UXcampNL madness: bridging the gaps and becoming UX unicorns

Dear readers,

If you want to know more about the most awesome UX event in the world, you are at the right place!

UXcampNL tradition goes back to the year 2009; being the first one of its kind in the Netherlands, more specifically in Eindhoven. This year I had the honour to be part of the organising committee, so let me tell you more about it.

UX (user experience) camp is an “unconference”, born from the desire to bring together the industry and academic communities to share knowledge in an open environment. It is present in many places, such as UXcampEurope (Germany), UXcampDublin(Ireland), UXcampNL and UXcampAmsterdam (The Netherlands), UXcampBrighton(UK), UXcampCopenhagen (Denmark) and many more.

UXcampNL is known to be a completely free and open environment, a safe place to share ideas, projects or even challenges. Participants come from different parts of the world and bring with them a baggage of various UX (and non-UX) knowledge. They themselves are the ones who shape the event by giving talks or facilitating workshops. To make it even better, the variety of talks presented at UXcampNL is always depicted. This year, the variety can be seen from the titles of our 3 best talk awards:

  • 1st prize: “How to combine design methods with agile and remain sane” (by Den Tsekrovnyi — @dtserkovnyi)
  • 2nd prize: “Introvert’s guide to user research” (by Maria Leonova@marys_point)
  • 3rd prize: “UX & robotics: bridging the gap” (by Nina Buchina — @METiger)

This year, some of our sponsors had the opportunity to expose their shining talent(s). We invited Mirabeau and StudyPortals (two awesome companies everyone should check out) to take part in workshops.

Mirabeau shined in explaining the secret of their wireframing, calling it: “Breaking the Fairy Tale of Wireframes”. StudyPortals on the other hand, shined in “A Grand Experiment (of 50 minutes ;)) in Multidisciplinary Teamwork” (*we heard about the paper plane challenge StudyPortals, smart move*).

As a new addition to the UXcampNL, we organised the panel discussion. We had the joy to invite Karin Slegers (KU Leuven), Gabriela Braga (IBM) and Ivor Grisel (TU/e) for an intriguing one-hour discussion. Topics varied from current hypes in the UX, future concerns and fears, tips and suggestions and many more.

Some of the questions posed by the audience were: What will be the next big move in UX? And what are the biggest challenges experts face in everyday work? Are we going become UX cyborg designers and/or UX drone researchers?

Aside than having fear about the unknown future, participants were interested in the panelist’s job experience, specifically “How do we bridge gaps between design and engineering, or design and research? How can everyone be on the same page and speak the same language?”

This event wouldn’t be possible without an amazing team of hard-working and passionate people. The organisers are UX professionals from the User-System Interaction (USI) programme at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). Add them and to talk to them, give them some love. 🙂

To recap, I had the honour to be part of the UXcampNL and experience…

… a total of 200+ reserved tickets

… so many nationalities and disciplines

… UX Designers, UX Researchers, Front-End Developers and many more

6 organisers and 8 volunteers

9 amazing sponsors

16 talks, 3 workshops, 3 members of the panel discussion

… A lot, a lot, a lot of energy, enthusiasm and fun

To conclude, I feel that people in this community are ready to change the world of UX. I saw people with stories and passions, ready to show their superpowers. Coming back to the title, we are not ready to become UX unicorns, but we already are (*). As a personal note, I would like to encourage everybody to start the UX camp initiative in your town or even country. It is amazing to discover and come across different stories and experiences. If in doubt, I am more than willing join the conversation!

A big shout out to Gabriela Braga, she inspired me to write this article. Thank you, Gabi!

For more info visit http://www.uxcamp.nl/ and follow us everywhere (@UXcampNL).

Enjoy your day!


“Humans are driven by the right combination of emotion and reason, at a particular point in time.”

“Humans are driven by the right combination of emotion and reason, at a particular point in time.” (IBM Innovation Jams)

Hi all,

Not long time ago I had a chance to assist an Innovation Jam from IBM in Dublin, where 3 amazing UX Designers from IBM Design where presenting the “IBM Design Thinking”. First of all, I am myself in the UX field, so the term Design Thinking was not new, however, I found some interesting points that I would like to share with you.

