Design the right things, the right way — Sketch-notes from UX Immersion 2018

Mithila Tople
Apr 18, 2018 · 5 min read

In early March, I attended UX Immersion 2018, an informative and fun conference about everything design, created by Jared Spool.

The conference promised to deliver thought-provoking content about interaction design, so I wanted to be sure I was able to capture everything in a concise yet engaging format to share with my team. However, I wanted to do so without losing my focus to absorb as much information at the event as possible.

For some time now, I’ve been intrigued by sketch-notes, a visual note-taking format that’s almost like creating infographics on the fly. The point of using this technique is to not only create more immersive notes that can be shared with others, but to also capture the information in a way that actually allows you to listen more closely to the content while it’s being presented. I figured what better opportunity to give it a try than at UX Immersion 2018.

For three days I was exposed to tons of great content including two, full-day workshops and a day devoted to some very interesting Featured Talks. Check out how I captured summaries of the talks using sketch-notes and see if it’s a technique worth incorporating into your own process.

1. Critique and The Design Process: Facilitating Better Feedback by Aaron Irizarry & Adam Connor

The day started with some cool, actionable things to do when you are a growing design team, how to review each other’s work and most importantly how to make a critique session productive.

Discussing Design was an informative session about critical thinking, mindsets while giving and getting critique, types of critique, and how to conduct them.

2. Peace is Waged with Sticky Notes: Mapping Real-World Experiences by Jim Kalbach

At this wonderful workshop attendees participated in hands-on exercises to create journey maps. My favorite bit was when Jim emphatically told us that the map really doesn’t matter as much as the conversation that it helps facilitate.

In this particular talk, he walked us through a mapping exercise that he did for a real-world problem with Hedaya to help counter violent extremism.

During Peace is Waged with Sticky Notes, attendees were shown a case-study where a mapping exercise used to solve a real-world problem by looking for patterns across hate groups to counter violent extremism.

3. Escaping the Stagnation Sandpit: Building a Continuous Learning Team by Kate Rutter

Kate started the talk by asking whether we thought our jobs would remain the same in the next 3-5 years. In the fast-paced world of technology, our jobs as designers are constantly evolving to solve new sets of problems, and it’s necessary to keep learning new skills as a team. Kate walked us through some effective methods for helping teams grow without compromising deadlines.

Escaping the Stagnation Pit showed attendees how to shift their design team from “learning by chance” to “learning by choice.”

4. Friction, More or Less by Stephen Anderson

This was my favorite talk of the day. As designers, we are continually talking about issues and points of friction. Stephen walked us through various types of friction and how to discuss these issues more intelligently and productively, emphasizing that not all issues dealt with in the same way.

During Friction, More or Less, attendees learned how to classify friction-creating issues and address them more intelligently.

5. The Robots Are Coming! by Dan Saffer

Dan walked us through considerations for designing robots, while regaling us with videos of robots, which was funny, but also a bit creepy.

Actually, here’s a link to one of the creepiest videos we saw:

During The Robots Are Coming, attendees learned which heuristics to keep in mind while designing robots and related interfaces.

6. Keynote by Jared Spool

The Featured Talks day ended with a keynote from Jared, where he walked us through the Hawaii false missile alert in Jan, 2018, and all the design and organization factors that contributed to it. From there, he showed us some methods to optimize organizations for growing design teams.

During Optimizing our Organization to Produce the Best Designs, attendees learned actionable steps to change design organizations.

The Verdict

The three day conference was not only a ton of fun, but I also learned about many real-world tools that I know I’ll be able to implement in my everyday work. While many other design conferences that I’ve attended have included engaging content with workshops, case studies and design exercises, I usually return to my desk feeling unable to truly apply what I learned. At UX Immersion, I learned things that were not only inspiring, but also practical, useful and actionable.

Using sketch-notes took a bit of getting used to at first. But, the more I did it, the better I got with every talk I attended. I began framing and arranging my notes better, which actually helped me capture the information I wanted.

So, I’m going to keep honing my sketch-notes prowess in team meetings, stakeholder reviews and design critiques. The process not only makes it easier to summarize what happened and why, it’s also a very cool way to visualize your action items. My sketch-notes library has just begun and I plan on practicing and adding to it everyday!

A video of my sketch-notes process on an iPad Pro using Procreate.


Check out some of the resources I used for learning sketch-noting:

The Sketchnote Handbook -Mike Roh

Visual Thinking: How to Create Sketchnotes to Capture and Synthesize Content

Instagram posts from Makayla Lewis, Eva-Lotta Lamm and Rob Dimeo

You can also follow my fledgling sketch-note efforts here!

Don’t miss other great articles written by my talented colleagues at VMware!

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Mithila Tople

Written by

Interaction Designer. Amateur ceramicist. I watch too much TV.

VMware 360

Here, we explore a myriad of R&D disciplines from engineering best practices and methodology to user experience design, technical deep-dives, the latest industry trends and more.

Mithila Tople

Written by

Interaction Designer. Amateur ceramicist. I watch too much TV.

VMware 360

Here, we explore a myriad of R&D disciplines from engineering best practices and methodology to user experience design, technical deep-dives, the latest industry trends and more.

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