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Interaction Designers must put people first

Peter Bihr and Sami Niemela welcomes attendees to Interaction Week 2016 in Helsinki. Photo credit: IxDA
  • What you put in is what you’ll get out. Realize that you will invest a significant amount of time, but it’s incredibly rewarding. It’s a lovely community that’s ambitious, has a strong moral compass, and is actively shaping a field that is super relevant — and still pretty young! It was this pooling of knowledge, skills, networks, curiosity and excitement that created a lot of creative tension and fresh points of view.
  • Make big decisions ASAP. We made early choices and commitments that helped lay the foundation for everything that came after. We got a kick-ass production company on board, booked a fantastic venue, and reached out to the city for support.
  • Build a strong local team. Assembling an incredible team is key. So before applying, assess the passion and commitment of your design community. Helsinki’s was rock solid and then some. You need a strong foundation plus top notch planners. On event days, it’s how you get through the inevitable chaos.
  • Be inclusive. Be curious, humble, and a good team player. Be sure to invite diverse perspectives when selecting topics and speakers. Involve a mix of students, young professionals, educators and practitioners. Make sure you’re acknowledging all contributions. Let others, who are speaking, finish their sentences, especially women (just, y’know, don’t be *that guy*).
  • Minimize your footprint. Looking back, we could have done more on the sustainability front in Helsinki. If you apply to host Interaction Week 2021 — or any event for that matter — use guidance from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). They offer a free brochure that outlines best practices for managing sustainable events.
  • Take it all in. I think we succeeded in having a super smooth production and great atmosphere, a diverse (but never diverse enough!) speaker line-up, and an inspiring mix of topics and presentations. I felt truly humbled when one participant took to Twitter to call our event “probably the most creative and thought provoking industry conference I’ve been to,” and others shared tons of positive feedback along similar lines, too.

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Linda McNair

Lucky to share stories about the positive impact creative thinkers and doers make on society. IxDA Contributing Editor.