John Payne and Josh Clark open Interaction 17
Interaction 17 co-chairs Josh Clark and John Payne open the conference.

What an extraordinary week! Over 1100 designers swept into New York City over the past several days for Interaction 17, the tenth annual gathering of IxDA (the Interaction Design Association). I had the privilege of planning the event as co-chair, an honor and responsibility I shared with the wonderful John Payne of Moment. Over the next few days, I’ll share some thoughts about the themes that emerged during the week, but first I need to say thanks to a whole lot of people.

Our team accomplished a ton. By many metrics, the event was the most successful edition of Interaction so far:

  • We solicited a record number of talk and workshop proposals
  • We sold out faster than any previous year
  • We sold the most workshop tickets of any previous year, with most workshops selling out completely
  • We created the most profitable Interaction so far, underwriting the continued good works of IxDA

We stood on the shoulders of giants for sure, inheriting the momentum built by previous Interactions. The attractive power of New York city helped, too. But hey, much of this year’s success is also due to plain hard work. I’m in awe of the many people who came together to make this happen.

The IxDA community

First up, huge thanks to the 1100+ designers who attended from 46 countries around the world. The Interaction conferences always have an unusually high level of engagement: the workshops buzz, the hallway conversations are heady, and the talks are packed. Attendees somehow maintain that energy for days. There’s an intense sense of tight-knit community and camaraderie.

I think a lot of this is due to the nature of IxDA itself. It’s a grassroots organization of nearly 200 community chapters around the world. These local groups each have their own passionate level of participation. Somehow when these groups come together, that’s magnified. Newcomers to the conference and organization feel the warm embrace of IxDA, too. The enthusiasm for our industry, our craft, and one another is contagious.

The Interaction 17 team

Interaction 17 volunteers
Volunteers and committee take a bow at the end of Interaction 17. Photo by Christina Noonan.

The whole thing was made possible only by the vast energy, enthusiasm, and effort of over 100 volunteers. Yep, volunteers. Every year, Interaction is planned and produced in the spare time of designers from the community where it is hosted. As a conference team, we are literally amateurs—but holy cats, what an impressive collection of amateurs! It’s been a privilege to work alongside this group for the past year:

  • Elaine Matthias was the glue that held this little enterprise together. Her “project manager” title doesn’t begin to capture it. She kept the details lined up, the schedule in place, and ultimately kept us all honest—and on track. We would’ve been a puddle of drooling goo without Elaine.

  • Liz Danzico and Fred Beecher headed up the Interaction Design Education Summit, putting together a super-smart program to prod the state of design education.

  • Joshua Seiden, Dianna Miller, and David Fine chaired Interaction’s program committee, with attentive speaker support provided by Kristine Mudd. (Kristine was also indispensable as our onstage producer throughout the event.) With the support of 70 volunteer reviewers, this group did the painfully challenging work of distilling our record number of proposals down to the 60 sessions that we ultimately included. Enormous thanks to this group for doing so much to help curate the smart, coherent body of talks that emerged this week.

  • Abby Covert and Stokes Jones headed the submissions committee. They organized the call for proposals and drew 736 submissions for talks and workshops.

  • Mary Quandt, Christopher Fahey, and Henrik Rydberg chaired the workshop committee, with tremendous help from Richard Herring. The group organized 16 workshops and 5 field trips for the day before the main conference.

  • Kevin M. Hoffman ran the communications committee, with tweets, posts, emails, and photos wrangled by Nathan Gao, Jose Coronado, Samara Watkiss, and Jessa Bartley-Matthews.

  • Jason Santa Maria and Aarron Walter chaired the design committee, overseeing the design and production of the website, print materials, motion graphics and stage set. Stephanie Aaron designed the print program and badges. TJ Pitre, Kelsey Cahill, and Rob Nero made the web development happen. Christina Noonan and Allegra Fisher created the core brand and web design, and Kelsey Scherer refined it over the course of the year. Alanna John collaborated with Kelsey S., Stephanie Aaron and Elaine Matthias to design all the signage and wayfinding materials. Our friends at Portugal’s Hi Interactive created the videos and motion graphics that rolled during the show.

  • Jennifer Brook, Daniel Stillman, Michele Washington, and Lisa Welchman headed up our interstitial committee with the special brief of designing activities between program sessions. Jenn and Michele came up with concepts for the response walls that were so beautifully lettered by Jen Mussari. Daniel sorted pre-conference activities, including a sketching workshop he facilitated. The group wrote prompts and icebreakers for the inter-session slideshow, and produced concepts for getting attendees talking during the walks between venues.

