ILA23: my summary of an Interaction event
I loved it, I learnt a lot, and I want to share more about it.
If you follow me on Twitter, you surely notice I was pretty active some weeks ago. I was tweeting live from Interaction Latin America (ILA). After enjoying it, I decided to write a summary because there was great, extremely valuable content for all kinds of product shapers.
ILA (and Interaction) are events for all kinds of product shapers
I’ve been both to Interaction and ILA, and I can’t stop recommending them. I consider these events crucial to product shapers because they focus on the core of what we do. While it's often underestimated, interaction design is key to product success: the products we give shape to are intended to be used and understanding the interaction between a user and a system—whether it’s an app, service, or a Large Language Model—is crucial. It goes beyond reducing friction; it’s about creating intuitive experiences that resonate with users by understanding their needs, goals, and context.
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For product shapers who prioritize human-centric values, intuitiveness, and impact, embracing the nuances of interaction design isn't just beneficial, it's essential. It’s a strategic approach that ensures every product decision enhances the user's experience, driving both adoption and retention.
The talks that I enjoyed the most.
There were a lot of great talks, but I especially enjoyed the ones that I felt expanded my horizons of what I consider interaction design.
¡Sintoniza y Diseña tu Investigación! Explorando el Podcast como Herramienta Creativa by Mariana Salgado
Translated title: ‘Tune and design your research! Exploring podcasting as a creative tool‘
Mariana Salgado’s talk about her podcast, Diseño y Diáspora, was truly enlightening about alternative ways we can design and do research. It’s the talk I can highlight the most from the entire event, because of its originality and the extensive work she has been making over the past years. She’s gone out there to the design trenches and she has compiled a huge list of stories about how design is done in multidisciplinary contexts. She built a community of content, and her episodes are being used throughout the whole Hispanic design education ecosystem. From the Q&As section, I learned she is against the excessive amount of Spanglish we use in our profession in LatAm, and she might be horrified to learn a small detail about Arionkoder’s culture: we call it Spanglitch, and it comes from the excessive language switch and the abuse of Spanglish. From time to time, there is a glitch or mix-up in the words and expressions we use that are relevant to be registered, either because they are interesting ideas or because they are fun.
What Design can do? by Kees Dorst
Kees Dorst’s talk focuses on empowering the global design community to make a valuable contribution to solving the major problems of our time. There were three stunning ideas I want to highlight:
When dealing with complexity, he proposes focusing on doing interventions rather than creating solutions. I think this is a much more honest approach to the societal and human complexities we deal with.
He talked about creating systems that are actually live, and he mentioned how vitality is more pertinent than resilience here. The difference between them is that instead of focusing on the system getting back to what it was previously, vitality means adapting to context and incorporating change into the system's life.
He provided an excellent example of reframing: starting from considering a street issue as crime prevention and switching to designing an intervention to it with a ‘festival design‘ frame.
Director UX: el empoderamiento como plan de carrera by Santiago Bustelo
Translated title: ‘UX Director: empowerment as career plan‘
Santi Bustelo brought one of the most interesting proposals for the profession of UX designers and Researchers: he wants to openly create a “UX Director” certified role. He used the Creative Director and Film Director roles as examples, and I think this tiny little idea can help the profession. It helps to build the authority that some roles from UX need, as they are caring for a core part of the product. It also helps people outside of the profession to be able to distinguish the UX executors from the UX coordinators. I talked to him in the halls and let him know how interesting the idea was for me, as somebody who isn’t in charge of UX design anymore but still wants it to have the authority it deserves.
If you are interested too, there is a website you can check for the UX Direction initiative.
Also, I’ll definitely go to a Stand-up show by this guy. I’ve never seen a talk more entertaining than the ones he presents.
Nuevo paisaje y las dinámicas emergentes de interacción entre los usuarios y el espacio by Rodrigo Vera
Translated title: ‘New Landscape and the Emergent Interaction Dynamics Between Users and Space‘
Rodrigo Vera’s talk about his doctoral research about experiences at the city level was awesome. He registered, mapped, and analyzed how the emergence of Delivery apps added a new participant to Santiago de Chile city’s usage. He talked about food deserts at the city level, spontaneous stations, and the whole thing moving as an amoeba. I loved the videos and visualizations, but my recommendation here is because this presentation highlighted the impact software today can have on our daily lives, how it can create new jobs at the same time it’s producing new inequalities, and how that can have an impact even at the level of the territories we inhabit. This expands our horizons by going way beyond the things we consider when thinking about a Product Idea.
¡Siento! ¡Soy! by Andres Rodriguez
Translated title: ‘I Feel! I am!‘
Andres Rodriguez’s talk was about haptic interfaces, and it started by exploring and detailing how the sense of tact affects human beings. It was an awesome approach to understand more of it, and the importance it can have in our daily interactions. We learned about existing tools to design communications through vibrations, and how a good part of the animation physics popularized by Disney can be also used here.
