Canvas 2017: Our thoughts

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Canvas is a one-day event held in Birmingham that features practical advice for designers, makers and producers of digital products. The talks were from some of the most renowned, innovative companies in the world such as Microsoft, Adobe, Monzo and Duolingo.

There were many great speakers, all offering tangible advice, insights and guidance that fired up our design team. These are a few of our favourite talks and key takeaways.

Hugo Cornejo – Monzo

We were introduced to Hugo Cornejo, the Head of Design at Monzo – a smartphone-only bank based in the UK that is redefining how banking can be done. As banking is considered to be the last sector to be disrupted by digital change, Monzo have pushed those boundaries by designing an app aimed for young, tech-savvy users that are drawn to the app’s ease of use.

The company’s core offering is a pre-paid debit card. Users receive notifications on their phones when they make a purchase, they can view their spending breakdowns and can easily put a freeze on their card if they have misplaced it. These features feel obvious to have, yet it makes you wonder why banks haven’t built these features in already.

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It will be worth keeping an eye on Monzo as they continue to shape what the future of banking looks like. Paramount to their success is the idea that human connections make a great product, everything they aim to do is visible on their public road map and they have a community forum for users to feedback on their experiences.

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Jeffery Veen – True Ventures

Jeffery Veen, design partner at True Ventures, has worked with Adaptive Path, Google and Adobe, as well as founding TypeKit. As designers increasingly find themselves taking leadership positions, he guided us on how creative teams can reach their full potential by setting up various conditions for success.

Equanimity, grace under pressure, calm and measured emotions in the state of crisis – Veen explained how we have a choice in the way we respond to emotional situations and to manage anxiety in team members. His four key points to create this environment are putting together a shared set of values, a sense of safety, camaraderie and trust in your environment and team.

Veen also outlined how he approaches meetings to get the best out of your team, with four types for various outcomes.

The Stand up

This runs every morning, each person has 60 seconds to run through what they are doing. During this time there’s no problem solving.

The week

This is a weekly meeting that gives people the opportunity to share what they’ve worked on and how they’ve progressed.

The Review

Reviews are optional, but participation is mandatory. A review isn’t a forum for expressing opinions, but rather teams should work on improving their feedback vocabulary by asking questions instead.

The postmortem

This is a meeting for when things go wrong. Rather than pointing fingers at a person, Veen highlights that this is a time to analyse the root cause of an issue and understand how things can be done better.

Zan Giliani – Duolingo

The product manager at Duolingo, Zan Giliani, ran through how they use A/B tests to innovate and drive changes within their app, as well as how they borrow elements from the gaming world to motivate users to learn new skills.

The company recognised that as humans, even with the best of intentions, we find it very difficult to teach ourselves something new. They developed four tenants to their approach based on video games.

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Small Concrete goals

  • Allow users to set a goal for how much time they’d like to spend on learning per day.
  • Reward consistency with ‘streaks’ after completing their goal on consecutive days. Users feel compelled to return to keep their streak going.

Visible progress

  • Users can see their progress towards their daily goal.
  • Users have to complete levels in order to unlock more advanced levels, just like a video game!

External triggers

  • Users receive notification to remind them to continue their learning.
  • If the user hasn’t completed their goal for the day, the app will notify the user 23.5 hours since their last lesson. By measuring the user’s learning pattern, Duolingo estimate that that is the time when they’re more likely to complete the lesson.

User Investment

  • Psychologically, users become invested in their learning as their streak grows.
  • To protect their investment in moments of weakness, users can buy a ‘shield’ to protect their investment, meaning they won’t lose their streak if they are inactive for a day or two.

Thanks to 383 for putting on the event, all the fantastic speakers and the sponsors that help make it happen. We’re already looking forward to next year. You can watch all the talks from Canvas here.