Conversation around the IxDA Awards

10 Feb 2014 - 7:25am
2 years ago
12 replies
5365 reads
Dave Malouf

Here's the link to the short list and finalists and winners of the IxDA Awards:

Steve Baty during the closing ceremonies of the conference said that we do these awards and similar initiatives to create a discourse in the community about them. I know I have little conversations here and there about them, but I don't see it happening in a way that moves things; that impacts the larger group. So I'll put this out here.

First off, I loved this year's awards. The video introductions were very well done and the entire ceremony was tasteful and entertaining. Thank you so much Janna & Niklas for crafting such a wonderful evening. 

One of the topics that I have been hearing and believe myself is the weight of finalist winners towards concepts over submissions that are in production. Yes, this is not 100% true, but it does suggest a possible (and maybe rightly so) bias for concept work over production work.

I'd like to suggest that maybe we create 2 categories (like the Golden Globes does for separating comedies from dramas) for concept work vs. production work. Concept work should be heavily assessed based on how well it presents a vision for the future that is grounded in research, yet exploratory of the unpredictable. Production work should be assessed almost entirely based on impact, first on intended impact and then on unintended impact.

I do like that the chair's award doesn't have to be limited to just the submissions. That award had me most confused. I see it's value in the future and the name of the award is future voice, but there is another opportunity that this selection always seems to miss (well the 2 years it's been running); that is what is awesome NOW. 

This issue seems doubly highlighted in light of this past year's amazing phenom of Nest. It was the presentaiton bingo winner by far. But I'm sure there are other examples.

Failure: What about darwin awards. this past year feels like such a tremendous case study of failure. There have to be others to compare to. The Gulf spill jumps to mind, as I'm sure others can think of more. Why go negative on such a positive evening? Because of balance. While it is great to reward what is awesome in IxD, I think it is balanced a soberig to note how much more work we still need to be doing and maybe where we need to be putting greater attention to detail in our work.

Enterprise: Enterprises do tremendous work in design, but the glitz of these awards makes it hard for the enterprise to get it's say. I think it great that SAP Labs won for their work this year, but looking back on previous years 18% of the categories would probably be a high percentage for enterprise work and the awards. Is this an issue of reaching out? Of the messaging of the awards? Not sure which way to think about this one; but as a long time Enterprise IxD this feels important.

What are your thoughts about the awards? Whatever they are, we should be discussing them appreciatively and critically and always respectfully.


11 Feb 2014 - 12:19am

All good points (but maybe the first is where is the best place to have this conversation, not sure this site is my first thought).

Failure - would tie in well with a great workshop that Jason Nunes hosted about how to f*ck up. I am sure he's got some great POVs on this we should review.

Enterprise - Feels like a nod toward the product v solution Rosenberg keynote/thesis. Also think it's close to the NN Group analysis of intranets (typically not understood by non-employees nor ever public).

But are we also missing the "U" in UX? These feel like the movies I am told are great by the Academy (Oscars) vs. the attending audience response. I suspect that is a tired topic (or handled by the surrogate People's Choice) but i'd love to see more input from the people who use the stuff we award.


p.s. best ixd awards event to date

11 Feb 2014 - 11:29am
Jack L. Moffett

So, you are suggesting that we give out two awards for every category: one for a concept and one for a product? Or, are you suggesting that there be one new category for concepts and the rest of the categories be left for products? It seems to me that the former (doubling the number of awards) would be too much and the latter would be too little attention paid to concept work. That said, I do sympathize with your point.

An award for bad design seems out of place to me. You wouldn't invite someone to be there to accept it. Perhaps there is some other way to address this in the conference outside of the awards program.

As for enterprise, I wonder if a major contributor is simply confidentiality. I'm not allowed to publish information about the work I do, so there's no way I can submit to the awards. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of other enterprise designers are in the same boat.

12 Feb 2014 - 6:43am
Vicky Teinaki

Personally, I'm not bothered by it: as a conference Interactions has had a focus on the future and seams of tech, and the awards are in a similar vein. Hell, there are more industry awards than you can shake a stick at (.net mag, Fastcompany, UX Awards, general design/digital awards in every country in the world) so if IXDA chooses more interesting options then power to them. 

12 Feb 2014 - 7:18am

Dave I agree with you. I liked this year ceremony. Was very to the point, with a great vibe. :)
I also get the point about the split between concept work and released work. I feel that the split Concept Awards + Production Awards could be a very good way also because it promotes the emphasis on both in a very clear way.

On the Nest example I'd say that it was surprising because it was also in Interation 13's presentation. If I recall correctly, it appeared at least 4 times, and I was one of the speakers that did it. I didn't this year however. ;)

The Failure category is something that could be very fun, but could also give the wrong signal. This is in triguing but should be done with a very, very careful messaging.

