March 23, 2019

Stratford, ON

BLND is the best business+design conference that connects industry professionals and aspiring industry people, with great talks, practical workshops and fabulous networking times... it's always a blast.

-BLND Attendee

2019 Speakers

Scott MacGregor headshot


Executive Experience Director

Chloe Tetreault headshot


UX Designer

Patrick Bach headshot


Director, Service Design

Jacquelyn Brioux headshot


Service Design Lead

Jason Stanley headshot


Design Research Lead
Element AI

Caitlin Curran-Blaney headshot


Director, CX Strategy
RBC Ventures

Mallory O'Connor headshot


Senior Advisor, Workplace Experiences
Habanero Consulting Group

Michelle Hilscher headshot

Hilscher, PhD

Senior Associate

Chelsea Omel headshot


Senior Manager, Innovation
Grant Thornton

Vanessa Rementilla Headshot


Executive Director,
Experience Design Strategy
Cineplex Digital Media

Dave Parker headshot



Mike Lovas headshot


Design Director
Healthcare Human Factors

Pansy Lee headshot


Director, Product & Design

Tom Lowry headshot


Designer Advocate

Kristina Rostorotsky headshot


Senior Product Designer
Loblaw Digital

Elizabeth Trudeau headshot


Head of Strategic Design
Wells Fargo

Reena Merchant headshot


User Experience Manager

Markus Grupp Headshot


Senior Director, Experience Design
Kira Systems

2019 Schedule

It's no longer a secret! This years lineup of speakers features an incredible group of design and business leaders ready to inspire.

8:00 AM

Bus Departure from Waterloo

For those coming from Kitchener-Waterloo, the buses will be departing from Hagey Hall at the University of Waterloo Main Campus at 8:00 AM to arrive at the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus for 8:45am.

8:45 AM

Registration & Breakfast

Welcome! Upon arriving to the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus, pick-up your name tag at the front desk.

Breakfast and beverages will be served to kick-off the event.

9:30 AM

Talk: Why can't we be friends?

What people say, what people do and what people say they do are three different things. Behavioural Economics (or B.E.) is the scientific study of psychological, emotional and cognitive factors on economic decisions, the belief that human beings are not entirely rational in their decision making. B.E. provides service designers with a new way of measuring the impact of our designs, prototypes and ideas by expanding our understanding of the problem through a deep exploration of behavioural barriers, as well as providing us with new ways of measuring the impact of our prototypes through a rigorous testing methodology.

Michelle Hilscher, PHD
Senior Associate | BEworks

Patrich Bach
Director, Service Design | CIBC

10:00 AM

Talk: Organizing humans to teach machines: How service design helps put the intelligence in artificial intelligence

For some, artificial intelligence appears magical in its provenance. For others, it appears as a hyper-technical field, driven by highly specialized scientists tinkering away in labs. Both perspectives ignore what really happens behind the curtain as AI teams build models that work in the wild. While the front stage shows an apparently self-teaching machine, the back stage is animated by human actors. Amongst these are the people who manually annotate data, tilling the ground for machine learning. Data annotation involves complex interaction between 1) non-technical labellers (the so-called blue collar workers of the AI era), 2) technical teams that ingest human-labelled data, use it to improve models, and provide return feedback on quality, and 3) project managers who configure and monitor labelling projects. This talk considers how the principles of service design can help us build more effective data annotation processes and, ultimately, better and more impactful AI models.

Jason Stanley
Design Research Lead | Element AI

10:30 AM

Talk: Better together: Business ♥ design

Reena discusses the intersection of business and design, how UX teams can play a more strategic role in business, and how designers can become more confident in making business impact.

Reena Merchant
UX Designer | Google

11:30 AM

Morning Workshops: Select 1 to participate in!

* Select 1 of the following workshops to attend:

1. Introduction to service design thinking & doing

In this introductory 90-minute workshop, you’ll have a chance to sit back and learn a little about the fundamentals of service design—what is service design (definition, lifecycle, process, methods, tools); what does it take to be a service designer; how to build a service design capability; and some critical jargon to get you started. Next, you’ll roll up your sleeves to work through a real service experience challenge as a group using two worksheets: problem framing and service blueprinting. The first worksheet helps you frame the service and reflect on user motivations, constraints, requirements, and success indicators. The second worksheet helps you sequence the various stages, actors, actions, and touchpoints of the service experience from beginning to end, front to back, and across all channels. Lastly, we’ll discuss what’s next—how to leverage this process to drive real impact and how to measure it along the way, learning and iterating as you go. Get energized during group work time with a mix of obscure and recognizable tunes while I walk around the room to field questions and help teams get unstuck. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Jacquelyn Brioux
Service Design Lead | Shopify

Chloe Tetreault
UX Designer | Shopify


2. Start it right

In this workshop, we’ll dive deep into arguably the most important part of any design process - discovery. We will learn advanced discovery techniques that are often not taught in D school and are skipped at work. We’ll practice answering pivotal questions to uncover the full context for any project: Who will fund the product/service? Who will build it? What is the environment in which the product/service will operate? How do we validate the riskiest assumptions quickly?  

