The Power of Collaboration: Our top takeaways from Collaborate Bristol 2023

Did you miss Nomensa’s Collaborate 2023 event last week, at the Watershed in Bristol? It was a scorcher – temperatures of 29+ as well as all the industry’s hot potatoes from designing for gesture and VR, hybrid working, to the real-world impact of AI.

Collaborate is a conference dedicated to exploring effective collaboration and the nuances of team dynamics. This year’s diverse lineup of speakers shared their valuable insights and experiences. From helping align visions to embracing chaos, the conference delved into the challenges and triumphs of design and collaboration.

If you did miss the event, we’ve got you. Take five. In this blog post, we’ll highlight some of the points that really resonated with us as a team, looking to be better, in the ever-evolving world of design.

Matt Corrall – Design Director (Spatial Interaction) at Ultraleap

How to Design for Gesture & VR

Hold tight, we’re about to tear-up the rulebook on UX design. With twenty years experience in design Matt Corrall made it his mission to get us all ‘comfortable’ with the gesture and UI design principles on the horizon of a not so distant future. Brace yourselves, as we extend our daily interactions beyond the screen into territory reserved for Hollywood blockbusters – until now.

What got us talking:

3D Interfaces – 2D touchscreens are going to be redundant as VR interfaces, are designed for hands operation, in a three-dimensional and physical space
Size matters – inclusive experiences will require designers to accommodate the natural variance in hand sizes, shapes, and mannerisms across a global population
Stop, look and listen – in the absence of tactile feedback, spatial UI design must provide clear and exaggerated feedback through visual design, audio cues, and haptics to instil user confidence in their interactions.

Venessa Bennett – Head of UX at Cazoo

Bridging the gap – bringing together people, process and tech to create a unified vision

With a tonne of experience working as a design leader for big tech brands like Vodafone we were keen to hear Venessa Bennett’s experience in aligning people, processes and technology – getting everyone on the same page (or in this case screen). Having quickly achieved unicorn-status, Cazoo utilised UX and developed new tools to transition logistics and operations in-house – streamlining the workflow and automating manual processes to empower their internal teams. But how do you achieve (and maintain) a frictionless system?

What got us talking:

Miller’s Law – as individuals, typically we can only keep around SEVEN (plus or minus two) items in our working memory. Keep it simple to avoid cognitive overload. It’s a balancing act; fast delivery without passing complexities onto users. Recognise the need for fast delivery may cause problems, people might resort to workarounds and cheat the system if it’s too complex
Right tools for the right people – minimise unnecessary processes. Taking a step back and agreeing the actual needs, aligning goals, mapping common themes, and creating a single curated view for users can enhance the collaborative process
Take them with you… – Bringing others along on the design journey, fostering understanding of the process and its context.

Chris Richards and Gareth Williams – Creative Director and Lead Product Design at Nomensa and Freelance

The Practitioners Guide to the AI Galaxy

Is it all just hype? Chris Richards and Gareth Williams set the record straight on the real-world impact when it comes to AI adoption in design workflows – discussing how to effectively employ the right tools but not shying away from the need for regulatory safety and transparency.

What got us talking:

AI – it’s capabilities are beyond our expectations. The opportunities for businesses and individual roles are probably considerations not yet on our radar
AI Collaboration – it’s perspective in your pocket
Driving forward – once you switch gears, going back is slow
Challenge – always, especially standard patterns or journeys.

Leticia Miranda – Lead Product Designer at Warner Bros. Discovery (London)

How to achieve efficiency and alignment despite being thousands of miles apart?

More change – but this time focusing on globally dispersed teams. Leticia Miranda shared insights into how to encourage effective communication, give constructive feedback (remotely), and align values and ambitions across time zones with evolving team dynamics. Underpinning the session was fostering a culture of empathy, building trust, and empowering team members.

