Insights from ProtoHack Toronto's kick-off panel

Last weekend we hosted another amazing round of ProtoHack Toronto! ProtoHack is an international event series of one-day hackathon for non-coders, where participants try out prototyping with popular UX tools amidst a supportive community. Every time we host ProtoHack we see see amazing ideas pitched and enjoy the collaborative energy it brings.

This time, we kicked off the hackathon with an evening headlined by a panel of top UX talent. Hosts Rohan Nair of Pungle Payments and Martin Hauck of StackAdapt led an inspiring discussion.

The panel featured some incredible Toronto talent:

  • Steve McGuire – Associate Manager, Usability & Optimization of Canadian Tire
  • David Williams – Studio Manager of IBM Studios Toronto, Spadina
  • Eliane Tozman – Head of Design, IBM Canada Innovation
  • Preet Singh – Senior Product Designer, The Working Group; Founder of DesignX

Here are some highlights from their discussion on design thinking, proving a design case, and thoughts on relevant trends.

The meaning of ‘design thinking’

On a high level, design refers to creatively building an effective, repeatable solution to a specific problem. For our panelists, design thinking encompasses more than that.

“Design thinking is about prioritizing the experiences that people have with technology,” said Eliane. “It’s not about the technology on its own. As millennials become the majority of the workforce, expectations of experiences are so much greater than even 5 years ago.”

For David, he appreciates that what he is sure of now in his industry will likely not be so relevant in the near future. “The delight of my career is that I don’t expect design or design thinking to stop evolving,” he said.

Collaboration is key

When a product comes together, there are a lot of different perspectives and roles on a team that need to synchronize – one way or another. This was something that all of our panelists touched on, particularly the importance of designers aligning themselves with developers. “I’ve always worked really closely with developers, and I’ve made a point of learning some development concepts so I can better communicate with my team,” said Preet.

Ingenuity is required when developing a product toward a successful end goal, Steve pointed out. “Some of the biggest creatives are developers. You want to include everyone in the creative process so you can understand each other – care about what everyone needs to get their job done.”

Pinpointing the most relevant trends

Given the rapid pace of technological advances, what are the most important trends to pay attention to? For Steve, it’s the relatively recent prominence of prototyping. “In order to make things real, you have to put it in someone’s hands,” he said. “Being able to put something in someone’s hands goes way further in getting an effective gauge on a future product – far better than a bunch of people commenting on a mobile app design on someone’s desktop.”

Preet emphasized the importance of learning more about data analytics. “Three or four years back, designers would design in the dark without much in the way of data to back up their decisions. Now every detail can be determined by knowing more about our users.”

David and Eliane both highlighted the ever-present topic of the advancements in artificial intelligence (AI). “AI only grows as much as human beings provide the data for it to do so. At IBM, we’ve assembled 90% of our data through AI in the last 2 years,” said Eliane. “Being able to better understand your data as a UX designer helps you better leverage it in your final product, and machine learning can really take this to a new level.”

“We don’t fully know where the further development of AI will end up taking things,” said David. “Regardless, there will always be an emphasis on human experience.”


Thanks to everyone who came out for ProtoHack! Interested in learning more about UX Design? Join us this Thursday at 6:30pm as Preet returns for a keynote on Breaking Into UX Design!

Wanna dive in for yourself? Check out our immersive bootcamp and part-time courses.