2023 AGI Open Aotearoa

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to attend the AGI Open in Aotearoa New Zealand. This was a big deal since apparently it’s the first time this international design conference is held in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s hosted by the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI), a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1952 whose focus is on connecting leaders of the global design industry. I thought I’ll share some takeaways of my favourite speakers before I forget all about it.

Taku Satoh

I wasn’t familiar with Taku Satoh or his work so this was a pleasant surprise. He talked about his design approach which is derived from an ancient Japanese philosophy–hodo hodo. It means just enough in Japanese and aims for design to serve its purpose and nothing more. He believes that doing more than enough is just the designer putting their ego in the way of the solution.

It’s about going back to the essence of objects and their function without any superfluous elements. A surfboard for example fulfils its purpose beautifully. It acts as an extension of the human body and allows you to do pretty remarkable things in the water. It does what it’s supposed to and is designed accordingly.

I was reminded of this lovely quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Stefan Sagmeister

I just love Sagmeister’s work and his latest is no exception. It’s unexpectedly brilliant combined with a great personal story. He’s re-used and modified antique artwork that he inherited from his ancestors to overlay various statistics in an abstract way. By doing so he demonstrates that we’re much better off now than 200 years ago when it comes to things like democracy, child mortality, hunger, homicide, etc.

All of this was captured in a book which unfortunately was sold out by the time I tried to buy one otherwise I would’ve loved a signed copy from the legend himself. But I was still able to get my hands on one online and it’s stunning.

I was reminded of the book Factfulness by Hans Rosling, which I enjoyed a lot so this was right up my alley.

Irene Pereyra

I first heard about Irene Pereyra when I was still on twitter ages ago and followed the other half of this duo–Anton so I was pleasantly surprised to see her in person. Her talk was focused on flipping some common user experience best practices on their head and arguing the opposite such as:

Good UX design

  • is usable first beautiful first.
  • minimises complexity relocates complexity.
  • can be measured can’t be measured.
  • doesn’t need to be learned takes effort to learn.

What stood out to me that they don’t do any user testing whatsoever before shipping products which is wild to me. But hey whatever works. She also left us with this gem that just made me nod my head in agreement:

To sell something new, make it familiar, to sell something familiar, make it surprising.