Interaction 18 – an award winner’s perspective

Monday, 12th Feb 2018


A write up on Interaction 18 from our award-winning man on the ground, James Zhou:

Greetings from Lyon, France and the Interaction18 Conference! This year’s conference is hosted in Le Sucriere, an old sugar mill by the river. The CIID crew showed up in full force. There are old hands who have been to multiple conferences and greenhorns who are attending their first conference. I’d like offer a peak into the conference from the perspective of a first time attendee.

At Interaction18 we saw the power of our community. This is the first Interaction conference for Jens, Bora, and I. We felt immediately comfortable with our fellow CIIDers. During breaks, lunch, and happy hours, we ran around the conference hall catching up with old friends and making new ones. Simona joined the conference on the second day and immediately introduced us to esteemed designers and excited new opportunities. We felt extremely supported by our CIID community.

Alan Cooper kicked off the conference with a speech that captured the zeitgeist of our industry. In his speech, he called out large technology corporations that are pursuing profits before ethics. He called this moment our “Oppenheimer Moment” where technology is on the verge of creating irreversible damage to our world. Cooper urged us to be better ancestors, and exercise ours agency as designers to implement change at all levels. Cooper’s speech set up the theme for the rest of the conference and brought forward the importance of ethics and design. The day ended with a keynote by the design illuminaire and head of design at Muji, Kenya Hara. Hara introduced the ideas of emptiness vs simple and information vs ex-formation. Hara’s books are hugely influential for Jens and I. And we totally nerded out over his minimalist presentation slides.

Anab Jain of Superflux offered us a glimpse into our future and challenged us to be empowered and responsible creators. Ivrea graduate, Haiyang Zhang, bought us back to the present with her work for people with disabilities. She walked us through her invention, the Emma watch, which helps people with extreme tremors to write again. She inspired us with her hands-on approach in finding solutions for those most in need. Elildh Dickson and John Lynch gave us a honest look at our industry through conversations with designers all around the world. Together these designers represent over a century of experience. Their talk helped us to understand what it means to be a designer in the 21st century.

Interaction18 is the first year where a roomba, a fan, and a plug were invited to the conference. The objects were created by Simone Rebaudengo, Saurabh Datta, Lorenzo Romagnoli, and Matthieu Cherubini from Automato and installed as an interactive exhibition. Conference attendees can experience the world from the perspectives of objects using a mixture of VR and physical interactions. Even Alan Cooper himself donned one of the headsets and teleported himself into the realities of the objects.

One of the highlights of the conference is the Interaction Awards. The interaction design community come together to celebrate the projects that best represent the trend in our industry. The awards and closing party were hosted at the rock club, Le Transbordeur.

The CIID crew filled out an entire row at the awards. As the ceremony progressed, The Internet Phone by Sebastien Hunkeler, Isak Frosta, Jens Obel, and I, was the first CIID project to win the Engaging Category. The CIID crew cheered loudly. Then, Bjorn Karmann’s Objectifier won the Expressing Category, and the CIID crew was electric. Then in the People’s Choice section, the Objectifier was again a winner in the Best Student category. The CIID crew erupted. Just as we thought we couldn’t possibly win anymore awards, 2013 Alumni Shu Yang Lin won the Future Voice award for her project vTaiwan. We were completely taken by surprise as Shu walked onto the stage to receive the award. Even Simona didn’t know that Shu was going to be here. Shu gave a passionate speech about the importance of democratic voice. At this point, the audience erupted and together we stood in a standing ovation.

Interaction18 was an amazing experience for all of us first time attendees. We were inspired to see our community together in one place. We truly understood the power of our own CIID network and gained a new appreciation for our shared CIID experience. The conference left us inspired and ready to take on new challenges. We are already looking forward to the next Interaction conference in Seattle in 2019.

I hope that I will see you there!