Our insights from FITC Toronto

What is the Future of Innovation Technology and Creativity?

Devbridge’s Toronto-based design team attended FITC Toronto, an annual conference in which attendee’s gather to explore the future of everything innovative, technical and creative. The conference’s theme was “pure imagination” (a reference to the immeasurable potential of creativity). Joined by over 1000+ creative minds, our team broke off to listen to different speakers and summarized our favorite talks.

Building a future-proof design career

In her talk, Catherine Baird, an experienced designer, spoke about future proofing your design career. With evolving technology, trends and methods, all designers need to focus on four universal areas to ensure they stay relevant over the course of their career. They are:

Communication: Regardless of talent, having the ability to communicate effectively and sell design is pivotal to long-term success. Be heard and speak up whenever possible.

Design thinking: As designers progress through their careers, they need to elevate their work from simply “doing” to “thinking” to support bigger picture design initiatives.

Make connections: Work selflessly to make meaningful relationships with your peers. These connections may eventually advocate for your next role or promotion.

Take care: Don’t lose sight of yourself. Life can be stressful. Be sure to take care of yourself to avoid burnout.

“I have personally witnessed the paradigm shifts in the design world over the last 10 years. Catherine’s points definitely hit home. I would add 'continuous learning' to the list to ensure that no designer ever gets left behind.”

– Robert Ritacca, Manager of Product Design

Fueling creativity with constraints

This may sound familiar, “We would love to do this, but…” Working with constraints (time, budget, tech stack, legacy, etc.) is almost a given in every project and can make designers feel stifled creatively. However, Laura Stein, an award-winning creative creator at Sid Lee, looks at constraints differently.

Rather than getting frustrated, she suggests designers: Make constraints meaningful. Dig deeper and to uncover meanings, old and new, about the constraints. In her talk, Laura referenced two examples.

Example #1: A company wanted to create a modern visual identity using the constraints of outdated logo/color scheme. The solution was to leverage the old aspects as inspiration.

Our insights from FITC Toronto

Example #2: A client wanted to make a video but had no time and a small budget. Thinking creatively, the team sourced videos from the internet and leveraged this look playing up on their humor and relatability. Check it out here.

“In the end, it all comes down to how we see it. Constraints can be a headache or spark creativity. The parameters challenge us to be better creatives, better problem solvers and deliver more value to our clients.”

– Maggie Fu, Product Designer

Dealing with designer's block

We as designers struggle with blank pages as much as writers do. How we go about staying inspired to continue creating is an essential part of the process. We tend to hold our work too close to our chests and fail to show it to others with fear of negative criticism.

In his talk on Everyday Innovation, Carl Sziebert, a UX Engineer at Google, reminds us to seek, give and apply feedback often to fuel creativity. This fundamentally helps us to create dynamic solutions to complex problems together as a team rather than an individual. The way in which the feedback is provided is as important as the feedback itself. With this in mind, Carl provided a few recommendations for providing actionable feedback.

Great feedback is specific. Is the wording vague or open-ended? Would someone else understand? Am I identifying a problem? Could this be an actionable item?

Great feedback is goal oriented. Why do I want to add this? How will this suggestion benefit a user? How does this help accomplish our goals?

Great feedback is relevant and timely. Am I sharing this with the right person? Is this related to the current stage of the project? Is this the right time or place for my feedback?

He also noted the subtle art of responding to feedback—suggesting that designers first review the strategy behind the decisions, then analyze and explain the goals of this step of the process, and lastly outline the type of feedback they’re looking for.

“We as designers focus so much on being user-centric that we sometimes forget to be team-centric as well. As a team, we can collectively create better solutions to problems than a single person could on their own, but how we go about doing that—especially when giving feedback on a team members solution—is of equal importance.”

– Jonathan Wolf, Senior Product Designer

Simplifying design

KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is a well-known principle followed by many in the design world. But, if it’s too simple, easy or fast, would mistakes and errors become more likely? Would there be interactions that are irreversible? Or could there be unintended or unforeseen consequences with these actions? Often when it comes to software development, the early stages may start off as simple however over time it could get complicated with additional scope, design revisions, and technical limitations. With that being said, being feature complete doesn’t necessarily always mean experience completion. David Hogue, a UX design lead from Google, talks about building simpler products without sacrificing features and functionality.

Here are five steps and actionable questions to help simplify.

1. Clarify. Can we change the way information and/or actions are framed and represented to improve clarity and meaningfulness without losing the essential information and/or actions?

2. Prioritize. Can we make information and/or actions more or less prominent by adjusting the position, sequence, or presentation?

3. Redistribute. Can we re-arrange the sequence, number, or location of the information and/or actions? Or can we convert a few large steps into more, smaller steps?

4. Consolidate. Can we combine redundant or similar information and/or actions without losing the essential information and/or actions?

5. Subtract. Can we remove redundant or superfluous information, actions and steps or stages?

“Throughout my design career, I’ve always believed in the KISS principle, and that less is more. David helped me better understand how to recognize unnecessarily complicated products and what needs to be considered to build better products and experiences when tackling complications.”

– Sheena Wu, Product Designer

Looking ahead

We heard from wide-range of industry professionals—from NASA engineers to Google Design leads. The one shared insight we gathered from the culmination of the insights gathered from our time at the conference is the reality of the speed at which the industry is evolving. Understanding and respecting the different perspectives of people across skills and disciplines is critical to positioning our expertise in design thinking. We look forward to bringing these insights to life and applying them to our current and future design initiatives.

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