The Midwest UX team is thrilled with the number and quality of submissions we received. Proposals arrived from as far away as Seattle and South Africa, on topics as varied as you can imagine.

Our Keynote Speakers

Abby Covert

Abby Covert is an independent information architect working and living in New York City. For her work as Director of Strategic Planning & User Experience at DraftFCB, Abby was listed by the Direct Marketing Associations 30 Under 30 in 2011. She is also an active mentor to the design community, is a highly regarded speaker, and writes her popular blog under the pseudonym Abby the IA.

Karl Fast

Karl Fast is a professor of UX Design at Kent State University. His work explores how people adapt to live in a world where information and computation are abundant resources. He teaches information architecture, information visualization, and human-information interaction. He is a founding member of the Information Architecture Institute. He's also Canadian.

Christina Wodtke

Christina Wodtke has an impressive history of making things happen. Most recently she led the creation of a social network/gaming platform as a General Manager of Before Zynga, she held senior positions at Myspace, LinkedIn and Yahoo!, back when Yahoo! was pretty neat. Currently she lives the slow life: advising start-ups, teaching, and speaking at conferences worldwide.

Thursday - Workshops

Making Places With Information Architecture and Content Strategy

Whether we realize it or not, UX is largely the art of tailoring the experiences we design to our content: its semantics, hierarchies, relationships and meaning. Some of the most important work necessary to successful experiences happens before anyone starts to sketch an interface.

Spend a half day exploring perspectives on how IA and Content Strategy provide important context that shapes user-experiences we design and learn learning new tools, techniques, and strategies for designing content-aware interfaces.

Civic Engagement: A Means to “Move” People from Place to Place

UX isn't just about software and hardware interfaces. Its practices and principles can be vital to transforming the most important spaces we experience: the shape of our communities and built environments, what we experience from them, and how we change them for the better.

This workshop focuses on the persuasion techniques needed to develop effective calls to action, mobilize support, and form valuable communities. When we get the message and approach correct, we have the potential to move our communities from one vision of our shared place to another.

The Design Studio: Traditional Design Practice in a Place of Design Tradition

Many working UX designers are the sole UX practitioner in their organization. Others they find themselves working in a place without a solid design practice. How do you integrate all the processes that give UX so much of its power into an existing workflow? Where do you turn for collaboration and outside perspective?

This workshop gives participants the experience of working in a UX studio environment. We'll practice core aspects of the design process while working in small project teams. By tackling a real problem through teamwork and design practice, participants will better understand how they can integrate aspects of this process in their daily work lives.

Design Studio for Context-Aware Products

There is a tension growing between mobile product development trends, user behavior, and hardware capabilities. Our phones are becoming more intimately integrated with our everyday lives. They're acquiring sensory capabilities via hardware components and are growing evermore context aware. In the process, former best-practice design patterns are fraying at the edges. The result is that the design of systems to take advantage of these capabilities is lagging, and design patterns are fragmenting.

This design studio will address these challenges with hands-on activities that move very quickly from idea generation to refinement to team consensus. You will work in small groups to define a problem space, explore multiple solutions, and combine ideas into a rough product sketch.

Drawing What You Mean – in Real Time

Want to kickstart (or improve) your visual note-taking skills? Increase your visual IQ at the whiteboard during collaborative sessions? Hone your drawing capabilities in general? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, this workshop is for you.

We will directly confront the daunting challenge of drawing what we mean in real time and help you get past your drawing frustrations with practical tips for framing the contexts for drawings, engaging others in visual thinking, and improving your visual lexicon and lettering skills, all while having fun with sketching.

Putting UX in its Place: UX research and strategy techniques for architecture, interiors, and urban spaces.

This workshop will focus on how developing an understanding of users and their context enables diverse design disciplines to work together to influence, enhance, and even revolutionize the experience of place.

We’ll apply those concepts in a rapid design challenge where your team will find a nearby space, conduct guerrilla research to identify potential design opportunities, and create an innovative UX concept which integrates online interactions to improve users' offline experience of place.

Introduction to Arduino and the Internet of Things

Learn to apply your user-experience design skills to connected environments and the Internet of Things in this hands on workshop. Together we'll build several Arduino projects that illustrate Arduino I/O basics including Blink (the “hello world” of the Arduino), buttons, potentiometers, and LEDs.

You'll also learn to plug a sensor in to the Arduino and have it communicate with your computer via Processing, all while encountering real-world case studies. The additional $50 fee is to purchase the necessary hardware, which is yours to keep.

Get more information and fill out the pre-workshop questionnaire!

Friday/Saturday - Sessions

In addition to the keynotes, the conference will feature 18 session speakers. We received nearly 190 for these 18 slots. There are so many quality proposals we're tempted to hold another three conferences so we have room for them. (Just kidding.)

Hey, You Got Your Map In My Territory!: The Role of Language in Placemaking

We often think of content, metadata, names, or links, as stuff we put *into* the environment. But in fact, language is *part of* our environment. It shapes how we perceive where (and who) we are, and why. Discover how language should inform the semantic information we choose and principles we use when we design.

Dude, Who Stole My Community?

In the last two decades, screens have made our world hyper-connected. But do these virtual connections replace "authentic" physical interactions? Have our neighborhood communities become silent places that merely house people on screens? Explore the next wave in maker culture hacking our sense of community with emerging experiments that challenge our notion of "place". Find inspiration from interaction examples that can help prioritize fundamental human needs in your work.