Loe the Enterprise one. As a person that worked almost entirely in enterprise for the past 4 years I can welcome this category a lot, because it's a field where we are both incredibly valued and incredibly not visible. Not just I feel I did amazing work that wasn't noticed, but I've also seen amazing work in a few presentations in the past that wasn't known. 

If I may contribute with something, I think that the Award could do something also beyond the event itself, to celebrate the craft. I'm borrowing an idea here from one of the most famous awards in Industrial Design (that is opening up, tho, so let's keep an eye on it): Compasso D'Oro. They do every year a book that is a collection of the best submitted entries. It's often a big book, and it's really a prize just be listed there due to the high bar it sets.

This model means that we could have a first tier of winners, that are the "2014 Interaction Excellence", and they all go on the book / catalogue / ad-hoc website / anything else, and from there we pick both the Shortlist (maybe with a different name?) and the final Winner. A three-tiered approach. :)

In a general sense I feel that we could do more on the aspect of collaterals, to build up both visibility and impact of the Awards themselves. :)

12 Feb 2014 - 6:29pm
Matt Nish-Lapidus

This is a great conversation to have.

Having had the privilege of being on the jury this year I can add a few comments, and some general opinions.

I can see why a split between concept and production could be desirable, but in the end wasn't really an issue for this year's jury. (FYI, there is a "best concept" award that is separate from the regular categories). Putting all the entries together in the way it's been done so far allows the jury to debate and decide on the aspects of the work that they think is "the best" for the year. This will vary from jury to jury, some swinging more towards concept and some towards product. I feel like there has been a good balance in all the years to date, and the jury knows which is which form the entries (it's not blind). 

I really valued the conversation we were able to have as a jury because of the fact that all the entries are together. We had to decide on the "best in show" selection and it really came down to a discussion of what we mean by "best" in this year. We decided to award something provocative and conceptual, but it was a tough call and not all juries would have done the same thing.

As for enterprise work, it is actually well represented in the entries, and the Swegon Navigator device by Veryday that won an award fits into this category. Could there be more enterprise entries? Probably, but it certainly wasn't lacking in this years short lists or finalists. There was also a mining instrument control panel and more in the short list.

The idea of considering the opinions and reactions of the end user of each product is interesting, but difficult. The way we tried to do that is to include "impact" as one of the judging criteria. We specifically ask for the results and impact of each entry, now how these are described and validated is another question. In order to keep the judging balanced we stick to the details and materials provided with each entry, for better or worse.

One immediate issue I see with separating "concept" and "production" pieces is how you define those categories. For instance, the Konnekt project that won the Connecting category was a "concept" product, but exists in reality, and is now being produced for actual installation in hospitals. All of the concept work we judged are things that are actually built in some form, even if it's only a one-off or prototype, and a lot of it is near production. The "best in show" winner is obviously a conceptual provocation more than some of the others, but he did build a functional version of the products in his concept. 

Anyway, just a few additional thoughts to throw into the fray. 

13 Feb 2014 - 11:20am
Joe Lamantia

A few brief pionts regarding the enterprise question. 


First, enterprise is what I call the 'dark matter' of UX / IXD / design - by mass of users and impact on the world, it outweighs 'consumer', but is not equally as visible in many of the channels for surfacing design work and outcomes. For this reason alone, it should get more attention (from all actors - community, clients, educators, etc.)

Second, the Swegon Navigator is not what I consider 'enterprise', for the simple fact that it was designed by an external agency.  This places it squarely in the category of what is typically considered 'consumer' in terms of who, where, and how the design work was most likely done.  By this I mean the design-as-service-provided-by-vendor-to-a-client model that shapes the entire effort.  It is unfortunate that this linkage between an external design delivery model and consumer problem space is so common, but it's also a reality that I think an award should take into account.  And yes, I am suggesting that the context of the work often has more to say about the result of the design effort than the expected end user (in this case, presumably not individuals making a purchase decision for their own / family use - commonly the hallmarks of 'consumer' design) - that's also  the reality of the world, and something I'd hope an award would address.

Third, while I'm happy to hear that the entries for this year included more from the enterprise camp, I suggest that this work is still under-represented, which is a result of the way that the awards process is attuned to the business and delivery models for 'consumer' design much more than for the enterprise landscape.  Simply put, it's a question of incentives: design-as-a-service firms of all types (from one-designer shops up to the big global agencies) have more to gain from any form of recognition in the awards process than an 'in-house' enterprise design staffer or team, so they make the effort, while most enterprise designers will not or cannot.

I'd urge the good people behind the awards to consider how they can design an awards process that encourages more participation from the 'enterprise' realm.  This means doing two things: first, putting together a good scratch definition of 'enterprise' that reflects an understanding of the reality of the work that's being done in this space and its business environment; and second, tuning the awards process to provide sufficient incentives for participation.


