The present and future of our world is digital. From Internet of Things and artificial intelligence to interacting in augmented reality scenarios (a round of Pokémon Go, anyone?), we can’t escape the digitalization of our world. Embracing this zeitgeist means approaching software design from a different angle. In the digital world, the boundaries between user experience and software blur to such a degree that we no longer differentiate between the two.  Designing for the digital world means designing software that effortlessly integrates into our daily lives. Over 500 participants at the SAP UX Day on September 15, 2016 in St. Leon-Rot, Germany came to cross the bridge into the digital age.

Maricel Cabahug, Head of Global Design and host of SAP UX Day, kicked-off the event.


She noted how the event has grown over the years. The event started 2 years ago with around 250 participants. In 2015, there were around 350 internal and external participants. This year, there were over 500 participants, including co-innovation customers around SAP UX and design partners from all over Germany whom she had the honor to welcome.  She also welcomed over 50 students and professors from various design departments at institutions in Germany as well. Maricel also warmly welcomed the keynote speakers and Dr. Sam Yen, Chief Design Officer at SAP.


There are a lot of hot topics in technology today: virtual reality, augmented reality, big data, IoT, Cloud, API, and machine learning – just to name a few. Rather than talking about the design aspects of these hot topics, in his keynote, Sam Yen stressed the importance of putting people first. Technology is there to make our lives easier and to improve people’s lives with innovatively designed offerings. By leveraging the journey and understanding the business, design in enterprise software can be the new black and can embrace the zeitgeist.

Embracing the Zeitgeist

The event presentations focused on the experience of interacting with software: what experience, what feelings and emotions does the user interface evoke? Do we need a user interface? How do we get to the heart of the matter when it comes to designing for the digital world?

Two of the external presenters talked with us about how the human experience can be reflected in technology and software.

Prof. Andrea Krajewski, who teaches interactive media design at the University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt, is currently exploring the future of interfaces.

Dominika Szope, from the Center for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, gave us another perspective on technology and how technology and industries can gain new creative ideas from art.

There were so many approaches and many delightful ideas presented during the course of SAP UX Day. What I took away from the event is how designing for the digital world means that design needs to be unobtrusive and inviting to the senses. Software should be visually appealing, but it should also be appealing to other senses, such as touch. And, just as humans use their voice to interact with one another, design for the digital world needs to take voice, and the nuances it carries, into consideration.

This might sound like science fiction, but consider how virtual reality can bring forth real emotions – even though it’s all an illusion. Consider for a moment the strides that have been made in augmented reality – how sensory input can be superimposed on the real world to enhance the everyday experience. Consider how voice is being used in multiple scenarios to search for and analyze information and data.

I wasn’t the only one to have taken way so many intriguing insights from the event. Here are some impressions the event made on internal and external participants:

Thanks for the fantastic event. I learned a lot and loved every minute of it!

The organization of the event was impressive right down to the smallest details. The topics were selected with great sensitivity, were motivating, and simply inspiring.

This event set the bar high. It was extremely well organized and run. It offered everyone so much.

Bridging the Gap

The gap is the abstraction, the distance between users and the software they use; it’s complexity and irrelevant data that is displayed to users. It may seem strange, but, to me, by bridging the gap, we return to the human experience; we infuse software design with those aspects that make us human: creativity, art, play, an empathetic voice, a desire to assist when in need. By folding such aspects into how software is designed, data is no longer off-putting, but rather inviting, and pie charts might actually be fun to analyze. Imagine data that is as individual as the user who needs it; data that is as aesthetically pleasing as insightful and that allows us to explore the world around the data itself.

The digital world might be full of bits and bytes, but I learned that the digital world is much more than just the technology to generate and process data. At its electronic core lies a profound desire to make the real world easier for everyone.


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