REPORT: Vancouver User Experience Awards 2016

Leo Tohyama
Nov 18, 2016 · 6 min read

I participated in “Vancouver User Experience (UX) Awards 2016” held on November 16, 2016. The venue was the Imperial which I also visited last year at “Vancouver Startup Week”. This venue, which is located in a bad place in public safety (my subjective opinion), is also cool atmosphere and reasonable in size, and seems to be popular as a place to host Tech-related events.

The first thing that surprised me when I arrived at the venue was the number of people. People were overflowing. You can see that this event, which is now in its third year, has received a lot of attention.


Keynote was held by Kharis O’Connell, who works for Archiact, Vancouver-based Virtual Reality Studio. The theme is “UX for the Future: Personas Non-Grata”.

For me without experience of VR and MR, the most interesting thing about his story was the story of the prototype in 3D. It was about the way to design the future, not yet in reality.

He says that many of the people who are now working in the field of VR and MR(mixed reality) are from the game background. However, there is a big difference between “cool” in the game world and “usable” in the real world. Therefore UX designers in this world seem to have to discuss with the engineer “Why do we design this?” “What does this mean?” “How do we use this?” From the starting point, it was different from what I assumed.

#Prototype in space

And what is difficult with UX in VR and MR seems to be a way to do prototype. If it is a two-dimensional UX / UI, there are countless prototyping tools around the world now and can be selected and used as desired, but VR and MR do not have that choice. So he tried prototyping using Unity (game development engine), but it was difficult because the creating a prototype took too much time.

So their team is doing the theater style prototype.

“You are an object, standing there, this is the way it is going to do this, this is the pointer. If you click on this, you move around me like this”.

Then what is going to happen is “Now you are here, so I will leave, so that the text scales down and becomes smaller and … I can’t see it”

In other words, if you design 2D you can decide the resolution, screen size, font size etc, but it doesn’t work in VR. You can understand this by playing. Because there is a concept of space, “When you stand at this place it’s the best font size, but you cannot read anything when you stand at this place!” That is easy to discover through the prototype.

He says that this is the fastest way to design the future.

That was the most exciting story for me through the Keynote.


Then Awards. Judges scored a large number of UX projects submitted for this year’s event according to five standards (Joy, Elegance, Clarity, Innovation, Impact). And one set out of three finalists of each category was honored as the best project.

#UX by Students

It was IKEA Stay that won the award in the UX by Students category. IKEA Stay is a project planned by students of Simon Fraser University (SFU). It seems that a person who moves to a new town can actually try out the furniture of IKEA. It was explained like it is possible to experience services like Airbnb. After experiencing the product, you will be guided to Ikea’s Ecommerce site, so you can imagine that the experience from test to purchase is not bad either. I felt that it is a dramatic UX improvement just by being released from searching for a furniture in the huge warehouse of IKEA.

#UX for Good

The Megaphone App was the winner of the award in the UX for Good (non-profit) category. This is an application that solves the issue of “Megaphone Magazine” published in Vancouver by nonprofit organization and the issue of calendar “Hope in Shadows Calendar”. In these two products which are characterized as being sold on the street, there are many customers they want to purchase but don’t have cash. So this app will charge from customers, then pay it to distributers.

#UX for Emerging Experiences

UX for Emerging Experiences category was awarded the Port of Vancouver Discovery Center. This is a project to display animation infographics at the Port of Vancouver, using a projector and touch screen.

#UX for Products

It was Wiivv Scan and Customize that won the award in the UX for Products category. This is an order-made insole service of shoes using app and 3D printer. The user seems to be able to purchase the insole optimized for the shape of their own feet simply by taking a few pictures of their feet with the app.

#UX for Marketing

Kit and Ace website concept and design was the winner of the award in the UX for Marketing category. The new website of the apparel brand Kit and Ace needed to have a brand story as well as product information so that users can understand Kit and Ace’s identity. Certainly, content expressed in a beautiful design that expresses brands seems to attract fans.


IKEA Stay was chosen for the user selected number one UX of this year.

And Wiivv was chosen as the top, Best UX among all the categories selected this time.


Keynote is the most knowledgeable thing at this event. In Japan, I have been doing physical workshops many times in UX research and strategy phase, so I was interested in prototyping in 3 dimensional space with play. I would like to someday engage in such a workshop and express an interface using my body. LOL

Regarding the Award, I felt that the idea of IKEA Stay was wonderful. And since I am a student of BCIT now, I will study hard to beat team SFU! LOL


Vancouver User Experience (UX) Awards

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UX LION | Leo Tohyama

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Leo Tohyama

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I'm a Vancouver based UX researcher & Web Analyst as well as current student at BCIT. I love Japanese sake and this is my sake channel!

UX LION | Leo Tohyama

UX and Web Analytics learnings from Vancouver