My Top 11 Big Design Conference Presentations for 2017

Big Design is just around the corner. Heading into it’s 10th year, it’s the best low-cost, high-value conference experience in the DFW area.

Big Design speakers have always been a diverse mix of industry brainiacs, well-known authors, web influencers, Oscar & Emmy winners. Oh yeah… there’s that Brian Sullivan guy who seems to show up every year too.

Given there’s so much to consider each day of the conference, how do you decide what to see?

You have a shortlist of presentations that align with your interests or career arc. Maybe you briefly check with your mates on what they think in casual conversation before the doors close. Ultimately, you make your choice and saunter into a conference room, hoping the talk or presentation is as advertised.

Well forget that nonsense. I’ve compiled a list of the top eleven presentations that’ll be well worth your time. It’s not to say you shouldn’t consider your options, but you really shouldn’t. I’m completely biased. Save yourself the effort.

Let’s get started.

1. Chris Hass, Senior VP of Mad*Pow

When/Where: September 15 (Friday) at 10:00 am in Chinaberry

Listening to one of Chris Hass’s presentations is like activating a part of your brain that’s been dormant for years. Think of those ‘oh, that’s interesting’ moments when you read something impressive or interesting in a book, and you’ll get that and more from Chris’s perspectives.

Rivet Counting and Ocean Crossing: When Theory and Practice Collide” will illustrate the importance of the theory-practice cycle for progress, and offer tips for breaking the rules.

Hell, his talk could be about making delicious, buttery popcorn in a large hadron collider. Doesn’t matter. Your 10:00 am time slot is booked on Friday.

2. Ken Tabor, Principal Software Architect at Sabre

When/Where: September 15 (Friday) at 10:00 am in Live Oak

... or is it? Fighting out of the blue corner comes Ken Tabor, the author of “Responsive Website Toolkit” and frequent speaker at conferences that include SXSW Interactive, Big Design, HTML5 Dev Conf, WebVisions, and O’Reilly OSCON. I personally enjoy following him on LinkedIn and the content he shares.

Machine Learning: Understanding the Invisible Force Changing our World” will showcase Ken’s in-depth knowledge on the topic. You’ll learn what machine learning is, why you should care and how you can control it. You’ll come away with a better appreciation of the field and where it’s going.

So, two powerhouses of knowledge during the same time slot on Friday. How can you possibly choose?

But wait, there’s more!

3. Kim Harris, Senior UX Designer at projekt 202

When/Where: September 15 (Friday) at 10:00 am in Trinity 6–8

You know that feeling you get when you realize that the person sitting across from you is naturally gifted on multiple levels? Someone who not only communicates effectively, but summarizes something so vastly complex into a simple, easy to understand narrative?

That’s Kim Harris.

Her upcoming talk titled “Designing the Work Experience for Designers” will feature Kim’s particular point of view on crafting an experience for designers through collaboration, training, on-boarding, employee engagement, and more.

If there were ever a ‘sleeper’ in the Big Design lineup, this is it.

4. Seda Maurer, Accessibility Program Manager at Sabre

When/Where: September 15 (Friday) at 11:00 am in Trinity 1–3

An advocate of Accessibility and Universal Design! An advocate of User Experience Design and Usability Principles! An advocate of mentoring and self awareness! Why am I shouting out loud as I proof read this?

In “Designing With Empathy for all Abilities”, Seda will share her best practices for designing experiences for various types of users. In less than an hour, you’ll get introduced to and updated on:

  • Assistive Technologies
  • Screen Readers
  • Universal Design Do’s and Don’ts
  • Additional Tips on Designing with Empathy

And a bonus this year! Seda will be partnering with Dana Walter on Saturday at Noon (Trinity 6–8) for ‘Own Your Career’. So if you miss her on Friday and seek repentance, her Saturday presentation should be just as good.

5. Alexander Sicular & Alyssa Gruen

When/Where: September 15 (Friday) at 1:00 pm in Dogwood

Let’s see. We’re going to combine a Senior Solutions Architect and former Director of Medical Informatics at Columbia University with a Product/User Experience Designer who has extensive experience designing analysis applications in travel, education, healthcare, sales, and customer service.

This is the result.

If you think you can handle it, reserve your seat and attend “Beneath the Surface: The Impact of Data on UX”. They’ll explore concepts in data storage, retrieval, and processing impact both user experience and business. You’ll get a deeper understanding of how data is (and should be) leveraged for both startup and enterprise environments.

