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Keep Austin Weird - and Human-Centered

Written by 
Mary Halling
April 29, 2019

"Design thinking isn't just a methodology, it's a mindset." - Idean

This was the refrain heard 'round the conference. Design thinking isn't just something you pick up and do once in a while when you feel like it; it should instead become your modus operandus, your way of being. Frankly, that makes it way more palatable than it being just one more tool teams have to adopt.

Pink 'Welcome' banner for the conference at the JW Marriott in Austin, TX

As someone new to both my role as a Community Manager and to #ConferenceLife, I tried to absorb as much as I could. The conference's 3 themes were Customer Empathy, the ROI of Design Thinking, and Digital Transformation. These themes were present in all facets of the event, from the content of sessions (shout out to everyone who took a ride on the Austin metro to evaluate it's human centered design-ness), to the tools speakers used in their sessions, to the means of communication throughout the event.

Brainstorm results from a "How might we...?" question in the Design Thinking University track

The majority of my time was spent at our booth, equipped with a 68" Avocor touchscreen, an iPad, and several laptops, all ready for participants to come and try MURAL out for themselves. MURAL exists at the intersection of all three of the conference's themes, and watching people have lightbulb moments about this made the whole experience for me.

Ideating on the Windows 10 app in MURAL

Something else that caught my attention was how many different industries were represented. I got the chance to talk with people from A/V, food service, freelancers/entrepreneurs, higher education and financial services, in addition to design firms. One attendee told us about prototyping a scuba mask that allows two-way communication between divers. Another mentioned the importance of co-creating with their customers, but feeling stuck because of the geographical distance between them. Our CEO, Mariano Suarez Battan, co-presented with Charles Schwab on the necessity of digital transformation at scale. Teachers came to talk about the importance of teaching design thinking to young people.

A conversation that stands out is one with a professor from the University of Northern Texas who'd worked with the state's education bureau to get Design Thinking added as part of their students' general education curriculum.

He said, "just like every student will have to take English 101, they'll also have to take a course on the principles of design thinking."

It only reinforced that design thinking is the new frontier for driving change across the globe -- and you don't have to be a designer to do it.

Finally, the conference presented a great opportunity to bond with my own MURAL teammates. I work remotely 100% of the time, so collaborating outside of a mural, a Zoom call, or a Slack chat - which, don't get me wrong, are fantastic tools - helped me form a fuller picture of the humans I interact with daily in my professional life.

The team at our booth on day 2 of the Design Thinking conference

Overall? 10/10, would recommend.


Want to meet up at our next event? Here’s where we’ll be: Control the Room in late May, Enterprise UX 2019 in early June, + Running Remote in late June.

Send me a message at and let me know 🙌

About the author

About the authors

Mary Halling

Community Manager
Mary is the Community Manager at MURAL. She's passionate about building relationships with people, especially if coffee and good food are involved.