Stampede team has always strived to stretch the design world beyond meeting the current industry standards; we’re here to redefine it. We aim to always keep excellence as our standard, stretching beyond just design execution. We are dedicated to elevate design, marrying strategy with innovation to chart new territories. In achieving this, Shaza, our co-founder is the biggest supporter and player when it comes to working towards our endeavour.

This is the main event hall, more photos can be found on Flickr

A few months ago, we from the design team were buzzing with excitement when Shaza announced that anyone could potentially attend the World Usability Congress 2023 in Graz! The team pitched for the seat by expressing our interest in how this opportunity could benefit our growth, the whole team, and our design community. About a week later, Azim, the UX Designer, Wan, from business development team and I, the product designer, got another news—the three of us were selected to join Shaza herself for the trip!

Shaza, being the eager beaver in growth, started prepping us with the potential opportunities that she had already foreseen for us to grab from the conference. She pointed out the practices from the global stage that we could adapt and adopt. Even though the four of us have different roles in Stampede, we came to Graz with one mission in mind. We all want to find opportunities to elevate the design capability standard in Malaysia! Of course, hearing that got all of us excited, and we started prepping ourselves for the next two weeks.

On the 8th of October 2023, the four of us packed our bags and flew to Austria. The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Vienna took about 17 hours, including the transit. We landed in Vienna International Airport and straight away took the 3-hour train ride to Graz, while soaking in the sights and learning about Austria’s train system along the way. The train came all the way from Prague, Czech Republic it seems as we could buy some refreshments in CZK (Czech Koruna)! So many new things we learned from this trip, even after just few hours of arriving.

I’d like to have the honour of sharing with you a little bit about World Usability Congress Graz. It’s an international conference organised by Youspi (an Austrian UX, CX and Usability agency) focusing on usability and user experience in digital products. It has been held annually since 2013 in Graz, Austria, bringing together professionals, researchers, and practitioners from various industries to discuss the latest trends, share insights, and showcase innovative approaches to improving user experience. This event covers a wide range of topics, including UX design, user research, product development, and more, making it a significant event for anyone interested in the field of usability and user experience.

The event venue is at Stadthalle, Graz — a beautiful, spacious, multi-functional event hall sporting a modern, contemporary architectural style. With a generous amount of natural lighting entering the building thanks to the glass facade & roof in the communal area, this event venue doesn’t feel suffocating at all despite the big crowd of participants ranging from around 400-500 people.

The event started on the 9th of October and lasted for four days until the 12th of October 2023. The first two days were Focus Days — containing industry-specific talks and in-depth workshops, and then the final two days were the Conference Days — the main event containing multi-track talks, masterclasses and keynote (maximum 4 tracks at one time). Azim and I attended workshops relevant to our respective practices, and then on Conference Days all four of us strategised well to maximise the learnings from the multi-track talks. Check out our learnings in Part 2!

24 Hours of UX committee members, assemble!

Our main objective in Graz was to gather knowledge, but what I found interesting is that the UX community there is very friendly and engaging. We used this chance to build genuine connections with fellow UX-ers or virtually anybody we can interact with and build our presence in the region.

Even before the conference started, the interaction with the UX community already started by meeting Johannes of UX Graz — one of Shaza’s comrades in arms, having organised together the 24 Hours of UX in previous years remotely from across the world (Making this occasion their very first time meeting in person, which we couldn’t really tell from their sense of camaraderie exhibited)! He toured us around the beautiful city of Graz and introduced us to several of his colleagues along the way. Very memorable introduction to the event and hosting city. We also met Ahmed Al-Huwwari of UX Jordan and Peter Horvath — both committee members 24 Hours of UX, making this event such a special in-person meetup for them!

The next day, after completing our workshops, we attended the UX Graz meetup dinner that was open to any WUC attendees. As our usual practice, Stampede members scattered as we make connections with as many new faces as possible because we love hearing from different perspectives as well as making more chances to connect with a diverse cast of attendees. We were so excited that night because everyone that we met was very genuine and friendly, also gained some insights into how the design world looks like in Europe through the conversations. They all had the same mission going into the conference. The actual conference is on the next day, but we already got a glimpse of UX practice through the lens of Europeans!

Pre-conference meetup dinner hosted by UX Graz. Such a great, cave-like vibe restaurant.

Real conference days came next. Naturally, we made many connections there as the WUC event was designed to give plenty of opportunities to network and mingle around — during breakfast, in-between talks (20 minutes gap between talks), lunchtime, and the night of picturesque hilltop at Schlossberg during the Networking Dinner. So many new precious connections were made throughout the journey (even on our way back to Vienna via train, we connected by pure chance with Susanne — one of the WUC volunteers, that our hearts were filled with joy till the very end and beyond!

Stampede team in WUC Networking Dinner with Philip, an engineer-turned-UX designer from Graz. One of the many new friends we made here, with interesting stories.

Long before departing for the trip, the thought of meeting new people at conferences pretty much spooked Azim and me. Being introverts, having to expand our communication skills with the Europeans (the first time for some of us) can be intimidating due to some foreseeable cultural differences with this part of the world. But knowing the values this opportunity can give us, we know we should not miss it and rise up to the occasion.

And I’d like to share some tips in making conversations with the community, that might not be applicable to everybody but have worked for us;

Focusing too much on design & professional conversation topics every time with everybody can feel transactional and takes a toll on our energy.

So, we tested a different approach with a Danish designer named Anton. Surprisingly, we found that genuine connections are made easily when we are invested in that person’s story. Our conversations that night started to change, as they revolved around our respective country, life, career journey and virtually anything that came across our minds. The conversation eventually led to career & professional topics at some point, but it felt more natural. It was less tiring, and we could maintain our social energy for a long duration.

The beautiful rooftop view from Eventim’s office during the Stampede visit

We carried this approach to make more connections during the event days and we managed to learn more about people, common issues and values, and finally not forgetting to talk about the design cultures abroad to learn from each other. We even scored an office visit to Eventim in Vienna (Thank you for your hospitality, Marcus and Katharina!), attributed to the small talk and genuine connections made with the people we met there. All in all, connections should be pure and have minimal underlying agenda, as we all appreciate the natural relationships between people — as we always do in design field.