We will practice applying the hypothesis & experimentation model. If you are early in your career, it’ll help lay a solid foundation for your practice. For seasoned professionals, it’ll be a fun way to polish your facilitation skills and get another tool to be more effective in your organization.  

The workshop is designed to simulate the design discovery process, where things unfold in real time, with surprises along the way.

Kristina Rostorotsky
Senior Product Designer | Loblaw Digital


3. Speed Bumps on the Road to Rapid Product Development

Learn and experience the consequences of rapid product development as you participate in an interactive simulation of product ideation through to MVP. In the workshop, you may assume the role of the product owner, designer, developer or marketer. You’ll navigate the demands of bringing your product to market quickly—be it time-constraints, team dynamics, internal and external issues while making the best decisions based on real-world factors. At the end of the simulation, we reflect and share the key strategies learned so you can apply it to your organization.

Vanessa Rementilla
Director, Experience Design Strategy | Cineplex Digital Media

Caitlin Curran-Blaney
Director, CX Strategy | RBC Ventures

1:00 PM


Your brain needs energy, eat some food! Enjoy a catered lunch.

1:45 PM

Fireside Chat: Exploring Careers in Design

Designing a career is no easy task. We hear from industry experts on how they've designed and shaped their own careers.

Pansy Lee
Director, Product & Design | MLSE

Tom Lowry
Designer Advocate | Figma

Mike Lovas
Design Director | Healthcare Human Factors

2:30 PM

Afternoon Workshops: Select 1 to participate in!

* Select 1 of the following workshops to attend:

1. Beyond the product

In complex industries like healthcare or financial services, launching a stand-alone product successfully is nearly impossible. A service design approach to innovation is a much more effective way to deliver value to multiple stakeholders, reduce the burden during implementation, and to provide lasting impact. Making the shift from a product design orientation to a service mindset was a game-changer for me. In this workshop I'll help you to make the transition.

Mike Lovas
Design Director | Healthcare Human Factors


2. UX for your life: designing the journey that matters most 

As experience designers, we have the superpowers to use empathy, observation, collaboration, insight, and prototyping to create incredible experiences for our clients or organizations. But what if we turned our design skills inwards, to intentionally craft our best, most meaningful careers and lives? In this 90 minute workshop, Mallory O'Connor shares a bit about her personal story and the journey of her mid-career challenge, insight, experimentation and evolution, and how you can: - Use your UX skills to develop insight into and align your personal, world, and work views- Get more of what you want and love in your work and life- Set yourself up to make intentional, value based decisions as you move forward in your career

Mallory O'Connor
Senior Advisor, Workplace Experiences | Habanero Consulting Group


3. Cultivating Curiosity: Beginner’s Mindset in Practice 

As designers, we place a premium on curiosity as a means to develop empathy for our users and stakeholders, and as a driver to constantly learn and grow. “Beginner’s mindset” is a foundational tenet of a service design that we can get comfortable with, but it’s all too easy to forget that doing something for the first time might be as terrifying as it is exhilarating for our stakeholders (and ourselves). In this hands-on workshop, we’ll explore the balancing act of playing the role of a service design “expert” while staying curious.

Chelsea Omel
Senior Manager, Innovation - Grant Thornton

4:00 PM

Networking Break

Connect and socialize with speakers, sponsors and attendee's over light snacks and refreshments!

4:45 PM

Talk: Comfortable with being uncomfortable

Our few years ago, in the middle of a particularly challenging project, I came home and suggested to my wife that we curb our spending. The problem was that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to solve the challenge I was working on, was going to fail horribly and felt like I could potentially get fired. Instead of feeding my fears, my wife told me to embrace that feeling, that it has always been part of my process and exactly where I need to be. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. In many ways, our job as designers is to take our user and clients places they might not get to on their own. But in order to do that, we need to be willing to stretch beyond our own comfort zone. Along that journey, things can get a little scary and challenging. The key is to embrace this discomfort, recognize it as a key part of the process and use it to propel you forward. In this talk, I’ll share how this mindset change has liberated me to take on challenges I never thought I’d have the opportunity to work on,  reimagine the problems I want to tackl and stay healthy doing it. And I suggest it might help you do the same.

Scott MacGregor
Experience Design Director | HUGE

5:15 PM

Talk: The unconventional customer journey to happiness

David's need to add more joy into his life and real purpose to his work sparked a complete life change that has allowed him to bring unexpected happiness to hundreds of patients. A designer and technologist, David has overcome endless technical, bureaucratic and regulatory challenges to craft bespoke Virtual Reality experiences for dying patients. The result? He's not only increased their quality of life, he's also inspired thousands in the process.

David Parker
CEO | Wishplay

5:45 PM

Talk: Lessons from the Trenches

Strategic Design is relatively new. Most Financial Services companies are not. What does it take to build this practice in the context of a long-standing company? What are the behaviors and ways of working needed at scale?

Elizabeth Trudeau
Head of Strategic Design | Wells Fargo

6:30 PM

Final Remarks and After Party!

Final remarks for the day and instructions for BLND 2019 after party at a local Pub.

9:00 PM

Bus Departure Stratford

Bus departs the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus to return to the University of Waterloo Main Campus at Hagey Hall.