August 11-13, 2017
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Karel Vredenburg

New Frontiers in Design: Interaction Technologies, Forms of Content, and Diversity of Use

Karel Vredenburg is Director, IBM Design. He has led the design community worldwide at IBM for much of his career and led the development of design processes and design languages. Karel headed up the design of the first commercialization of the IBM Watson cognitive computing system. He was a founding member of the IBM Design organization in 2012. Within IBM Design, Karel introduced the IBM Design Transformation program and the IBM Design Thinking framework to the company’s worldwide product labs in 2013, to the global business services organization in 2014, to the sales and delivery staff in 2015, and to the global technology services team in 2016. He is responsible for IBM Design worldwide client programs and regularly works with senior executive teams at the largest companies worldwide as well as with startups and other entrepreneurial companies.

Karel joined IBM in 1988 after having done graduate studies, research, and teaching at the University of Toronto. He introduced User-Centered Design at IBM in 1993 and assumed a company-wide role in 1995. Karel has written over 60 conference and journal publications including a book entitled “User-Centered Design: An Integrated Approach” and served as special issue editor for the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction special issue entitled “Designing the Total User Experience at IBM” and the “Ease of Use” issue of the IBM Systems Journal.

Karel also serves as the head of IBM Studios Canada, is Industry Professor at McMaster University, serves on the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council education committee, blogs at, and hosts a podcast series in iTunes. Karel is based in Toronto, Canada.

Design and design thinking are now seen as critically important to success in most organizations. With that ascendancy comes the responsibility to ensure that design disciplines stay up-to-date and ahead of the technology curve. This talk will provide a brief historical account of the major eras of commercial design and will then outline three new frontiers that the discipline needs to address moving forward. We’ll explore how interaction technologies are evolving from users interacting with devices to more ambient user interactions. Forms of content are also evolving due to these and other technologies such as artificial intelligence and all of these changes are additive, leading to increasing diversity of use. These new frontiers in design require new skills and new design sub disciplines as well. Universities need to embrace these new frontiers in their teaching and research. Companies need to prepare to explore these directions and individual practitioners need to level up their skills to be optimally effective in the future.