Web Summit 2016

Last month I was fortunate to attend Web Summit 2016 at Lisbon, and it was a blast! On the one hand, I've never been to Lisbon and it was an interesting experience for me. Lisbon resembles San Francisco a lot, with the cable cars, hills, and even the bridge, but with more European and you won't hear people speaking English on the streets. And on the other hand, it was my first time attending a big conference as a designer and I was so overwhelmed by all the startups, innovation, and creativity happening in Lisbon.


I was mainly focusing on the design & creative talks, aka "CreaTiff" stage in the main building. There were about a dozen speakers, some sharing what they did at their company, some were talking in a panel discussion about design. I want to share three of my favorite and most impressive talks at the CreaTiff stage.


1. Design and the future of work

by Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk


Carl started his talk with some questions: "How would you design and engineer differently with no constraints on the computing power?", "Are we going to be replaced by robots?" As a company where designers and engineers are closely working together, they value a lot on weaving data and new technologies into their design process. They are particularly interested in "Generative Design", a relatively new way of using data to design things that you can't imagine.

He mentioned a couple examples using generative design: a project working on a dividing wall with Airbus (http://3dprint.com/109310/airbus-autodesk-dividing-wall/)


Another example is a collaborative project with Bandito Brothers, building a frame for a racing car. They used sensors to measure all the pressure on the frame during a race and used computers to generate a design based on those data. How the frame is manufactured, what materials to use were also taken into consideration. This is very different from the traditional design & manufacturing process.(https://www.autodeskresearch.com/blog/when-iot-meets-generative-design-cars)


2. A Hippocratic oath for designers

by Tristan Harris, Co-Founder of Time Well Spent


Tristan proposed that we designers should focus on creating products with positive impact rather than products that crave for users attention and waste people's time unknowingly. He suggested that if there is the Organic certificate for foods or LEED certificate for buildings, there should be a "Time Well Spent" certificate for technologies, helping people be aware of how they spend their time.


Nowadays too many technologies are competing to get our attention, and we are easily susceptible to all those triggers like notification sound, unread label, etc.. It's our responsible to take action and avoid these situations. We can take a peek on some potential ideas here from Time Well Spent: http://www.timewellspent.io/

3. Designing at scale

by Anne Pascual, Executive Design Director of IDEO


Anne talked about serveral projects in the past from IDEO that were about designing at scale. It was fascinating and I wish she had more time to elaborate more details about them! One of the projects is about designing at urban scale. IDEO collaborated with Infarm, a vertical farming startup, to help design their business holistically. In addition to developing the industrial design for the device, they've also designed an app that works with the device, and also showing information that educates people about vertical farming. They came up with a membership system for people to subscribe to their services. They teach users how to plant their seeds and even show recipes related to the vegetables. It's an interesting case to study.


Another one is about prototyping at scale. It's a project for Lufthansa airline to rethink the services they provide and the interactions between customers and flight attendants during a flight. They spent a ton of time traveling on a plane to think from both the customer's and the attendant's perspectives. They even built a 1:1 cabin in Germany and recruited attendants and customers to observe how they behave in different situations. This is the kind of effort IDEO would willing to take.


Overall, Web Summit is a great experience for me, not only to learn more about this beautiful city but also to feel the energy within different new areas that are innovative and captivating. Hopefully, I will get another chance to visit Lisbon again with friends and family. Until then!