Event Recap: PSFK Conference 2015

Last Friday we attended the annual PSFK conference in New York City to observe new trends in digital design and user behavior. Here are the key takeaways:

Better Living Through Big Data
The theme for this year’s conference was “Live, Work, Play Better”, and various panels acknowledged the importance of utilizing big data to come up with more user-centric “human” designs. Dennis Mortensen, founder and CEO of x.ia, explained how his artificially intelligent personal assistant, Amy, emulates the ideal human-like experience by scheduling meetings through e-mail.  With the rise of mobile and IoT devices, data is creating connections not only to our own personal devices, but to one another. As Marcela Sapone, CEO at Alfred, noted, through the power of big data, there is an “overarching cultural acceptance of collaborating and sharing more”.

Digital Design Puts Mobile First
According to Manoush Zomorodi, on average people check their phones around 60 times a day, clocking in at over 2 hours a day. As mobile usage continues to rise, digital designers are starting to put mobile first when it comes to creating user experiences. For instance, boutique hotel CitizenM provides its “Mobile Citizens” with a “mood pad” tablet to control everything from lighting, to room temperature, and even infotainment system in each room. Also putting mobile front and center is Toca Boca, a design studio that makes digital apps for the “mobile-native” kids.

Shared Economy Impacts Design
Another ongoing trend reflected in the design community is the rapid expansion of the shared economy. NeueHouse, for example, is an ambitious startup that aims to become the “Airbnb for the creatives”  by creating shared office spaces designed to cultivate hospitality and design culture.  Similarly, Tactivate is working on creating shared workspace for veterans, furnished with innovative office furniture designed for mobility and collaboration. The aforementioned CitizenM is also pushing for shared office and living space in its hotel design.

Uniting Fashion And Tech With Design
We have long observed the ongoing convergence of fashion and technology, and the design community has seemed to realize its vital role in uniting the two forces as well. Manufacture NY, led by Amanda Parkes, is building a next-gen innovation center—a tech-forward fashion incubator that feels like a design studio— that aims to fuse the language and process of fashion and tech with design.

Image courtesy of PSFK

SXSW 2015: Highlights From The Keynotes

Every SXSW Interactive features notable speakers on provocative topics, this year spanning everything from ride sharing to “mind clones.” We’ve identified three important themes for marketers:

  1. Empathetic design takes center stage
    Paola Antonelli, senior curator for MoMA, kicked off her keynote on the future of design with a shout-out to the rise of empathetic design. A user-centered design approach that focuses on the user’s feelings toward a product, empathy-driven design can provoke emotion, influence user behavior, and create strong connection. Paired with the right metrics, it can generate measurable intimacy that brands can benefit from.
  2. Ride sharing on the rise
    Logan Green, co-founder and CEO of Lyft, was reluctant to talk much about his major competitor Uber, but he did have a lot to share about his vision for the future of driving. He believes that the spreading practice of ride sharing has enabled more affordable, reliable and memorable transportation while boosting the local economy, and that on-demand car services like Lyft will make car ownership “unnecessary” in the future.
  3. Mobile reigns supreme
    Directly or indirectly, all five presenters this year touched on the impact of the ubiquitous connectivity aided by mobile devices. For instance, the first thing highlighted by Astro Teller, head of Google[x], was the recent success of its Loon project, in which Google has tested high-altitude balloons to provide Internet access to rural and remote areas. The paramount challenge for brands in this “mobile age” will be how to gracefully capitalize on the connection established by smartphones and wearable devices.

Major Brands Embrace Shared Economy

From Kickstarter to Etsy, there are an increasing number of shared services that make up the collaborative economy. This trend is so pervasive that Web Strategists Jeremiah Owyang makes the claim for all business need to pay attention or they may fall by the wayside.  In fact, Owyang proceeds to list a number of major brands to get involved in the space, and we’re not talking about makeshift popups. From BMW’s Drive car sharing service to Patagonia’s marketplace of used goods, this list may surprise you.