MWUX 2018: Chicago        

MWUX 2018

October 18, 2018

Our UI/UX team attended the Midwest User Experience conference in the heart of Lakeview in Chicago last week. The conference was held at the historic, 100-year-old Athenaeum Theater, intimate music venue Schubas, and co-working hub 1871.  With hundreds of attendees and nearly 50 speakers, our team connected with the best and most forward-thinking UX experts from around the nation.  Please read below for what stood out to us and what we hope to integrate into our own UX practices here at Beyond.

“MidwestUX 2018 will challenge us to advance UX through curiosity, collaboration, and integrity.”


Democracy + Design 

Dana Chisnell, Co-Founder of Center for Civic Design, lead a riveting keynote on the design flaws of the U.S. voting system and the strides being taken at her firm to improve the process for voters and voter administrators.  With experience as a generalist problem solver at the White House (2014-2016), Chisnell has taken her experience and the collective research of five years worth of voter stories to create a plan of attack that would result in the most effective and pleasant voter experience, leading to more informed voters and a higher voter turn out.  With the political climate heightened at its current state, the Center for Civic Design’s work is encouraging and an optimistic breath of fresh air into American politics.

Designing in the Digital Age

One of our favorite keynotes was Kim Goodwin’s, Designing for the Digital Age. Goodwin comes to the Midwest conference bringing two decades of UX experience and a 12-year stint as VP of Design & GM at Cooper, a San Francisco based design agency.  Since her time at Cooper she has stepped up to the role as VP of Product and UX at PatientsLikeMe where she combines medical research and patient support network creating a smooth patient/administrator experience.  Her keynote focused on how to design software by taking a  human-centered approach and avoiding a metric-centered design which can lean towards a more divisive and discriminatory influence.  You can follow what Kim has been working on over at Cooper – from navigating from research to personas to a “to do” list of how to integrate design into your own organization.

New + Next Users: Instagram Takeover 

Instagram content strategist, Whitney Trump, discussed how to take a 1 billion monthly user platform and make each of the user experiences welcoming and starting off on the right foot. Her set of principles for designing an IG “onboarding program” inspires people to be engaged on the app and how they interact with new people after their become accustomed.  Feel free to follow our own Beyond Design Instagram here! (please forgive the shameless plug).

Leaving Behind Bias

Susan Weinschenk, CEO and Cheif Behavioral Scientist at The Team W, presented on the importance of understanding the human mind in order to escape biases and create better designers. The Team W is a female-majority owed small business in Chicago that started their journey in 2012.  “Using our platform we have the ability to spread the knowledge and skills in UX and brain and behavioral science to those who may not have the resources to otherwise have access to this important info.” Some of their services include free online courses, heavy collaboration with non-profits, and mentorship.  You can learn more from Weinschenk and her team on their blog located here as well as listen to their Human Tech podcast. Susan stressed the importance of cognitive science and how that will lead to more fully realized solutions.

Diversifying Design

Kate Callahan was part of the Community Presenter series and is a UX research leader at Morningstar.  As a lifelong Chicagoan, she studied urban historical archeology in undergrad and completed her archaeological fieldwork on Chicago’s lakefront.  This was a huge factor of the 1909 Plan of Chicago and contributed to her MWUX discussion we were able to participate in.  Kate related the construction of the city in 1909 to a website redesign project.  “Impetuous growth, tacked-on acquisitions, and inadequate infrastructure.”  We learned how famed architect Daniel Burnham created a master plan for the city in hopes of taming the chaos and inspire the inhabitants and how a century later the design still holds strong and is applicable to today’s urban planning.

The famed 1909 Burnham plan. Image courtesy of The Chicago Architecture Center.  

Adobe Stock Action Figure

Adobe’s well-received Hovering Art Director action figure was applauded at MWUX for how relatable and how much it resonated to a room full of designers. The tiny hipster was clad in sneakers, an ironic Hawaiian shirt, mismatched tattoos, and a cup of overpriced coffee.  Originally released last summer, the toy spouts out condescending and coy “directions” and comes in Adobe Stock collectible packaging. You can still find some on eBay…for $200.

“Make it pop.” 

Finding Inspiration 

Another local designer took the stage last weekend and presented on how to Cultivate a Creative Culture. Justin Daure graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago and currently leads the Human-Centered Design and Development team at bswift. He focused on how to be a more present, mindful designer and learner. For example, he took his commute and AM coffee run and dissected it into observations and takeaways. Some of the moments included observing someone pausing to give directions while waiting at the train (takeaway: empathy), observing the want for an espresso (takeaway: process-to-quality), observing a magazine display (takeaway: curation), and then turning all these takeaways into fuel which creates opportunities.

Human-centered design, not just data-driven.


Closing out MWUX ’18

Our next stop was the Women in Design Conference in Chicago this past weekend! Stay tuned next week for our blog post and who we connected with. Thanks for reading and as always, feel free to drop us a note at with any questions or comments.

Unexpected Connections performs at the MWUX after party in Schubas music venue. 

Closing Out MWUX ’18

After 2 full days of workshops and speakers, MWUX planned much needed downtime with musical performances and transformed Schubas back into cozy music hall (that was previously an old Schlitz brewery). Musical acts like Pool Holograph and Deeper, both local Chicago bands, performed for the official MWUX after party.


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