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Playful 2013: Retrospect

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In 2013 the Playful organisers brought together twelve speakers from the creative industries to share stories about games, design, interaction and everything else that comes from playing about with digital and analog mediums.

Every presentation delivered many thought provoking insights for open minds, but here are some of the highlights that resonated with me:

Duncan Fitzsimons from Vitamins Design started the day off by showcasing an inventive but simple solution for mobile phone users who have difficulties learning how to setup and use their new device. His Out of the Box case study showed how important it is to look at problems in new ways that draw on people's strengths and familiar learning methods.

The video below demonstrates the Out of the Box experience which won two Interactions Awards in 2012 and was exhibited in MoMA’s Talk to Me exhibit in 2011.


Ben Reade from Nordic Food Lab is someone who knows how to play without rules (and his food). His energetic speech was so full of passion and reinforced how important it is to dive in without fear with a confidence to fail and get things wrong. Ben proves that it really doesn’t matter what qualifications or degrees you have - it’s all about having a good idea, a research direction, and the passion to pursue that research.

Other notable work was presented by Stefanie Posavec who shared recent data illustrations from her residency at Facebook, among other visualisations, that explored new ways of communicating data. I loved her unique approach to dealing with patterns in numbers and seeing the methods she used to experiment with new ways of representing data. If you aren’t familiar with her work, I recommend looking at some of the projects on her site.

At Ostmodern I am always looking for new ways to design products for people. Playful 2013 delivered the best in design thinking, baked into a day of engaging presentations that were designed to encourage me to be as expressive and inventive as possible.

I want to share some of the thought provoking ideas that have inspired me to design for people in more playful and entertaining ways:

  • Build what you want to build and learn as you go.
  • Immerse yourself and lose control. You have to feel it to do your best work.
  • There is more excitement in not knowing what's in the box.
  • If you change an element in a game, is it still the same game?
  • Change the norm just enough to make something interesting happen.
  • Use innocent mischief, it is a playful way of conducting experiments with the world.
  • Don't experiment only with things that are part of everyday life. Experiment with things that we desire that live outside the status quo.
  • Experiment with open and closed modes of creativity.
  • Be judgement free. There are no right or wrong answers when you think like a child.
  • In Norway there are two meanings of the word play. One is used when you play with rules, the other when you play without them.
  • Play as a character.
  • Play to play.
  • Have no aim. It's fine not to know 'why'.
  • What (would happen) if...

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