Learnings from Design Matters ‘18

Mateus Peixoto
Dec 10, 2018 · 5 min read

From September 24th to 27th, Ariane Morganti and I attended Design Matters ’18, a product design conference held in Copenhagen that gathers big names in the industry.

One of Nubank’s core principles is to build strong and diverse teams, so the idea behind attending the conference was to see how other teams are solving not only their products but the way they work as a team.

Representatives from companies such as Dropbox, Minecraft, Headspace, Mckinsey, Medium, EA Sports (FIFA), N26, and Netflix gave lectures and workshops.

We also visited the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (or CIID), chatted with the program’s students about their industry perspectives. One of the students is a former B&O designer. The conversation was incredibly enriching.

By keeping the spirit of sharing knowledge and information, we would like to highlight some of the coolest insights we’ve had during these 3 days of immersion in product design.

Our first morning at Nyhavn

The Conference

The majority of the speakers talked about their teams’ internal frameworks and design principles, and how they use those frameworks as decision-making tools. They create a common “design language” for the teams, putting everyone on the same page when one raises a point. It was a great validation for our Nubank design chapter, as we too began developing a set of principles exclusive to our design system — in addition to our chapter ones — before the trip.

When Tobias Ahlin, Experience Design Director at Minecraft, asked “Where Did All The Feelings Go?”, he cast light on how design dogmas like “clean” and “simple” might drain emotional connections out of digital experiences. His talk alluded to many awesome possibilities of bringing expressiveness to a project’s equation, especially when “utility” is a team’s only north star. This sounds like an important concept to keep in mind as we nurture our product and our brand experiences to meaningfully connect with more people.

In Vicki Tan’s Headspace talk, it was possible to see how the use of illustrations and animations helps translate and simplify abstract concepts. According to her, the use of animated characters has an important role in their product, because people relate and see a little of themselves in them. For companies such as Nubank, which is expanding its product family and have an increasingly diverse customer base, these are lessons to keep in mind. Maybe using a friendlier language, as Headspace does, could help create a more relatable and universal experience for customers.

The Outline
The talk by Jack Koloskus, of The Outline, was so inspiring. It featured the CMS tool developed by their design team that enables editors themselves to visually edit articles through it. This is a great example of how a design system and all its components are not enemies of creativity… In The Outline’s case, the main job of the design team is to develop language (and tools), keeping journalists independent and efficient. Such an approach is indispensable for Nubank’s growth — it’s all about smart efficiency.

The best one, by far! Benjamin Hersh showed how a series of simple principles have helped Medium design better with words. Apps and websites are 90% text, but we as designers do not take it as seriously as we should. Sometimes services/products grow so dissonant it feels like each platform actually belongs to a different company.

His storytelling during his talk was terrific too. Among so many great insights, he gave the best example of how UX writing can make a product meaningful only by using words: the fortune cookie.

McKinsey Design
They presented a canvas framework of how to pitch a project, idea, product or feature to company stakeholders. This kind of skill is something that us designers lack a little — or suck at it — and the way they do it isn’t a skill at all, but a technique.
It was not only about pitching, but about how to make an idea feasible.

Visiting CIID

Ariane and Julius at CIID

We also had the privilege to see the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design from the inside, invited by the always helpful Julius Ingemann. It was amazing to see how the school pushes interaction design to a greater sense, and its physical space is one of the ways they do it. A mix of open space and workshop helps students collaborate and experiment interaction design beyond the pixels.

Shouldn’t our design offices be like that? How will we innovate if the spaces we work in aren’t innovative nor incentivize us to go beyond? Be less like an office and more like a workshop — like Frank Gehry’s one.

Conversations with Julius were very enriching. We talked about his research on friction in products and experiences and the issues users — and society — face when interacting with them.

Overall, the experience at Design Matters ’18 couldn’t have been more productive. The main reason is that we sent both a product designer (me) and a branding designer (Ariane) to get various perspectives from the conference. Our different point of views drew a much broader and detailed picture of the subjects exposed there (Remember the strong and diverse teams thing?)

If you are interested in learning more about the conference, this and past editions talks are available here. You should watch them.

Also, check McKinsey Design’s The Business Value of Design report — and, please, share your thoughts here in the comments or just write any of our designers.

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