Call for Speakers, Workshop leaders

DesignUp Festival 2019

DesignUp is back in Bangalore, India, November 12–16. And this year it’s more than a conference — it’s a Festival.

And it’s closed – the Call for Speakers & Workshop Leaders!! Delighted and overwhelmed by the response – not just many more proposals than 2018 but from many more countries! Danke Nandri Merci Arigato Dhanyvad Obrigado… 🙏

The Conference

A short backstory: DesignUp started with the idea of raising the design agenda within tech companies, tech-led businesses and non-profits who leverage on Tech. DesignUp is volunteer-driven and community led. There are no full time salaried employees — we all have our day jobs. For us, DesignUp is a passion and unifying force. Over 3 editions, we grew DesignUp from 230 attendees to 780 for the main conference. And a combined 1500+ attendees across multiple event formats in 2018, making it possibly one of Asia’s largest gathering of Designers and Product folks working closely with technology. But being the biggest is never the aim. Here’s the 2018 Conference Recap

Here’s what Khoi Vinh had to say about DesignUp 2017 and the ‘10-Things-You-Didn’t-Know’ published by YourStory in 2016. You can re-live the 2017 Conference in tweets via this LinkedIn article.

The conference has gone on to be called ‘the definitive Design-in-Tech event’, ‘the Gold Standard of Design Conferences in India’ and listed amongst ‘the most exciting Design events for 2018’ by Quartz. But we have a long way to go — and the only way to continue being a great destination for the growing community is by having the most insightful speakers, diverse voices and inspiring content. That’s where you come in!

Themes & Tracks

We don’t do an unique, over-arching theme for each edition.

Our foundational theme remains the same:

Design-in-tech and Design-for-tech — to make Tech and Businesses more human and humane, to impact human lives, and the broader ecosystems, for better.

And to contribute to the craft and practice of Design discipline in it’s new, ever-changing but high impact tech arena. Our Keynotes often explore myriad areas within this broad theme.

However, each year we focus on specific tracks — 2016 was dedicated to Design-in-startups, 2017 was focused AR/VR, emergent tech and Designing for India. In 2018 it was Participation & Inclusion, Miles & Mobility, Rich Experiences and Design Systems. Some of our themes emerge from your proposals — like the Miles & Mobility track.

Raj and Lauren share their experience of designing Google Maps for 2 wheelers, in the Miles & Mobility track

This year, we have five tracks.

Within each track, you can share a case-study, a processes, hacks, approaches or philosophy, share insights or unique journeys. We encourage you to share failures (it teaches us a lot) but strongly discourage using the platform to market your team, sell your product or your organisation.

Our Tracks for 2019

  1. Master (or Mastery) aims to showcase case-studies, hacks, learnings and work from those who are steps ahead in the journey to mastering skills, processes, systems, methods — to influence outcomes, to create change, to make an impact.
  2. Interweave is focused on the seams and overlaps between design-in-tech and multiple fields. The focus is to bring to light stories around how design (systems, services, thinking, interfaces) and tech can weave to co-create solutions with, and in, diverse fields — from music to fashion, finance, psychology, behavioural economics, medicine to conservation — and more.
  3. Unfold is future focused — how do products/services emerge and get shaped — through individual visions and collaborative effort? How do we assess risks, visualise scenarios with greater clarity, define unintended consequences and stand forewarned? How do we speculate about/ prototype products and services of the future?
  4. Plural starts from where we left off last year with inclusion and participation — this year the focus is on assimilating diverse voices and under-represented perspectives. From challenging post-colonial narratives to addressing the asymmetries in resource, infrastructure, platform and data — which in turn can trigger disruptive projects, practices and organisations.
  5. Data x Design explores how data influences product design and development, builds empathy, shows gaps, helps in evolution and continuous improvement. And how data in turn can be used to change behaviours for the better — from personal habits, health to policy and governance. From ‘Prediction Machines’ to AI/ML, data visualisation to conversational interfaces — this is defines the broad and expansive contours of this track.

For workshops, the emphasis is a lot on learning processes, methods and systems as well as tools and techniques — broadly located within the tracks. But we are also a bit more lenient on the workshops going off-track. We encourage Analog Workshops, focusing on hands-on creation — from Origami to Sketching to Photo-walks.

Attendees at the Voice Interfaces Workshop with Bruce Balentine


Two flavours: Workshops and Talks.

Two Variants: The Long Talks (upto 25 minutes, excluding Q&A) and the Lightning Talks (max 10 mins).

We encourage first time speakers and students to apply for the Lightning Talks. And if you’re stage shy, we are happy to help you prep.

Workshops are upto 2.5 hours, short ones can be upto 1.5 hours. Keynotes are usually by invite — but if we find a promising proposal, we’ll discuss and convert it to keynote.

We are also inviting ideas for long full day, in-depth Masterclass. You can use the same form to share your proposals.

Our Attendees

We attract some of the most diverse audiences: by organisation type, gender, location or roles. By US or European standards, DesignUp is extremely affordable, but by Asian benchmarks it is on the expensive side ($150–$250+ per ticket) but that hasn’t deterred attendees, if anything — it has only attracted those most committed to learning and sharing.

Attendees at the 2018 Pre-event in Singapore.

