Top 5 Delightful Insights from BigDesign 2018

   Community and Events

A Great Little Conference

The BigDesign 2018 conference brought great topics and speakers to the Dallas area for a very affordable 2-day event. The goal was to help us think bigger and see design from different perspectives. BigDesign was a powerful conference, in a unique venue, that delivered good bang for the buck. Read on to learn more about multimodal interfaces, chatbots, and data science.

Multimodal Interfaces

A multimodal interface appeals to multiple senses to deliver an improved customer experience. The presentations related to multimodal interfaces broadened my thinking. Cassini Nazir shared the idea of designing for more than two or three senses. He explained that as many as 33 senses have been identified. As a result, we should design for more than vision, hearing, and touch.

Cassini Nazir - Design of the Past, Present, and Future

Cassini Nazir – Design of the Past, Present, and Future

I also enjoyed a great talk by @MartiGold on the new frontier of multimodal interfaces. “Multimodal interfaces allow users to seamlessly integrate two or more of their senses when interacting with a system, so they can engage with that system in much the same way they engage with the physical world.” – Marti Gold.

She talked about the benefits and limitations of voice and visual design. Combining them in the right ways makes more effective interfaces. I loved her use of Grice’s maxims to guide the design of multimodal interfaces.

I found her top ten multimodal design tips and takeaways super helpful, especially:

  • #2 Prepare your org for an update right after launch
  • #3 Put new emphasis on journey maps (BTW Modus Create is great at journey maps)
  • #6 Be contextual and field testing is important
  • #6 When scoping, put in 3x your normal time for testing
  • #9 Think “voice first” (we used to say think mobile first)
  • #10 Remember “what is good at what”

Marti Gold - New Frontier of Multimodal Interfaces: Are you ready?

Marti Gold – New Frontier of Multimodal Interfaces: Are you ready?

Finally, she discussed the difficulties with prototyping. There aren’t any true multimodal prototyping tools yet. In the meantime, she gave workarounds using existing tools.

Multimodal Tools


There were several great talks on chatbots at BigDesign. Sarah Burton and Alex Ornelas were super sharp. They presented on best practices for chatbots. The opportunities to develop and apply chatbots are huge. According to an Oracle survey, 80% of businesses already use or plan to use chatbots by 2020. A HubSpot study found 47% of shoppers are open to buying from a chatbot.

There are all kinds of bots including domain-specific bots, text bots, and voice bots. Bots can be scripted or driven from AI. Sarah and Alex shared some great information on what a chatbot team should look like. The team included some non-typical roles like data scientist, content strategist, and UX audio.

They shared a few key design considerations. For voice, silence is equivalent to negative space. With chatbots the environmental context is especially important. You have to think about bot misuse. Will people say things to your bot to get it to say inappropriate things?

Sarah Burton & Alex Ornelas  - Deus UX Machina

Sarah Burton & Alex Ornelas – Deus UX Machina

Alex and Sarah emphasized you have to “baby the bot”. If you want a mature bot, you’re going to have to keep an eye on the data. Bots need significant nurturing and teams need to be ready for the commitment, even when it’s a simple bot. They gave some great examples of different kinds of bots and tools. For more detail see Sarah’s slideshare.

As an example, Jayneil Dalal described his journey making a Slack-based chatbot for a conference. I appreciated how transparent he was. He discussed several failures along the way. He gave great advice about developing a personality for your bot. Be able to describe who your bot would be if they were a real or fictional person. He also recommended establishing a style guide for how the bot communicates. I liked his story about selecting keywords. At first they used “WiFi” for a trigger. Whenever someone said “WiFi” the bot would interrupt their conversation with conference info. They changed the keyword to “WiFi password” or “WiFi login”. This improved the customer experience. For more detail see Jayneil’s Medium post.

Chatbot examples and tools


BigDesign 2018 also included great leadership presentations. Kim Goodwin gave an engaging keynote with valuable guidance on change leadership. She described the different types of people in the continuous change cycle. Understanding the different types of people can help you lead change.

Kim Goodwin’s opening keynote

Kim Goodwin’s opening keynote

These groups of people reminded me of the way Jack Welch thought of groups at GE. He saw three main levers of control. The police: professional nit-pickers and second-guessers on the strategic planning and finance staffs. The media: executive speeches and publications from employee magazines to the corporate annual report. And the schools: Crotonville and GE training.