If you take a look at the logo (the infinite icon, or an 8 rotated for 90 degrees) there are three points, two at the extremes and one in the middle, all joined together. These three points represent the “observe — reflect — make”, which makes the basis of the design thinking principle, and the joint is the iteration of the agile development.

Design thinking has been around for a while now, used by many companies to innovate their businesses. In these cases, DT (design thinking) can vary from model to model. Some define phases such asunderstand, explore, prototype and evaluate (this one comes from IBMactually)… others have a much detailed focus (ex. Liedka — Design Thinking for Business Innovation). Typically tools used in these processes are very “user needs” focused, whereas IBM take into account also user’semotional part. Still being user-centred tools such as “Customer Empathy Maps, Persona Building, As — If Scenarios” are used to build aSTORY of a user, taking into account not only the needs, but also what he/she thinks, feels, sees and hears.

Usually, if I think about design thinking, I am always afraid that the process is too static, almost like a waterfall, a step-by-step guide, which professionals tend to follow. Here, however, comes into play theagile methodology, where professionals or experts use iterativeprocesses (go through different iterations) to try out new or improved concepts. Through these iterations, come into play the user and/or other stakeholders (since we are designing for them, not to forget), which enriches the process itself.


(A) They are taking into account users’ emotions, thoughts, etc.

(B) They are not being static, but rather iterative.

To reflect upon the whole experience I was really glad I could be a part of it. However, they ended the workshop by saying “Humans are driven by emotion, not by reason”, which I totally agreed at the time (……. 5 weeks ago). If you ask me today, I would partly disagree. Why?

From my experience, the outcomes of such processes are not always one-directional. They tend to be rich in diversity of input, which is sometimes very difficult to prioritise when creating the concept. Coming back to the statement, I believe that the winning factor is this exact relationship between these two aspects, EMOTION and REASON, in a certain time slot. So, I would like to end by rephrasing the quote:

“Humans are driven by the right combination of emotion and reason, at a particular point in time.”

Thanks for your time,


How can we translate expression into objects? — Fast prototyping in the “fuzzy” front-end


I will start by saying the fuzzy front-end of a design process is the very initial phase of exploration, brainstorming and idea generation where the result is not clear (in my words: “I learn by doing and consequently, I will grow something out of it: could be a building, could be a letter”).

By this task, I was quite intrigued by the movement of the pupil since it is really mysterious. It can dilate due to related emotions, substances, light/darkness, etc. Being part of a Masters in IT Product Design helped think quickly through rough prototypes. This project was done in 2 two days and the results could differ from obvious expectations.

DAY1: In the first day, the endless exploration of my pupil’s behaviour and research on digital platforms was needed in order to create a context of understanding of the expression. Given the chance to have some entities such as LED, servo motor, Arduino Leonardo, an elastic hairband and tons of bricks of LEGO, the exploration started. The aim of the day is to try to replicate an opening/closing effect of the pupil. To translate this action on a tangible surface was complex since for me it didn’t create any meaning. Looking at a video of a pupil made me think of what are the possible reasons for it to dilate, looking at the prototype I could only hear the sound of a servo motor trying to break my elastic hairband.

DAY2: On the second day I took a different approach. Rather than understanding/exploring the pupil on myself and the digital platform, I started to concentrate on what this prototype looks like. Maybe it is my “design mind”, but I needed to make the rough prototype look at least like an eye to help me engage with it. After some laser cutting and foam modelling, I tried to replicate my eye, putting the elastic band on (what was supposed to be) the Iris to evidence more the “ergonomics” of the movement. After this stage, I was ready to study a smooth, a fast and a “normal” movement. This step definitely helped in understanding why such movement is related to what factor, and it finally triggered my reflection like the video in Day1 did.

The purpose of the fast prototyping in the initial stage made me realise to what extension and which factors I need to include in translating an expression into a prototype, such as smoothness/roughness of the movement, the placement/position of the desired component and how can we help trigger reflection by simple form-giving. Most importantly, it made me realise how a simple elastic hairband move can trigger reflections and imagination. It took me in scenarios of what if this tangible was facing running in tunnels of dark/bright spaces or if maybe wake up after a good night sleep. This method of Fast prototyping in the “fuzzy” front end helped further exploration in engaging with the expression and elaborating them into tangibles. This turned out to affect positively the thinking of expression-movement-object in later on design development.