In 2018 we had people coming from over 250 organisations — from Adobe and Amazon to home-grown Indian startups like Zeta and Zomato. Young product companies, VCs and well-funded startups like Flipkart and ClearTax were all represented. Listed companies like Microsoft, MakeMyTrip and Google, to established consulting orgs like Accenture, EY, TCS, BCG as well as boutique studios and freelancers participated. Competitors and disruptors, funders and funded — all became part of the community for these few days.

From SF to Sydney via New Delhi, Dubai, Jakarta and Singapore: #DUp19 Bangalore was a melting pot

Almost 20% of attendees are non-designers: product and program managers, engineers, front-end developers, data scientists. And 10% attendees were students. The remainder were mostly Designers in the 3–7 year experience bracket with a healthy mix of very senior practitioners. Some are self taught engineers turned designers — some went through Design school and a few loved it enough to get a Masters or a PhD too.

Young designers at the 2017 DesignUp Conference

A lot of attendees have come from outside of Bangalore — from Delhi, Pune, Mumbai (or Bombay), Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chennai, Dubai, Singapore, Sydney, NewYork and SF. The questions they asked were mature, thoughtful (though sometimes a bit long winded). In 2018 (and for our Singapore Conference in 2019) we have seen a big influx of attendees from SE Asia including Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Philipeans.

Our attendees don’t like Usability 101 lectures and the basics aren’t what they come to DesignUp for. India has moved on as a country, and Asia as a region, when it comes to design-in-tech — after all it’s not 2008 anymore.

Bring on the music! Getting the energy going at #DUp18

The Process

Over the next few weeks we’ll accept proposals and prune it to the long-list. Whereas we are looking to fit most talks within a broad track, we’ll also consider outliers. The long list will be shared with a cross-section of past attendees, volunteers and advisors to vote on. Which then gets us the shortlist. Once the short-list is ready, we will call you (or email), and discuss the presentation in greater detail. The programming schedules will be out 6–8 weeks before the event.

Given the general time-crunch, we cannot answer each applicant individually, and will only contact folks on the shortlist.

Eric Snowden, Senior Director of Design, Adobe, speaks at DesignUp Asia 2019, Singapore

Fees and Flights

Speaker fee is a touchy topic. We don’t pay speaker fees. Rather, we can’t. Some stellar speakers have requested anything from $15,000 to $60,000 but that’s a non-starter for a conference where the ticket prices average $200. It’s India and DesignUp isn’t there yet on the commercial aspects (and not sure if we want to get there).

But flights and stay? That’s what we cover, except for those in the lightning talks. Not business class but we’ll aim for Premium economy if you are likely to remain in air for long long periods of time. However, we’ll have a limited fund earmarked for flight tickets which we can cover — if your organisation can fund the travel, we’ll list them and acknowledge them as Conference supporters. If you need childcare at the conference, we’ll work with the hotel to organise that.

Grace Su Lei Naing presents the Design process on understanding the sesame eco-system in Myanmar, through the lens of smallholders at DesignUp Asia 2019 in Singapore.

Diversity & Inclusion

Those are not words on our site or a policy statement. It’s not intent. It’s action: it’s what we do. Having lived and worked in many different cultures and countries, some of us have actually lived what it means to be ‘different’, what it means not to be part of a majority, to have a marginal voice. We understand.

And we want DesignUp to represent voices and perspectives that are different and diverse, non-conformist and non-majoritarian. We had 45% women speakers in our first edition — our very first opening keynote was by a woman. We have had women CEOs and non-Designers: VCs and Engineers and Educators, present on our platforms. And we’ll continue to encourage diversity — gender, roles, organisations, races, regions, perspectives.

Our code of conduct

We want DesignUp events, irrespective of how small or big they are — to be safe places for sharing and learning. We celebrate diversity and hope and expect thoughtful, considerate and respectful behaviour from all. And we know you too share these beliefs too.

Our code of conduct applies to every participant, speaker, sponsor and organiser.

Speakers and workshop leaders set the tone for the event and are looked upto for the thought leadership they provide. So this may be a specially relevant place for a reminder. We do not tolerate —

  • Demeaning, offensive or derogatory verbal comments, content or depictions (e.g., related to religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, disability, country, ethnicity);
  • Inappropriate physical contact, verbal abuse, deliberate intimidation or stalking or recordings with an intent to harass.
  • As you put together the content for your talk or workshop — we’re sure you’d be thoughtful about these. We’re committed to providing a safe place for you to share learning, share inspiration — and to learn and be inspired.
The speakers, organizers and volunteers of DesignUp Asia 2019, Singapore.

What’s Next?

Hope this gives you a decent overview — and here’s the form to get your proposal started. We look forward to your proposal. Soon! If you want to stay in touch with the events and the DesignUp Community, subscribe to the sporadic newsletter I send out…And please share with, forward to people who might make fantastic speakers, have a point of view or inspiring work to share. And remember…

About Us

DesignUp started with the idea of raising the design agenda within tech companies and tech-led businesses. To make tech, businesses, products and services thoughtful, human and humane, by Design.

DesignUp is volunteer-driven and community led. There are no full time salaried employees—we all have our day jobs. For us, DesignUp is a passion and unifying force.

Core Team

DesignUp’s core team includes Abhishu, Anindita, Baisam, Dharmesh, Jay, Lucky, Manu, Nitesh, Narayan, Prabin, Saloni, Sima, Supriya & Tuhina.

Advisory Board

DesignUp Advisory board, constituted in 2018, has Katja Forbes, Vandana Abraham and V Shivakumar on the team.


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