15 Feb 2014 - 9:23am
Dave Malouf

I'm confused by the "impact" criteria you mentioned. Maybe this just needs more transparency. E.g. maybe the final assessments can be seen so that people can see into the process more. It feels very opaque. The reality is that saying that "impact" is an issue, yet choosing projects that could never have real impact to their intended audiences beyond theoretical impact feels odd. I realize there are other criteria.

As to the question of what is concept vs. what is production. The Konnekt is squarely concept. It is not in production. There is one example out there and he is looking for funding to put it into production. Production, doesn't mean prototype. There are examples of 1-offs, but for me that limits it's ability to be impactful; but show me the measures.

The Navigator is both enterprise and consumer the same way a Honeywell Thermostat is. However, since the end user is a business to business context, it is definitely Enterprise. 

What I do like about this year is how different it was from previous years as it should be. New Juries mean new influences. new points of consideration. Also, each year has new submissions and we can only react to what is submitted. 

I do think there is a way to separate comedy from drama and concept from production. It may cause problems, but for an awards proposition, I do think it is very plausible. And to clarify I'm talking about 2 awards for each.

As for the process you went through, it sounds great, but if the outcome of that leaves more questions than answers, is it more valuable than the experience of it? Something your adience can never experience. Which is to say, is the process for you (jury member) or for us? Can we really have a conversation based on the results (besides the process itself)? Do these results really tell the history of this moment if so much of what was accmplished is not considered?

This last point relates to submission. It's my same issue w/ Red Dot, IDEA, etc. They only consider those projects that are submitted, but for every project submitted there are hundreds of great works that will never get submitted. To have 1 award (the chairperson's award) dedicated to those and only w/ a frame of "towards the future" seems to skip the historical moment that the awards should be representing.

Another completely tangential thought. As interaction designers, we deal in all levels of detail. I wonder if we could add a category for micro-interaction. Not that it is this year, but back in it's time wouldn't the spring refresh be worthy of our attention? 

In generaly, I would put a strong favoritism of "out in the wild" over concepts to the point that I would say that concepts should really only be one category and all the others should only include things that are out in the wild. I'd also completely separate student work from professional work in that concept category.

BTW, I don't understand why this isn't the right place for this conversation, @stojakovic? This is our community discussion board and this is a topic for the community, no?

15 Feb 2014 - 12:37pm

You continue to use the word "enterprise" in a way that confuses me.  I think you mean "built by a large company" which is quite different from how one usually talks about, say, "enterprise software."  Nest, despite being built by a corporation, is very definitely a consumer product, not an enterprise product.

17 Feb 2014 - 4:28pm
Dave Malouf

Nest is totally a consumer product. They sell directly to consumers as opposed to Honeywell which primarily sells the same product through builders/contractors. It's an interesting "dilemna" in that the same end-user experience has a very different design eco-system built into their business models.

But let's put that aside for a second. to me "enterprise" means the end user is not the customer. Size of the organization building it or buying it is irrelavant for me.

Hope that clarifies.

17 Feb 2014 - 5:48pm

You say "design eco-system" and I wonder what you mean.  I agree with you that a difference is the customer vs user distinction but I don't think that's the only thing that one has to think about from a design perspective.  Crucially, enterprise software is something that customers will often have people managing (think of the Outlook Server administrator or SQL Server admin) and often are associated with an executive sponsor at the C level.  Someone had to approve buying SQL Server versus Oracle, or whatever, and it's often that person's reputation on the line.  Then there's the whole cycle of (what is now mostly called) UAT where the software gets test-driven by a select group within the customer organization.  Etc.

I wonder if these things are true of any of the software considered by IXDA to be "enterprise" software.

17 Feb 2014 - 8:44pm
Dave Malouf

You are outlining for me what I mean. Enterprise scales to level of complexity boarding on wicked. I love the examples you point out above, but I would even go further and add what I've been calling the "accenture" factor. That is to say "true" enterprise software no matter how well designed is killed the moment the system integrators and VARs get their hands on it. When I was working at Documentum I would always say that 50% of the interface design is killed the moment we let go of the release. It was worse than going into usability testing, when I would walk into customer's sites to do contextual inquiries hoping to see "my beautfiul" designs being used by real people just to see the horror that was unleashed on these poor souls. (Yes, I'm being melodramatic on purpose). 

18 Feb 2014 - 1:59pm
Erico Fernandes...

I really would like an improvement with voting system. We from Welab had a big problem with voting.
Twice the number of voting was changed to down: First time because the system was changed to Facebook voting and the second time was reset. 
Our client (for who we designed the app) didn't invest in publicizing because considered we hadn't a robust voting system.

It's an important topic to think about for next year!

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