab your popcorn and enjoy the ride!

"And when we say a TV channel, we don’t mean an 8-hour Zoom call."

How is the Call For Proposals going?

MG The Call For Proposals is closed now and we received 374 submissions in total.

  • 52% of submitters were women
  • 6% are gender nonconforming, non-binary and two spirits
  • We received submissions from 59 countries
  • 74% of our speakers have never spoken at an IxDA event before
  • 16 courageous submitters would be first-time conference speakers if they are selected
  • Our most popular theme, with 37% of the submissions is #New_World_To_Design so I think designers are ready to work on the challenges we face and we’re loving it

What can you tell us about the review process?

MG It happens in two steps. First, there’s a peer review. I selected 20 very diverse volunteers from all ethnicities, genders and backgrounds. I made sure of it because it was my responsibility and I took it very seriously. I had to say no to some people for this reason. We were lucky to have had these people review all the submissions in less than 2 weeks. That’s a lot of work, so thank you to these 20 wonderful people I chatted and emailed with, it was amazing to connect with you! After this first pass, we ended up with 116 acceptable entries for the second round. Now, the committee is evaluating those submissions as we speak and will curate the final content. All I can say for now is that it’s very interesting and we have some weird angles.

Now that it’s online, how will we experience the city of Montreal?

AM For one, three of our keynote speakers are local. This is a slightly higher than usual percentage and that’s absolutely on purpose. It’s not just about experiencing the city, but experiencing its people as well! Montreal is a very diverse city because of its history and immigration, it’s a part of who we are. One way we’re doing this is through bringing a very diverse lineup of local speakers. I don’t want to divulge too much but let’s just say we are also partnering with local production companies that create local content that we’ll be sprinkling throughout the days of the conference. Something that’s been lacking from interaction conferences is we finally get to talk about games. Montreal is a global capital in terms of video game creation, we have many very big studios. Ubisoft is the single largest video game studio in the world. It’s absolutely a part of who Montreal is. Also, for many of us, games are how we’ve been coping with the pandemic.

What are each of you most looking forward to during Interaction Week?

AM I’m very excited that we’re making the conference more accessible to more people. It’s always been very expensive to attend Interaction in person so now that we’re opening those doors much wider and are welcoming people from more diverse backgrounds through the ticket matching program, I’m actually excited to welcome a portion of the global population that has never had access to Interaction and include their voices in the conversation as well.

MG I’m more focused on the program so I’m just excited for the talks. Some talks will be uncomfortable and I look forward to them because they will spark conversations and we need to have them. Talking about some of the submissions with the team, we had all these cringy emotions but we were like yeah we need to have those conversations, so I’m excited about this.

You can browse the Interaction 21 program here and buy a ticket here

We hope to see you there!




The Interaction Design Association (IxDA) is a member-supported organization, focusing on interaction design issues for the practitioner, no matter their level of experience.

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