Last Thursday, Euan and I attended Create Leicester’s first ever full day event at the Curve theatre in Leicester. Billed as a day of ‘insights to inspire digital creators’ and boasting a cracking line up of individuals from the digital design industry, we were excited to see what nuggets of wisdom the day would have to offer. 

Having settled into our seats with a pastry and coffee, and after a forage through our gift bags the day kicked off with the first talk from Ben Holliday. Ben works as the Chief Design Officer for FutureGov, who ‘use design, technology and organisation development approaches to create public services fit for the 21st century.’ Ben’s talk, titled ’A Design State of Mind’ talked about how the way we think about the design process can reflect the outcomes created. He spoke about the key thought processes to cultivate as designers - such as openness to new ideas and keeping the user experience central to the design process. A key take away was to try and leave assumptions by the wayside and rather than asking  'How can we prove we're right?' we should ask 'How might we be wrong about this?'. Ben pulled in lots of cultural references to illustrate his points, making the talk feel well paced and entertaining. A great jumping off point for the rest of the day!

Next up to speak was UX Consultant at Sparckhq, Helen Joy. Her talk was wittily called ‘Who’s design is it anyway’ and elaborated on the ideas of the prior talk by highlighting the need to target our designs at the actual user from an informed position not the user as we assume them to be. Describing real life examples where she and her team had found ideas disproved by site visits or user research, Helen explained how we need to create designs that worked for users who may well be a lot more digitally illiterate then us digital designers - and even not to make assumptions about the environment in which they are interacting with our products. 

Emma Parnell , was the last speaker before lunch. Service Design Lead at AddactionUK. Emma’s talk focused on her experiences of changing her role in order to give vital design knowledge and expertise to the charity sector and was called ‘Making a Change’. She honestly expressed the challenges faced by the charity sector and the impact that the change had had on her both professionally and mentally. It was very impressive to see someone overcome her own anxieties in order to put across the need for more design expertise in this vital sector clearly and in a heartfelt way. It was clear from her talk and delivery, how seriously Emma took her role and how strongly she felt that this area needed greater support. A very interesting and raw talk to mull over whilst munching on our sandwiches and pasta salad.

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What do you see? What do you think the world needs to see? You get to design what happens next

Ben Holliday

After Lunch was another talk which, similarly to emma’s talk - had greater introspection and a personal narrative. Jaskiran Kang, Lead UX Designer at ESFA, focused on ‘Having a self vision’ speaking about her experiences as the daughter of immigrants and how that has influenced her own world view. She shared with us her personal and professional journey and how this had informed her own specific ‘self vision’. She encouraged each of us to consider our own goals and values in order to create our own self vision and to look at how this might fit into our professional lives. She theorised that when we are frustrated and unfulfilled with work this can be due to our own vision and values clashing with the vision and values of our workplace. 

With a slight tonal change Dan Jones, Creative Director of Content Discovery at BBC User Experience & Design, took us into the future with his session on ‘Exploring the tools and competences of Speculative Design’. This talk made me slightly afraid of my doorbell. However it also gave us a fascinating insight into how designers can plan for the future and how important it is to consider our design from reasonable and informed hypotheticals. This can help us to avoid potential future issues or capitalise on possible future opportunities. 

A familiar face to Create Leicester John Adda, Product Design Lead ClearScore, brought a bit of light relief after some dystopian speculation by showing us some truly diabolical examples of failed design. He took us back to design principles by sharing with us his own thoughts on how good design requires beauty, simplicity and utility. Three simple building blocks to remember and utilise in every design project.

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Anyone who creates experiences is a designer

Johan Adda

Our final talk was by Head of Design System at LloydsBankLily Dart.  Her talk was a  ‘Design System 101’ and shared with us what they were, what they can do and why or when an organisation or company may need one. The main thread through her talk was highlighting the importance of consistency within design and how this must work across an organisation, with clarity between both designers and developers being essential.

The day was capped off with the chance to network and talk through what we all had enjoyed most about the day over a free drink at a local bar. Personally I felt the variety and accessibility of the talks was brilliant. With each talk lasting just 30 minutes, the day was pacey and not too heavy. Each speaker gave clear points and used lots of real world or pop culture references ensuring to keep us all on the same page and engaged. I really appreciated the personal recollections and experiences of professionals. All in all a really successful first day event for Create Leicester - hopefully the first of many.