What got us talking:

Communication – sounds obvious right? But it’s easy to forget how to talk to each other as human beings. Whether it’s how you speak to people, or when you choose to share ideas, think about the outcome you’re after and the importance of buy-in
Constructive Criticism – consider 1:1 feedback, not group sessions on video calls. Make sure you know the brief before you critique work – make sure what you’re saying is helpful and aligned to the objectives
Know the mission – how do you onboard new people into the culture of a business when you’re working remotely? Transparency. Change can create uncertainty. Make sure those joining know the expectation of them, be clear about their ‘mission’, so they can feel part of something. And for the existing team; don’t be ambiguous with a new-starter’s role. Help create a shared understanding of individual contributions.

Kayode Olorunfemi – VP, User Experience Lead at JPMorgan & Chase & Co

UXing Stakeholders

We’re all au fait with ‘Mobile First’ right? Well, Kayode Olorunfemi wants us to start thinking ‘People First’. From a decade of experience leading in user experience design, Kayode knows how to ask the right questions, and build strong relationships that lay the groundwork for stakeholder buy-in and overall project success.

What got us talking:

Context – take the time to understand the stakeholders’ perspective by walking “a day in their life” -gain a comprehensive understanding of the processes involved, potential ‘blockers’ and identify opportunities for improvement
Fearless leaders – advocate for people. And in your own role, go beyond to foster positive impressions and leave a lasting impact
Partners not adversaries – now this one scored points with us; we can be on the same team but have different objectives. The analogy of a football team , saving and scoring goals, illustrated the point perfectly. Align objectives and expectations to create a collaborative atmosphere. Great book recommendation too – Dan Sullivan’s ‘Who not How’.

Teak-Miu Tse – Director of Design Systems & Operations at Sky

Amplifying design, reducing friction, easing the pressure

Day-to-day we all wear many different hats, bringing many different qualities to the table. Teak-Miu Tse, shared his observations of how bringing together varied roles and skills across design can be a catalyst for delivering, overall, a better product experience. And key; nurturing a culture of cross-functional collaboration through design systems.

What got us talking:

Crossover – between people, practice and platforms
Wayfinding – where am I, what’s coming up? What am I going to do about it… and most importantly, with who?
Governance – how’s it going?

Alkistis Geropoulou – Head of User-Centred Design at Companies House

Your legacy is the people you develop and the culture you create

Without trust you have nothing. Alkistis Geropoulou explored the role of storytelling in the decision-making processes. How to be an effective communicator; creating empathy, and building trust through the stories we tell.

What got us talking:

Communication – here it is again. And who doesn’t love an acronym? RACI (Responsive, Accountable, Consulted and Informed). Be clear. Be accountable. Have a framework of communication and responsibility
Storytelling – communicate user needs to create better design and empathy to build trust with stakeholder
High & Low level users – working within the constraints of data, technical infrastructure, and resources, requires collaboration. Focusing on high-level and low-level user needs and mapping the user experience, allows for a holistic understanding of all user requirements. Pretty empowering stuff.

Nis Bjorn – Design Lead at Metalab

How I stopped worrying and fell in love with the chaos

The more process-driven among us were intrigued by this one. The Everything, Everywhere, All at Once references helped demystify what at times, were some pretty heavy philosophies of physics. Nis Bjorn explained how we all need to embrace the chaos and understand we’re living in an ever-changing landscape, where the ability to adapt is key. Nothing remains true for long, designers must listen, observe, and change rapidly. Iterative design, prioritising an experience that is easy to change, over the pursuit of the “best user experience” and encouraging designers to find their focus.

What got us talking:

Everything changes – stop worrying about generating the “best” design or user experience, as the design process itself helps generate the desired outputs. Accepting this reality from the start is crucial (especially if you want to worry less). Therefore we should focus more on designs that are quick to change
Self Organisation – embracing chaos doesn’t mean abandoning all logic and process. Order can be found from the accumulation of local interactions (islands of logic ) within a disordered system (a sea of chaos) – the key is to be more focused, have a clear target (and timeframe)
Let’s find out – be ok with failing, seeing where that takes you and always make time for blue-sky thinking.


A lot of unique perspectives and tangible insights at this year’s Collaborate Bristol 2023. Change was a big theme. It’s inevitable. We need to be adaptable. Whether that’s embracing new technology or working more agile, but still collaborative, in a hybrid landscape.