A fresh maple syrup stand, a horse and buggy and little girls in bonnets; these are all common sights in the wonderfully quaint town of St.Jacob’s, which hugs the north border of Waterloo. The influence of the active Mennonite community here makes it feel like you’ve been transported back to a time where the phrase “being wired” may more aptly describe a newly installed fence rather than one’s state of connectivity.
So, one can imagine how exciting it is to step foot in the technology-laden Felt Lab! Fluxible sponsor REAP, along with partners Christie and Quarry Integrated Communications, founded this community-based lab where students, academics and industry experts explore technologies in order to envision new uses and markets.
And the best part? Every Friday they open their doors to the public! Felt Lab Fridays is an opportunity for anyone to drop in and play in the digital sandbox.
So, we took a slightly longer lunch last week to play and sit down with REAP executives, Dr. David Goodwin and Dr. Jill Tomasson Goodwin; here’s part of our conversation.
Q: REAP is interested in “creating new, compelling, and interactive experiences for people”. What role does design and UX play in this process?
A: REAP has abstracted three “overarching categories of consideration” that all designers should consider: feasability (can it be done, technically?); desirability (does someone want it, what kind of marketing insight supports it?); and viability (can you build a competitive, sustainable business around it?).
Of the three, we find desirability to be paramount. People have to want what you’re building, otherwise the idea, and the resulting project, will stall out, no matter how feasible or viable.
A big part of our design sprints focus on desirability, and in the spirit of lean, we look for quick and dirty ways to validate the UX assumptions. Paper napkins. Watching people. Testing out ideas on every person and group we can. Asking about competitors. Field research. Archival research. You name it.
Q: Why did REAP choose to support Fluxible?
A: Frankly, Fluxible is a gem.
Awww, shucks! Now, you’ve got us blushing! But please, do go on…
[It’s] a top conference that brings people from everywhere to think about how design can make our lives better. REAP brings together private and public sector partners to ask the question: how can we spur innovation and entrepreneurship by building on already existing platforms, extending the functionality of our partner’s technology and equally their market space, so that students can build businesses faster, with lower risk, and with the logistical, marketing, and sales support of our industry partners behind them?
It’s a big question, but we think the future of Canadian innovation depends on something like this. UX is core to this pursuit. And Fluxible is core to UX in this region. We’re very proud to sponsor an organization and event that is helping to advance UX theory, practice, and awareness.
Q: Any parting thoughts to share with Fluxers?
A: All designs “have a design on us.” Design is not only shaped by, but also gives shape to, the way we all think, expect, react, believe. By its very nature, technology extends our arms, legs, eyes, and of course our minds, even as technological innovation is reshaping who we are all and how we act and interact with each other.
As reflexive practitioners, Fluxers take on the responsibility for making sure that “the design that designs have on us” are effective and ethical, productive and enabling. So that, not only are the next wave of UXers benefitting from your practices and insights, but also all of us who download an app, pick up a phone, search the internet, or step into our cars.
Or horse and buggies?!
A huge thanks to the magnificent folks at REAP for all of their support!