Amuse UX trip report

This October, thanks to my good friend Dean, who is an amazing accessibility specialist, I attended Amuse UX Conference in Budapest. It took place on October 18-20, first day being the workshops. I arrived in Budapest on Wednesday, and although I didn’t go to any of the workshops, there was still something else for me to do that day. Turns out the Hungarian UX community is pretty big and active, so they organized a UX meetup that evening.



It was called Amuse Special Edition and happened in Ankert. The meetup featured 3 talks, which you can see here on their event page. Couple of takeaways: user stories can be told with legos, and if you own a big enough collection of Lego pieces, you can hold very fun workshops. Also apparently people are scared of designers and whatever we do can be seen as dark matter to non-designers. Funny enough, that’s the same as how I sometimes think about developers 😉

The 3rd to speak was Tom Illmensee, and he taught us 3 ways to collaborate better and more creatively, taking  The Funky Drummer as an example. So the 3 ways to supercharge creativity according to Tom are:

  • listen to build on others’ ideas
    • listen to each other, and not just the loudest voices in the group
  • make space in the mix
    • sometimes we need to edit as much as we are creating, press a ‘pause’ button
  • explore and invent with courage
    • step outside the comfort zone and improvise
    • see eg a hackathon as jamming; invite engineers to a sketching session

So one of the reasons I focused on Tom’s talk in detail is because it was a great and memorable talk and he is a good speaker; another one is that his new startup, where he gives adults who are just starting to learn an instrument a chance to jam with others, struck me like a brilliant idea. An the third reason was because he was also the host of the Amuse UX itself and one of the organizers. So let’s move on to…

Amuse UX Conference

Day 1

The conference itself was held in The Magyar Vasúttörténeti Park (Hungarian Railway History Park), which is an interactive museum where we could walk around the trains and enjoy the beautiful weather between talks. Crunch conference was happening at the same time, so if you’re interested in “in building the finest data driven businesses”, check it out. After breakfast and coffee we were greeted by Tom and the conference started.

There is no call for papers for this conference, because organizers select speakers themselves and contact them individually, so I just have to start by saying all talks were amazing and if I had all the time in the world I would share notes about all of them, but there were so many, that you’d better go and see for yourself, once there are videos available. And some of them already are.

Instead I’m going to focus on the ones that grabbed my attention the most and give you a few key takeaways combined with my impressions. So here we go:

Stephen P. Anderson: What Boardgames Can Teach Us About Designing Experiences

Stephen told us that creating board games (or tabletop games) has a big overlap with designing experiences, and here is what we can learn from them:

  • we can start designing with experience, make sure what the core is and how we want the user to feel. “Until my players feel ___________, I will not ship”.
  • focus on the whole and make sure that if you release just parts, they are till a viable product (cupcake – cake – wedding cake model). This must be the most tweeted image of the conference:
  • test whatever you can as soon as you can
    Screenshot-2017-10-31 What Board Games can Teach Us about Designing Experiences
  • Use space to communicate by arranging and rearranging things in it, as spatial arrangement is very important for conveying meaning.
  • Game design is about creating friction, UX design is about removing it. But is friction in products always bad? We should probably be thinking about critical stuff, and put in a learning challenge in the product.
  • Games are powerful tools for learning.

Here is the link to slides, check them out – there are a lot of great quotes, images and advice!

Senongo Akpem: Culturally Responsive Design

Senongo gave a moving and inspiring talk about steps we could take to make our designs culturally responsive. Go ahead and watch the video, and you’ll learn more about his main points:

  • flexible research
  • forgiving interfaces
  • layered language
  • a sense of place

Eva-Lotta Lamm: 5 Steps to Change Your Note-Taking

Eva-Lotta is a master of sketches, and she got everyone drawing! I have done sketch notes before, and it was great fun to remember the key advice on how to do that. It would have been even better if there were tables or more light, but here’s the talk summary:)

I too always like to point out, that you don’t have to know how to draw anything more than a cloud and a rectangle to do sketch notes, so take a pen and paper and follow the video!

David de Léon: Design by Magic: Applying the Techniques of Magic to User Experience Design

David closed day 1 with some magic, and yes, I do mean actual tricks!


He was comparing UX with magic and taught us some connections and tricks. Comparing UX to all sorts of other disciplines seems to be *the* thing now, and I love how you can borrow tips from everywhere. Some magical techniques are:

  • Reconstructing memories
    • people usually don’t remember things that didn’t require much effort, so one could design an experience as a series of low effort actions
  • framing
  • reinterpretation
  • conviction

Day 2

Day 2 started off foggy but changed to a beautiful sunny Friday by the time of the first coffee break. It started with the talk from organizers, who shared a few fun facts and info about the speakers. They did a great job bringing diversity to the conference: half of the speakers were female, and as for the audience, these are the numbers:


Talks I want to mention from Day 2:

Denise Jacobs: Banish Your Inner Critic v2.0

Denise is an inspirational speaker, who gave us all advice on silencing the critic in our head and swiping left on whatever he’s telling us. She told us we all have mental power tools to do just that:

  • neuroplasticity
  • mindfulness
  • self-compassion

But hey, don’t take my word for it – her’s is the talk I really encourage everybody to watch to learn how to “Be and share your brilliance” and even reduce procrastination.

Vitaly Friedman: Dirty Little Tricks From the Dark Corners of Responsive Web Design

Vitaly is Editor-in-Chief at Smashing Magazine, which by the way, is to be updated with new design any day now. He told (and showed) us about all sorts of patterns, websites and adventures in responsive web design, and provided so many examples, that it will be best if you just go and see his talk for yourself. But beware, as he warned, some things can not be unseen!

Stephan Tanguay: Virtual Intent: User Experience Design in VR / AR

Stephan was talking about Augmented and Virtual reality platforms and experiences and gave us some principles on how to design for them. Currently there are 6 major platforms for consumer VR hardware, and the field is growing. Just beware that light mobile VR, such as google cardboard can be nauseating, and is considered bad practice.

If you get into AR/VR experiences design, remember: they should be believable, and users should need and want to look around. In physical interaction precision matters, and users will explore what is possible. Avoid anything that would break the sync and don’t mess with the inner ear!

So the takeaways: focus on user intent – design for human scale – maintain unity between virtual and real – add value.

Peter Eszenyi: What the F(UI): The Role of Design, UI, and UX in Films

Peter Eszenyi from Territory Studio talked about Film User Interfaces and how they created screens for Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, the Martian, Avengers and other movies. His was once again one of the talks, that you really want to watch, and not only because it was inspiring, but also so cool! So cool! I was amazed by the speed at which they work, how much gets edited and some of the industry secrets. His was the last talk of the 2-day conference, and what a great way to finish!


It was an amazing event, hats off to the organizers for putting it all together. I took notes at almost all the talks, and if this post could go on forever, it would. Even as I’m writing these finishing lines, I kind of want to go on about other talks… but hey!

The weather was great, Budapest as always beautiful and everyone safe on the train tracks 🙂 I loved that the conference didn’t have any specific theme or focus, so they got a variety of topics covered, including some fields that are totally new to me. I am planning to watch some of the previous years’ talks, too, and definitely (almost certainly) come back next year for more!

Amuse UX trip report

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