6. Christian Crumlish, VP of Product at 7 Cups of Tea

When/Where: September 15 (Friday) at 3:00 pm in Addison Lecture Hall

I’ve known of Mr. Crumlish since his work with the Yahoo design pattern library and when he was the director of the Information Architecture Institute. I used his book, “Designing Social Interfaces” as a reference for a number of projects when I was running my own consultancy.

From UX to Product Management: How I Got My Ass Kicked Before I Learned to Kick Ass” will showcase the “painful and exhilarating lessons” Christian has learned in becoming a UX-rooted product leader. UX practitioners who want a better understanding of what Product does, or have an interest in PM as a career path, should definitely attend.

Nothing quippy or funny with this promotion. I respect the man and what he’s done with his career. Learn from his perspective and make a point to attend this one.

7. Cassini Nazir, Director of Research and Design, UT Dallas

When/Where: September 16 (Saturday) at 10:00 am in Trinity 4

If you’ve had any engagement with UX at the University of Texas in Dallas, chances are you’ve met someone that’s had the good fortune of encountering Cassini Nazir. If you haven’t, you need to get out more. He’s recommended and respected by everyone I’ve ran into that’s come from his program or have worked with him.

Cassini’s presentation on “Creating Interfaces With Significance” will be exploring the difference between signifiers and affordance (and best uses of each). He’ll also highlight how they’re used every day and how y0u can put each into action for your next design project.

In short, Cassini is the good will ambassador of empathy, communication and critical thinking. He’ll blend all of those attributes in his appearance on Saturday. It’ll be well worth experiencing.

8. Brandy Schade, Sr. Operations Research & Planning Analyst at Sabre

When/Where: September 16 (Saturday) at 1:00 pm in Addison Lecture Hall

If you’re not familiar with Gallup’s StrengthsFinder program, its a online assessment test originated by american psychologist Don Clifton. Gallup introduced the first version of StrengthsFinder back in 2001, with a ‘2.0’ update in 2007. Since then, StrengthsFinder 2.0 has been Amazon’s bestselling nonfiction book of all time.

Earlier this year, I partnered with Brandy on exploring individual and team strengths in UX at Sabre. She coached and consulted on multiple levels, illuminating the results from our tests while suggesting different strategic approaches to consider.

But don’t take my word for it. See it for yourself.

In her presentation “Embrace Strengths to Make an Impact”, Brandy will show you how your company can use a strengths-based approach to positively impact individual growth, team productivity, and overall engagement. You’ll also learn how to choose projects accordingly to increase your organizational strengths and impact the bottom line.

Long story short… Brandy is the real deal. She lives and breathes StrengthsFinder in a way I’ve seen no one ever do.

Do not miss this one.

These last two have been highly recommended by folks I trust, hence they round out the list.

9. Gaby Moreno Cesar & Stan Li

When/Where: September 16 (Saturday) at 11:00 am in Trinity 4

Gaby and Stan were both part of IBM’s Cloud Platform team, and have since moved on to cover AI-based technology at OJO Labs and experience design at McKinsey Digital (respectfully).

No More Bacon Ipsum: High Content Fidelity Prototyping with API’s” is their introduction to high content and design fidelity leveraging API’s. They’ll showcase demos of Postman and InVision Craft to illustrate how API’s can be valuable and accessible for designers.

10. Dan Berlin, VP of User Research at Mad*Pow

When/Where: September 16 (Saturday) at 3:00 pm in Trinity 5

I remember Dan’s 2015 Big Design presentation on “Biometrics in UX Research: The Next Big Step”. It was visual, comprehensive, funny and informative. Dan was pretty good too!

For this year’s offering, “Your ‘Psychologist’ Voice: Leveraging Voice Mindfulness for UX Research”, Dan will share the origins of the psychologist voice with his own work. He’ll also cover how the ‘voice’ makes for sessions that yield useful data and be utilized as a important life-skill.

11. Anita Cator, Jennifer Keene Moore and Sophi Marass

When/Where: September 15 (Friday) at 2:00 pm in Trinity 1–3

A Top Ten turned 11 with a bonus entry! Didn’t see that coming did ya? Well, neither did I.

I was politely but sternly reminded that a trio of wonderful women will be presenting “Unlock Your Design Thinking Potential”, chronicling their journey of seeing the world from different perspectives. They’ll showcase how to harness these perspectives for design thinking, solving complex problems and unlocking your creative potential.

And there you go! Eleven, high profile, top-notch presentations at this year’s Big D conference. Attend any one of these, and you can’t go wrong.

To get started, download the 2017 Big Design app for Android or iPhone and save the above talks to your favorites (and set reminders!) before you arrive.

Hope to see you there!



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Robert Skrobe

Robert Skrobe

I run Dallas Design Sprints, The Design Sprint Referral Network and Talent Sprints.