UCD UK is a not-for-profit organisation run by people who have other jobs. There are no full time employees. We do these conferences for the development and benefit of the design community.
Like many a good idea, the first UCD UK conference was conceived in a pub, with the three original organisers bemoaning the prohibitive cost of – and the vaguely disappointing experience at – the bigger conferences.
That night in the pub, we decided to put together UCD2012 as a platform for exploring new and exciting ideas across the many disciplines that claim a relationship with User Centred Design. We wanted to prioritise UK-based speakers who are recognised by their peers – not by the “circuit” – as the best in their field. We wanted to offer real-world case studies, provide inspirational presentations and interactive workshops, and offer opportunities for learning, sharing, networking and socialising with like-minded people.
It’s not always easy for our audience to get a day off mid-week, especially freelancers who would have to give a give up a day’s work and pay to attend a conference. We’re from the industry ourselves. We listened to the people around. And the Friday / Saturday conference idea resonated with everyone. It worked. And so it stuck!
We have all been to the giant conferences – so big that you have no time to really meet people, make friends, spend time with the speakers and practitioners to share experiences. UCD is designed so that we all have the time and space to talk to each other. We try different ways of doing this every year.
It’s actually not that difficult to do, with a little care and creativity. The quality of the people and the presentations comes first. We favour insight over information. We’re looking for the smartest people, with something different to share, often in interesting new ways. Our team of volunteers is wonderful. And we’re very proud of the catering – which is first class. The venue is relaxed, we have live music with cocktails on Friday night, and we’re all across the road in the pub on Saturday…
It’s a tall order, but we aim for it every year. This is why we have different conference streams, and also why we change them up – year on year – as we learn how best to support engaging experiences. At the most basic level, we want speakers with whom we can really connect, and whose vision and experience are exciting. The most successful speakers at UCD are those who challenge us think again about something we thought we knew, and those who bring new perspectives.
There are many superb membership organisations out there. We support them and the work they do. We don’t compete with them.
We’re learning all the time. For the people who organise the conference, and the people who contribute – speakers and attendees – every year, this is a journey not a destination.