The Talks about UX and AI (and my talk).
At this edition of ILA the emergence of AI was everywhere. More than 10 talks were directly approaching AI, and the topic was mentioned a lot more in non-related talks. I love to see how this community is always on the edge, understanding what’s new and trying to incorporate it in a way it matches keeping the users at the center.
I wasn’t able to assist all of them, but there were two of them I want to highlight:
Gustavo Soto Miño opened the conversation on Day 1, and it was the best possible opening to it. He talked about how AI is a disrupting technology that will disrupt the Design and UX field. He focused on the particular shrinking context of the software industry this is happening, and how it’s relevant for us as professionals to embrace this change and adopt it.
Claudia Gutierrez's talk about Untangling Artificial Intelligence and User Experience opened the track on Day 2, just previous to my talk, and it provided an awesome adaptation of some tools UX Designers already know to the context of projects with AI. The audience loved the talk, and I found it extremely related to what I’m thinking and doing lately.
My talk focused on rethinking the initial process for products that need both AI and UX definition, intending to create a collaborative environment for better, shared understanding between experts from the two parts. One of the things I highlighted, that I find related to Soto Miño’s talk, is that we must intervene. Our roles as product shapers focused on human beings are key here, because as with every new technology, creators tend to use it as a shiny new object, forgetting to explore the humane dimensions these technological changes often affect. It was my first experience talking at an ILA event, and it was a truly great experience. I’ll continue talking about these topics here, so expect more content coming out soon.
Other little gems to highlight
Maxi Leguiza presented a project centered on cognitive stimulation through modular objects. It was awesome to see an analogic project directed to the Special Education sector. He showcased how they designed it, tested it, and iterated it with a 3D printer. He interacted with experts in the field and users throughout the process, and he shared part of the things he learned in the Q&A.
I loved Anna Assumpção and Vanessa Spanholi talk about scaling research in Jusbrasil. They shared several challenges they had to scale the user and the ways they tackled them. The ‘Jusflix’ idea — a kind of internal Netflix to watch user stories and connect with them as if it was a series you’re binge-watching — was stunning to me. I’ve already sent a message to them to see if I can get the video.
Lucila Leone shared 4 stories about UX Research and Mental Health, telling details about the special conditions and the special measures they took into account to create safe spaces for deep interviews with people living with different types of mental issues. It was centered on caring and connecting, and it was one of the most moving talks for me. Learning more about how these people cope with their situations is incredibly useful to understand why neurodiversity is a relevant topic to follow.
Catalina Arismendi and Julia Frangella talk about the challenges trans people face when interacting with the healthcare system in Argentina was interesting to me, as it depicts how from our roles as designers and researchers we might be reproducing exclusion and discrimination even without knowing it. Being aware of the social issues of our time is important to anyone who wants to be involved in creating more humane technology. It challenge us as professionals, by making us focus on how different aspects of interaction design relate to major societal problems and having to come up with new solutions that break with what’s established.
ILA’s B-side is a strong experience.
I’ve been to 4 editions of the ILA event, and something that I feel is that people truly connect in the B-side of this conference, way beyond networking. Sharing mates, having fun, talking with randoms in the halls, having beers in the after, and dancing together, these activities happen all under the special vibe people from Latin America have.
The conversations are interesting because they merge the latest topics from the tech sector with how humans interact with technology, but also within the particular socio-political framework of Latin America.
I hung out the most with people from AYU, which might have elevated my experience. They are in close contact with a lot of interesting people, they are pretty open to debate ideas, and they also have the possibly two biggest pillars of ILA’s fun time: many thanks to Jose Allona and Manuel Razzari for always embodying the Joy Division of these events.
I purposely wrote this post in English because I believe ILA is a great experience the English-speaking Product and Design world is missing. There are English translators for the Keynotes, and it’s also a great opportunity to bring your content to new audiences. There are a good amount of speakers who have experienced it, but I’m still wondering about how we can make ILA a more global event while keeping the Latin spirit. I’d love to see that happen.
I want to close this article by telling a small detail: the event was possible thanks to IxDA La Plata chapter, and Adri Garibaldi, one of the coordinators, made me remember I was there when all of this started for them, with Taller UX. IxDA La Plata started by implementing a series of open workshops we designed to propel local Interaction Design communities. It’s been a long way since then: they’ve built a great local community over the years, and they worked really hard to make this great event happen. It gives me the chills to connect the moment they started from scratch, and the huge thing they have just tackled. Each of these ILA events implies a huge human effort in the background, but I’m pretty sure being the host of such an awesome human connection it’s an incredibly fulfilling experience that worth any effort.
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