I love pithy guidance on being a leader, and Kim shared hers:

  • Keep promises
  • Give credit
  • Admit failures
  • Model behavior
  • Avoid self-interest
  • Address problems
  • Ask for opinions
  • Results not methods
  • Delegate responsibility
  • Show you care

One of my favorite talks was from Emily Tate (@thedailyem), US General Manager at Mind the Product. She covered, Stuck in the Middle, Mastering Stakeholder Management. A key point was that strong stakeholder management can be the difference between a good leader and a great one. Emily is an engaging speaker who shares great examples. I loved the stakeholder onion for organizing stakeholders.

Emily Tate - Stuck in the Middle, Mastering Stakeholder Management

Emily Tate – Stuck in the Middle, Mastering Stakeholder Management

She had some great questions for doing stakeholder interviews. Her categorization of core team, high-touch, and low-touch clarifies communication. She also shared common mistakes when managing stakeholders:

  • Not having alignment on goals
  • Lack of transparencyFalling prey to the HiPPO (highest paid person’s opinion)
  • Not knowing what battles to pick

She followed up with tactics to avoid these mistakes. For example, goals alignment workshops and scorecards. I liked her idea about using blogs and videos to document a project.

Bryan Goodwin, CEO & Sr. VFX Supervisor, Shade VFX came as part of the Industry Giants event. It was interesting to hear the perspective of someone who had worked on recognized titles like X-Men, Avatar, and The Hobbit. He shared his accessible list on being a leader before taking questions.

  • Empathy
  • Incentive
  • Be dexterous
  • Light touch vs. heavy touch
  • Don’t be afraid to be wrong
  • Surround with better, smarter, more talented
  • Open minded and listen
  • Be honest but not a dick
  • Self aware – self critical
  • Beat yourself up & forgive yourself
  • Easy now -> suck forever
  • Maybe not today but always tomorrow
  • Can’t make everyone happy
  • Post mortem
  • Inspiration is everywhere
  • Treat others how you want to be treated

Data Science

Ricky Hennessy shared on Nine principles for designing great data products. Data science uses methods to gain insights from large sets of data. Data scientists use business acumen, analytical skill, and knowledge of technology to make unstructured data understandable. Harvard Business Review called it the sexiest job of the 21st century. Data science can help you identify opportunities, automate processes, and identify patterns. Data scientists use a lot of tools, but Python and R are the leaders.

Ricky Hennessy gave a great description of the data science process and then later tied that to the design process.

Ricky Hennessy - Nine principles for designing great data products

Ricky Hennessy – Nine principles for designing great data products

The amount of data available is growing exponentially. Data science will only become more important. It’s already leveraged in products we use every day. For example, Google maps, search, and recommendations on Amazon. It’s also used in products like Fitbit, Redfin, and Stitch Fix.

Ricky finished up with some recommendations on designing great data products:

  • Collect data passively
  • Don’t exhaust the user
  • Allow for feedback
  • Let users feel in control
  • Meet unexpected needs
  • Invoke discovery and delight
  • Build trust with transparency
  • Don’t overload users with data
  • Blend in

Data Science Tools


There was a theme running through the conference on the philosophy and ethics of design. That designers have a responsibility to make the world a better place. We are part of something bigger than designing a great screen or component. This was very inspiring and made the keynotes alone worth attending.

The live interview with Stephan Martiniere, as part of the Industry Giants event, was enlightening. He was able to grow his career and capabilities by being available, jumping on opportunities to do new things, and working hard. This attitude and flexibility led to a career covering animation, games, film, concept art, book covers, costuming, and even theme parks. Really inspiring.

Learn More

Check out all the BigDesign 2018 conference presentations here!

Book recommendations mentioned at #BigD2018:

  • Diagnosing and changing organizational culture: Based on the Competing Values Framework – Kim Cameron, Robert E. Quinn
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown
  • Designing Across Senses – Christine W Park & John Alderman
  • Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People – Michele Root-Bernstein and Robert Root-Bernstein

This website uses cookies

These cookies are used to collect information about how you interact with our website and allow us to remember you. We use this information in order to improve and customize your browsing experience, and for analytics and metrics about our visitors both on this website and other media. To find out more about the cookies we use, see our Privacy Policy.

Please consent to the use of cookies before continuing to browse our site.

Like What You See?

Got any questions?