Xlab 2015 Charts the Journey from Digital Technology to User Experience

On our path to integrate digital technologies into user experiences that connect people to place, Xlab 2015showed that we have definitely passed through the Valley of Disillusionment and are heading up the Slope of Enlightenment. The journey is long and slow but will change the world as we know it!

The Gartner Group has developed a model showing how technologies get implemented. Called the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, it can teach us about how technologies will be integrated into Experiential Graphic Design and user experience. Presentations at Xlab 2015 last week (Nov. 5 and 6 in New York City) showed us that digital technology integration into the environment is definitely on the same fairly predictable path: It will be a long, slow (10-20 year) haul from “that’s a great idea” to Wow, this stuff is seriously changing the world.

Xlab 2015 aimed to strike a good balance between inspirational and more practical content. It felt like we really got it right this time around, not because we are so intuitive, but because of the progress firms have made to find how to implement these technologies in useful ways. Two years ago, we had a number of sessions on Smart Cities. Many wondered what this might possibly have to do with Experiential Graphic Design. These sessions were inspirational and strategic in nature, but with little practical evidence of how this idea could be implemented.

As we heard at Xlab 2015 last week, things have certainly changed, and designers, planners, municipalities, and makers are figuring out practical and feasible applications for cities and built environments. Here are just a few of the reports we heard “from the field”:

  • Brad Gleeson of CIVIQ Smartscapes and Mike Clare of Intersection presented the solution they have been working on for five years already. The LinkNYC program is in the prototype phase now and will roll out to 10,000 LinkNYC units in all five boroughs of New York City. Mike Clare spoke about the Golden Triad of creating things that are beneficial to the city and citizens—that point in the middle of three circles to represent Cities, Citizens, and Commerce. And he took us through their agile process for creating a usable interface to meet the demands of each audience segment.
  • Becky Stern of Adafruit told us about the hacker/DIY movement in wearables and provided perspective on how wearables fit into the overall integration of digital technology in our environment.
  • Jared Ficklin of argodesign talked about the experimental work he is doing on voice-activated and many-to-one computing interfaces. He demo’ed a smart space that responds effortlessly to basic human gestures and spoke about the “other singularity,” his provocative take on how we should think in terms of responsibility when it comes to bringing these intelligent environments to fruition and how we will need to consider using them for the good rather than to just sell more product.
  • Darren David of Stimulant about his vision for Experiential Graphic Design. He reminded us how important it is, in this increasingly digital, impersonal world, to create experiential spaces that bring people together because “sharing a smile with a stranger is much more memorable” than engaging with technology alone. He also left us with a very inspiring thought: “Create Magicians, Not Magic.” Don’t do the magic for them… let them create it together.
  • We also heard insights from experts on retail and how technology integration is not just desirable, but absolutely necessary for survival. David Kepron of Little and author of Retail (r)Evolution, told Xlab attendees that younger generations are getting less empathetic—and what does that mean about how we’ll connect with them?
  • Flavia Sparacino of Sensing Places walked us through her process with clients and explained how we can move past that “I want an Apple Store” request, and get into the true reasons why they need technology (hint: not just for technology’s sake). She said that sometimes it’s important to turn down a request for technology, when necessary – if anything, you must “build trust” and sometimes that means saying no.
  • Josh Goldblum of Bluecadet expressed a similar sentiment when he revealed his scoring system for what projects and clients his studio engages with and what they pass on. He said it’s important for the culture of the organization to bring in projects that align with the core values and something the team “can really geek out on.”

Xlabbers also got to demo the much-anticipated first-of-its-kind Planar® LookThru™ OLED transparent display from Xlab’s Presenting Sponsor, Planar Systems. The designers were excited to hear about Planar’s Clear Concept Design Awards challenge, which invites innovative designs for the breakthrough technology. Here is a video about the new display.

Xlab was an amazing two days full of information and inspiration. Optional studio and project tours on Nov. 6 were a big hit. Heath Pedrola of Dotdash came all the way from Brisbane, Australia, and he wasn’t disappointed. He tweeted: “Great morning spent with the team at ESIDesign #Xlab2015 @dotdash @segd #digitaldialogue. Wonderful insight.”

At the SEGD NYC chapter mixer after Xlab, the place was literally vibrating with people animated and excited about what they had just heard. The integration of digital technology into the experiences we create has just reached a new level this year, and that was apparent at Xlab!

In fact we could even dare to say we got a glimpse of what the "Steve Wozniak" of experiential Graphic Design might look like. Best hurry if you want a part in the creation of the coming wave of experiential graphic design interfaces!

To see what we mean, take a look at the SEGDTalks Videoswhen they become available on the website in a few weeks’ time!

A final thank you to our sponsors who helped make this event such a success: Planar Systems, Daktronics, Design Communications Ltd., Image Manufacturing Group, Color-Ad Signs and Exhibits, AGI Sign, NanoLumens, AVS Signage & Visuals, Christie Digital, E Ink, Nanov Display, Reality Interactive, SenovvA, Signage Foundation Inc., and OpenEye Global. 

More Xlab recap, from our media partner, The Daily DOOHwww.dailydooh.com/archives/111260www.dailydooh.com/archives/111250www.dailydooh.com/archives/111078

Another review from David Haynes of Sixteen:Nine, 

New Member Offer

Click to access the 2020 "Never been an SEGD member before" $185 sign up offer

Upcoming SEGD Events

2023 SEGD Academic Summit
2023 Experience Washington D.C.
2023 Branded Environments