  • Peter March headed up the operations committee, organizing vendors and volunteers with Michele Tepper and Martha Post.

  • Ana Domb and Ahmed Riaz led the Student Design Challenge, selecting and shepherding six remarkable student teams who worked like crazy during the week to prototype products that fit the theme “everyday magic.”

  • Molly Wright Steenson and Thomas Kueber chaired the Interaction Awards, recruiting the jury and overseeing the selection of some truly kick-ass design projects that are changing the world.

  • Finally, IxDA executive director Brenda Sanderson offered guidance and encouragement throughout, lending us her experience and expertise as she steered the high-level finances and contracts for the event.

This was the core crew that planned the conference throughout 2016. But a whole army of additional volunteers generously shared their time, putting their shoulders into the event in the final weeks and during the conference itself. Stuffing badges, running microphones, and dashing out on errands is not the most glamorous work. So I’m especially grateful to these designers, each of whom took on those jobs (and many others) so cheerfully:

Selection of Interaction 17 speakers
Just a few of the speakers at Interaction 17.

Akiko Ikkai, Alex Frankel, Amanda Persky, Amsha Kaira, Ankit Mawande, Ankita Gupta, Ashley Jang, Azu Romá, Brian Durkin, Charlene Lertlumprasert, Christine Lawton, David Mahmarian, Deborah Barber, Elushika Weerakoon, Eva McSweeney, Fernando Capeto, Gerti Geier, Gwen Kurtz, Janel Wong, Jaqueline Gordon, Jason Rabie, Jenil Gogari, Jessica Greco, Jimmy Chandler, John Chin, Julian Gonzalez, Katarina Yee, Kinjal Shah, Kohzy Koh, Kyungmin Lee, Lana Voynova, Lillian Yuan, Lorina Binning, Malik Wormsby, Martha Post, Mischa Fierer, Ning Xu, Nour Malaeb, Oriol Sallés Duran, Raina Huang, Ricardo Huang, Ritwik Deshpande, Rob Kovacs, Rodrigo Sanchez, Ruth Tupe, Saba Singh, Sam Anderson, Santiago Bustelo, Sara Lim, Sejal Kotak, Seungyoun Lim, Shane Strassberg, Traci Paris, Tyler Gumb, Uijun Park, Valli Ravindran, Wolfgang Gil, Young Jang, and Yue Yuan.

The speakers of Interaction

If the Interaction 17 team was the behind-the-scenes crew who enabled the show to happen, it was the speakers who were the show. Sixty main-program talks and 16 workshops made for a full slate of forward-looking, mind-bending talks about the state of our craft.

A special shout out to our seven keynote speakers who framed the conversation each day: Chelsea Mauldin, Brendan Dawes, Juliana Rotich, Xavier Vendrell, Dori Tunstall, Hannah du Plessis, and Marc Rettig.

At the speaker dinner, I told the speakers that being in the same room with them reminded me of Dave Bowman in 2001, A Space Odyssey: “My god, it’s full of stars.” The speakers were truly the stars who made the conference. I learned a ton in a few short days.

If you weren’t at the show, never fear. We recorded all the sessions, and we’ll share those videos later this month, along with all the slide decks. I’ll also share some personal thoughts and highlights in the coming days.

Our sponsors

Gigantic thanks, too, to the many companies who backed Interaction 17 as sponsors and partners. The amazing Andréa Pellegrino managed all of those relationships, providing the vital financial foundation for the conference.

An especially big shout to our major sponsors: Adobe, Bloomberg, Capital One, IBM, Intel, and SVA.

Thanks, too, to our many other partner companies: Amazon, TD Ameritrade, Coroflot, Google, HBO, MailChimp, R/GA, Razorfish, Clover, Clover Health (two Clovers!),, Fidelity Investments, Fjord, Goodpatch, Green Stone, Hi Interactive, Invision, Mark43, Moment, OpenTable, Perka, Reaktor, ThoughtWorks, Verizon, Balsamiq, Etsy, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, O’Reilly Media, Rosenfeld, Southleft, and WeWork.


And finally, a big, big thank you to Interaction’s IxDA hosts of the event, the local New York City chapter of IxDA. Those thanks go to the whole leadership team of IxDA NYC, but especially to Peter March, Stephanie Aaron, David Fine, and Kristine Mudd who did so much to make the conference happen. Nearly 18 months ago, that group spearheaded the bid to bring Interaction to New York City, and they asked John Payne, Liz Danzico, and me to throw in with them. I’m incredibly glad I did.

Interaction 17 was an amazing experience, and in a very real way, an amazing family, too.

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