UX Week Keynote Speaker Ken Jennings on Maps and Design

When Ken Jennings stepped onto the stage of the game show Jeopardy! back in 2004, he was a humble software engineer from Salt Lake City. 74 wins later, he stepped off that stage as the winningest contestant in game show history. Since then, Jennings has continued to indulge his interest in esoteric knowledge of all kinds as an author and columnist. One of his books, Maphead, digs into the world of maps and map enthusiasts, looking at the past, present, and future of maps as a fundamental part of human experience. In this interview, I talk with Ken about the connections between the ideas in his book and the concerns of designers, and get a preview of what he’ll be talking about in his keynote at UX Week 2014 in San Francisco this September. Jesse James Garrett: To start things off, let’s briefly introduce people to your book Maphead and what it’s all about. Ken Jennings: So when I was a kid I was obsessed with maps and geography. I was very aware that this was super weird, that I lived in a culture where America famously didn’t know where anything was and people thought maps were confusing and bad and you only looked at them when you were lost. So I felt very odd that I could read a road atlas for pleasure the way a normal kid would read a Hardy Boys book. I found myself thinking many years later, “What’s up with that? Why was I such a weird kid? Were there other people like me out there?” So I wrote this book called Maphead about...

UX Week 2014: Meet the Keynotes

Every year, when we set about the task of choosing speakers for UX Week, we look for people who can bring a broad perspective to the challenges facing experience designers today. I’m particularly excited about this year’s keynotes because they may represent the most diverse range we’ve seen yet. For years, Dwell magazine’s coverage of architecture and interior design has been a major source of inspiration for the designers at Adaptive Path — not just for the obvious aesthetic appeal of the living spaces they feature, but for the clear interest they have in the way people interact with those spaces. That’s why we’re particularly excited to have Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron as our opening keynote. Amanda will be talking about the emerging patterns she’s seeing in how architects and interior designers are creating practical spaces with emotional appeal. We’ve been trying for a long time to get digital product design thinker Josh Clark at UX Week, and I’m happy to say we finally nabbed him. Josh is the author of the book Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps, and he’ll be sharing his thoughts on the deeper principles driving the evolution of digital products in the 21st Century to close out day one of UX Week. He may be best known for taking Alex Trebek to the cleaner 74 times in a row, but author Ken Jennings is also a serious design geek — specifically about maps, and the myriad ways people have used maps to communicate over the centuries. He wrote a whole book on the subject, and he’ll share with us his insights from a lifelong interest in how map...