Narrative Spaces

What do opera stage directors and UX designers have in common? More than you'd think. After all, "All the world's a stage." Learn how directors' tools of music, production, and narrative flow can inform our design practices. From enterprise level systems to fun mobile apps, we'll explore ways to narrate the digital environments we design.

Resistance is Futile: Google Glass and the Augmented Reality Cyborg Workforce of the Future

Google Glass raises a number of questions: Should we design for it? *What* do we design for it? Who will use it? We'll explore how technology like Glass has already been prototyped, anti-prototyped, proven, and disproven for years in film, television, and literature. Learn how to harness these images to answer timely strategy questions and design products and apps able to transform the future.

It's Not You, It's Your Anti-Pattern

We’ve seen many projects: good, bad and ugly. This is a talk about the ugly and the really hilarious anti-patterns they reveal. Learn ways to recognize and neutralize anti-patterns and rescue not only your ugly projects, but maybe even your sanity and self-worth.

Defining our Place in Emerging Technologies

Emerging technologies—from skin-top embeddable computers to swarming robots to human genome hacking to content aware environments—will shape our understanding of what it means to be human. Look beyond the screen to the interactions and experiences within emerging technologies. And explore frameworks and techniques we desperately need to shape our experiences and understanding of this emerging reality.

Turn About is Fair Play: How We Employed UX to Transform Our Workplaces and Rethink Our Business

If you're usually the vendor in a user-design experience project, it's eye opening to become the client. That happened to us recently when we redesigned our offices to leverage digital spaces and shrink our physical footprint. To us, this was an opportunity to rethink our business itself, increase our profitability, and improve our teamwork. Come hear about the initial challenges working with vendors, what we learned from being a client, how we we turned the tables and applied familiar UX techniques (like ethnography, needs analysis, and prototyping) to our office design, and how the resulting design transformed our business model.

Field Manual: UX Lessons From The Military Profession

Targets, strategy, impact, plans of attack—in the worlds of business and UX, we use military terminology without really understanding it. The military has learned from centuries of thought about leadership and mentorship techniques, infrastructure, empathy, and ways to...well, attack a problem. We'll examine what UX can learn from life on a military base, and be inspired by unexpected insights from the annals of military theory.

The Essence of Experience

The choices we make have consequences. As user experience designers, our values, assumptions, and the way we make decisions determine the essence of experience. What is the place of practicing UX based on values? This session draws upon design practice and discusses how to effect change without compromising yourself. Building on the most-debated Interaction'11 talk, this presentation is based on my forthcoming book The Essence of Everything: Design, Ethics & the User Experience (Morgan Kaufmann, 2014).

Boats, Trains & Shopping Malls: Testing the Usability of Products in their Natural Habitat

Unlike the controlled environments of usability labs, the real world—where things are actually used—is messy and unpredictable. Hear three case studies of usability testing in the wild and get practical guidance for evaluating the full user experience in context, including techniques for recruiting, facilitation, session recording and stakeholder involvement.

Distant Land, Different Life

Context and empathy are two words that have become increasingly ubiquitous – and rightly so. But how much do you truly understand about those from distant lands? We'll hear first hand what it’s really like to live in South Africa and confront how place provides a context that might influence our thinking and work. Come away with increased empathy for those whose experiences vary from yours thanks to the place they call home.

Everyone is a Designer, Whether You Like it or Not

How many people offer input that shapes your product design? How many of them are designers? In order to scale design thinking throughout your organization, you need non-designers on your side. Examine how Hudl moved from hero design to shared design with the help of Lean UX. You'll learn how to help your team more consistently create outstanding products.

The Programmable World

Whether we notice it or not, we're surrounded by machines and sensors. Our world is networked and made of code. We need new skills and perspectives to take charge of the programmable world we've built. Discover how principles of new media now apply to every corner of daily life and what to do about it. If we don't learn to program the world we want, it may program us.

After Orientation: Making Room for a Novice UX Designer

Organizations reluctant to hire novice user experience designers are missing out on an amazing opportunity to bring fresh perspective, ideas, and enthusiasm to their team and organization. Realizing those benefits, though, requires discipline to acclimate junior level UX designers to their organizations and support and aid in their development. Learn how to make your team more effective through novice UX designers.

How To Avoid the Most Common Mistakes Plaguing Mobile Developers and Designers

Mobile changes everything: the rules of good development, default choices, user engagement and more. We cannot unthinkingly port design and business practices that worked on the desktop to mobile. From thousands of mobile user tests, we've uncovered common traps in mobile design. Learn what these traps are and how to avoid them with useful tips and illuminating case studies.

The Place You’re In Is More Than The Place You’re At

Too often when we design for context we ignore the biggest influences of user experience, such as the user's knowledge, intent, and emotions. We'll discuss a framework to accommodate these elements even though they're difficult to perceive or assess. Gain practical tools for choosing, designing and prioritizing key elements to achieve your user experience goals.

Scratch Your Own Itch: Simple, Designer-Driven Apps

Frustrated with apps that don't quite work for you? Think you need a development team or VC funding to make a useful app? Hear the presenter's experience creating News Now, an iPhone app using NPR's API. And learn how to move beyond critique to create by building simple apps that scratch your own itch.

Social Smarts for Small Screens

Let's face it: the screens that surround us are often socially inappropriate. They buzz, light up, display information from hundred apps … even inform our managers of our evening plans as they sit on the conference room table. What if we can make these small screens more socially intelligent? Explore ways to design our devices to better relate to our social context and service ecosystems.