PixelUp! 2018 – A review by Freethinkers

In Blog article by Freethinking Business Consultants

A couple of weeks’ ago, in the middle of March 2018, the 3rd annual PixelUp! event took place at Oakfield Farm in Muldersdrift, just 20 minutes from Johannesburg centre. The exquisite, tranquil setting proved to be the perfect place to form new UX and product design ideas, connections and perspectives.

Hosted and run by Farai Madzima, formerly from South Africa and now working for Shopify in Canada as their UX Lead, the three-days of talks and workshops boasted a mix of speakers from the United States, Canada and South Africa. Hailing from companies such as Dropbox, Barclays Africa and Intercom, these authors, speakers and experts – who’ve worked on products used by millions worldwide every day – shared profound and beneficial insights through a series of in-depth talks and hands-on workshops.

Some of our Freethinking UX Designers were afforded the opportunity to attend this incredible event. They had this to say about their experience:

“What a privilege to attend my first PixelUp conference! I was blown away by the quality and variety of speakers. Teamwork and tech were the two main themes of the talks. These were the main points I took away from the conference:

” Designers need to step up and take responsibility by thinking and understanding the business needs and technology used to create the apps we design. We can’t create great products by being ignorant and isolated.
” There are challenges when it comes to working with a diverse team, but one of the benefits is that such a team can provide an early ethical warning which elevates our products from good to excellent.
” We need a shared language! As designers, this takes the form of a consistent style guide. Using metaphors can help us establish a shared understanding with our users and gain more insights.

Some highlights included meeting and networking with amazing people and speakers in our industry. And let’s not forget the beautifully designed swag – shout out to Hilde for doing a fantastic job!”

Fiona Botha

“This year’s PixelUp tackled design from a strategic perspective and took a more in-depth view of design thinking. It was great to see the talks move from the ‘how’ of UX design more towards the ‘why’. The calibre of speakers was, as always, a highlight of the event.”

Clare McNally

“Awesome speakers, with a mix of not-your-usual topics. The importance of understanding the culture within an organisation and building great relationships was a strong thread on the first day. PixelUp! is always a conference that excites and ignites the designer in you.”

Tracey Wolstenholme

“What I enjoy about PixelUp! is that it gets better and better with each year. This year’s theme was extremely interesting as it explored processes and team cultures. What I personally loved was the validation of a lot of points I am currently implementing with the teams I am working with. It’s always good to know whether you are on par with the rest of the world and that is what PixelUp! is for me. It’s my gauge.”

Michéle de Sousa

“My best moments where the Ethan Marcotte and Karen McGrane talks. Ethan spoke about responsive design, whereas Karen addressed the importance of creating adaptive content that is relevant to the context. Since we are integrally involved with the Design System at Nedbank, their thoughts really resonated with us.

After Ethan Morcotte’s talk, we managed to catch up with him and asked his thoughts on our process. It was most encouraging to receive positive feedback from him, as we now know that we are moving in the right direction.”

Joanne Bishop

“I thoroughly enjoyed the talk from Jonathan Korman about developing T-shaped skills. It refocussed my thinking as a new UX professional to find those skills I want to develop fully instead of trying to specialise in the entire UX field.

(It was also hilarious when he showed a slide in his presentation of a unicorn representing a person who specialises in everything UX and UI, captioned ‘I also do accounting!’)”

Bernice van der Westhuizen

“What I found interesting and useful was the Wicked problems: The black holes we’re designing into our future tech and Cultural bias in design(ers) talks. Both topics were relatable as the exact same experience is encountered by many designers within organisations. It empowered me to start seeing things from a different perspective with regards to my way of work.”

Ntuthuko Ntumba

Interestingly, one of the highlights of PixelUp! this year was the discussion of culture and how it can unknowingly create bias when designing for the end-user. One of our very own Freethinkers, Kate van Niekerk, explored this very topic in a blog towards the end of last year. Go here to read more: https://freethinking.co.za/ethnography-think-more-deeply-ux/

The gems that we gather at amazing industry connect sessions like PixelUp! can be forgotten as we become engrossed in our everyday activities and deadlines. If you attended Pixelup! this year, we encourage you to reflect on the lessons you learnt and put them into practice. And if you didn’t, chat to a colleague that did or even do some of your own personal work reflection. As UX professionals, we should always be growing and evolving to deliver the best results for the users we are designing for.