Rebase 2015

I was lucky to attend the Rebase design event last week. It was a packed three days that kicked off with three talks at Wednesday evening’s Fringe event in NCAD.

Fringe Event

The first from Love & Robots‘ co-founder Kate O’Daly showcased their phenomenally interesting work with customisable fashion accessories and 3D printing bridging design and technology. Check out their customisable bow ties to see the future of fashion and the democratisation of one offs.

Goran Peuc, Principal UX Designer at SAP Dublin, talked design and mortality. Good design should solve problems and save us time which is, though we’re not always consciously aware, finite. Good design ensures that we can complete (often mundane) tasks quickly and get on with the more important task of living our lives.

We don’t often hear enough talks about how to build or manage design teams which Lynsey Thornton, Director of UX Research at Shopify, considers  a design challenge. How do you keep good people engaged with their jobs and offer them a sense of career progression without forcing them into management positions?Not everybody wants to end up signing off timesheets or overseeing as team’s work. In Shopify this isn’t considered an inevitable outcome – Senior Designers can stay doing what they like doing rather than taking a role they may not want or be suited to.





Friday re-located to the stately surroundings of an unseasonably sun drenched Royal Hospital in Kilmainham where we were treated to a full day of talks.

Christopher Murphy from Ulster University started the day with a slight return to the theme of mortality and took his lead from Don Norman’s notion of ‘Late Binding’, or procrastination as a tool. According to Norman:

A bit of stress focuses the mind, allowing the final compilation of all the earlier random, creative thoughts.

A large proportion of the lead up to a deadline is procrastination and often the ‘real work’ starts as the deadline comes unavoidably near. Procrastination shouldn’t necessarily be considered time wasted since we may have been working on passion projects which can, in turn, inform the task at hand.

Either that or you’ve squandered an afternoon on Facebook…

Life is short – the average lifespan is days for a male UK resident 31,025 (see where you are on this calendar and perhaps spend the rest of the day staring out the window) so why not spend that time doing things you love?

It’s obvious that large parts of the healthcare industry could benefit from design thinking as well as the efficiencies offered by technological disruption however in practice this isn’t an easy thing to achieve. In a talk based on his blog post,
“The UX Revolution in Healthcare”,‘s Henry Poskitt outlined 6 reasons why healthcare is ripe for patient focussed UX.

Frontend have been involved with the sector for over 4 years and it’s become obvious that healthcare is ripe for change. However, despite an initial fervour to wholesale change the industry, it became evident that currently we are wading through the ‘trough of disillusionment’.

Change is hard and often there’s a cultural mismatch when designers meet healthcare. The healthcare sector has many diverse players (with diverse sets of goals), is built on long timelines, and tends, unsurprisingly, to be risk averse. These factors place it in direct opposition to the prototype and iterate methods favoured in the design world.

Elizabeth McGuanes talk on content strategy was titled “Useful ways to lose your temper” and focussed on design arguments – the ones many of us can relate to where the aim is shared though the methods and perspectives within a team differ. Being an advocate involves knowing who you are designing for but when differing opinions on how to implement that design arise know that you can’t win if arguing from different principles.

Claire Rowland is a UX and Product Consultant who has co-authored the O’Reilly book Designing Connected Products and detests the term ‘Internet of Things’. Typically the image of a connected home is one where lightbulbs and washing machines (always a washing machine!) are turned on or off with the touch of smartphone app but, according to Rowland, “There are much easier ways to make a crap remote control without invoking the internet”.

Latency and reliability are a normal part of web use and have been since the outset – we’re used to pages not loading when using the web since our mental model of these systems permits this unpredictability. That’s not a given, however, with products the real world – we’re used to a light switch turning on or off every time. We don’t expect switches to have latency because the state should just change instantly. Designers of connected products should factor this latency  in and consider strategies to overcome it. One such approach is the ‘white lie’ where action is confirmed even before the action has occurred which is reversed in the event that something goes wrong.

Interfaces where interactions span devices (like the Nest thermostat device, smartphone app and web interface) lean heavily on UI consistency. The take away from this incredibly stimulating talk was that designing across devices is hard and we may not be at the point where the ‘connected home’ is a reality yet.



After lunch Sarah Drummond talked service design and showed how Snook have been instrumental in embedding design in the Scottish public sector. “Good design”, says Drummond, “should start with a problem instead of an idea”. The Cyclehack and Dearest Scotland projects are just two ways projects that have come from Snook.

You’ll often hear that ‘design is a conversation’ but Intercom‘s Director of Product Design, Emmet Connolly took it a step further by exploring the possibility of messaging as an OS. Emmett has a background in uncovering new contexts for interactions – he was part of the original Android Wear team and kicked off his talk with the Henry Ford quote:

progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready and then it is inevitable

Messaging as a platform has come of age and it could be that a more conversational approach to interaction could be inevitable. Thing of an OS that we use only by messaging commands. Want a taxi? Rather than opening an app send a message and your OS just pings a cab. This use of ‘Bots’ is already just beginning to permeate the likes of messaging app Slack where Slackbot uses natural language to help you with small tasks like completing your profile. According to Emmet, Bots are to messaging apps as APIs were to Web 2.0.

Kara Pecknold, Associate Creative Director with Frog Design, showcased Frog’s work in developing countries that’s based on empowerment and social innovation. As Allan Chochinov wrote in his manifesto:

We think that we’re in the artifact business, but we’re not; we’re in the consequence business

Frog’s work in Myanmar includes setting up a design thinking centre for community engagement. You can see some of that work at

In an effort to move design thinking out of the design world Frog created the Collective Action Toolkit to spur innovation in non-design oriented organisations like community groups. This does a pretty good job of simplifying the design process and de-jargoning many of the concepts to make them accessible to those who don’t have design backgrounds.

Gerry McGovern at Rebase 2015It’s not easy being the last speaker of the day – audience fatigue tends to set in some time after lunch however Gerry McGovern‘s keynote talk was brimming with incredulous discontent and a storm the barricades exuberance. Gerry talked about the erosion of blind trust and how designers must be aware that to create trust we should create simplicity. If you need to tell your customers it’s simple, then it’s probably not. When surveyed 80% of companies thought they delivered “superior customer service” while only 8% of customers believe that the same companies deliver a “superior customer service”.

That serves to illustrate the not uncommon disconnect between how organisations are perceived and how they perceive themselves. It’s no longer within an organisation’s power to have their command their customer’s loyalty. A company like Google don’t spend large amounts of money telling us how good their products are because we discover that through use. “A good designer”, according to Gerry, “doesn’t control the design but designs the controls”.

It was an exhilarating end to a packed and thought provoking event. Lots to think about and I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *