top of page

vcamp: unconferences | service design & branding| Fall 2019


a mixed reality conference experience

Unconferences, a popular conference model, have a predefined structure but undefined topics. The topics are defined by the participants so that each unconference is unique, social, and ever–changing. Unconferences create unique environments to facilitate deep learning. The goal for this project was to bring its key values to a wider audience.  

my role

user research

project manager

the team

Charlie Dabbs

Steve Kangisser

our approach

tackling a business opportunity through service design






putting it together

what did I learn?













vcamp is the mixed reality experience of an unconference, making the conference available for virtual and physical participants. How to attend is merely a choice.

The vcamp platform enhances the unconference experience for physical &  virtual attendees, presenters, and sponsors. It creates opportunities for:

  • increased attendance

  • broader networking opportunities & casual social interactions

  • enhanced facilitation tools

  • reduced environmental impacts associated with typical conference travel

At the time of this project, the implementation of a mixed reality conference felt very far out. I never imagined how relevant this would be a few months later due to the covid-19 pandemic.


In retrospect, I wish we did more extensive prototyping and evaluated interfaces of the mock platform. We focused our attention on translating insights from research into a proof-of-concept, really researching how emerging technology could be utilized in this type of experience because there were so few examples. 

problem statement

How can we leverage current and emerging technologies to shape future unconferences and enhance global interpersonal communication?

what were my responsibilities?

  • conducted initial research, interviewed stakeholders, synthesized findings

  • observed and participated in an unconference

  • developed visuals to complement the brand mark

  • ran meetings and made sure team stayed on track to accomplish goals

what was the design process?

so, what’s an unconference? 

An unconference is a conference that is organized, structured, and led by the people attending.

Unconferences have a predefined structure but undefined topics. The topics are determined by the participants at the beginning of the event. Because of it’s customization, each unconference is unique, social, and ever–changing.

Group 9.png

how does an unconference work?

Screen Shot 2020-03-19 at 1.00.50 PM.png

Open Space Technology is a method for organizing events focused on a particular topic. It’s the guiding force that make unconferences as valuable as they are. 

what are the activities and components of unconferences?


The event begins with welcoming remarks. An empty agenda with open time slots is on display as participants arrive. Participants pitch topics to discuss and attendees vote on topics. Subjects with the most votes comprise the agenda. 



If your topic wins, it’s your responsibility to attend the session and introduce the topic. However, you don’t have to know anything about the subject. That’s one of the beauties of an unconference and how it promotes learning and networking. Session topics are also documented for other attendees. 



If you don’t like the session you are in, leave. The Law of Two Feet guides the event: if you’re not learning or contributing, leave, and find another session where you can.



The event concludes with a large group meeting to recap the sessions and themes of the day. It usually leads to after-event networking. 

Certain components are consistent throughout all unconferences and largely influence its success. Creating an ecosystem map was our first step visualizing the activities, people, and tools at play making these events work. 

db79d1a6-a8c8-4914-9f85-0bdc651a3be9 cop

Unconference ecosystem map

what's the experience like?

Through a series of user and expert interviews, journey mapping, and first-hand observation, we identified design opportunities to enhance the unconference experience.


We interviewed two unconference organizers and one first-time attendee. Our semi-structured interviews focused on the experience, planning, participation, and networking aspects of an unconference. 


We distilled the data into 3 journey and empathy maps to understand not only what the user experienced, but how they felt during the experience.


We jumped into the action to get a first-hand experience of unconferences.

journey map - 1 of 3

Screen Shot 2020-03-20 at 12.19.20

empathy map - 1 of 3

Desktop HD.png


We attended an unconference, focused on product management, marketing and UX. About 150 people attended, and over 30 people pitched conference session topics. The energy and excitement in the room was palpable and surprising, given that it was a Saturday.

Screen Shot 2020-03-20 at 1.12.38 PM.png

what insights came from our research?

“Unconferences are less about the topic and more about the people. If you have quality attendees, it will be

a more powerful event.”

- Mike, interviewee


The primary selling point of an unconference is event customization and the authentic industry relationships you develop along the way. 



Being physically present actually limits the potential expertise in the room



Management and planning of unconferences can be unwieldy. It’s a challenge to manage volunteers, event promotion and marketing are usually limited. It’s hard  to communicate the value of attending when you don’t know the topics. 


"Parent" unconference brands like EdCamp and ProductCamp promote localization and personalization of subsidiary unconferences. They provide planning tools and resources, also assisting with marketing and fundraising.

revised problem statement


Unconferences are dependent on skillful facilitators, participatory attendees, and ample networking in order to be successful. Inadequate facilitators, a limited option of topics, and low attendance rates greatly impact the quality and relative success of an unconference. 


How can we leverage emerging and current technology to shape future unconferences and enhance global interpersonal communication?


We began ideation by imagining possibilities for remote conference participation beyond "calling-in" or live-streaming. 

We used affinity mapping, body-storming, and rapid prototyping to ideate opportunities to improve the unconference experience. Our aim was to build upon the strengths of an unconference while also addressing its shortcomings.



  • If the true value of an unconference lies in participation, how can you capitalize on the experience of participation while being remote? 

  • What opportunities exist remotely for stakeholders from all levels? 

  • How do you create a digital experience that mirrors the richness of an in-person experience?

Screen Shot 2020-03-20 at 1.11.08 PM.png
Image 12-.jpg

2. "Meet" other virtual attendees

3. Display of speaker/ topics on screen with ability to vote

4. Remote participants are seated separately during intro session

5. All participants use AR tools during sessions

6. Remote and physical participants sit together during sessions

Virtual unconference JM.pptx.png

Simple journey maps and storyboards helped form and think through a future experience

what technology is needed to bring this concept into reality?

We researched current and emerging technologies that could shape a new platform for conferences. We aimed for a shift in conference attendance where in attending in physical reality is not the best, it's just a choice.


Augmented and virtual reality permit use of a wide range of tools, including casting notes, three dimensional boards, and virtual products. Speakers can freely move around the room as they present.

Screen Shot 2020-03-25 at 10.44.36
Screen Shot 2020-03-25 at 10.45.17

top left: product demonstration using Spatial tools; above: use of Holoportation by Microsoft; both right: use of 3D board tools using Spatial

what could a mixed-reality experience feel like?

Screen Shot 2020-03-25 at 10.19.17
Group 347.png

how does this create value for stakeholders?

Group 348.png

how does this solution create value?

Business Model Canvas.png

what components are needed for this solution to work?

We created a service design blueprint to refine and identify functional details for a mixed reality unconference. We included different functional design aspects of both a remote attendee, an in-person attendee, how these two systems integrate, and dove deep into the technology available and what's needed to bring this concept to reality. 

Below is a schematic of what details are included in a service design blueprint.

View our Blueprint here

Screen Shot 2020-03-18 at 2.18.40 PM.png

putting it all together 

Artboard 4.png
vcamp graphics-05.png

vcamp is the mixed reality experience of an unconference. vCamp greatly enhances the unconference experience for physical attendees, virtual attendees, presenters, and sponsors. It allows increased attendance, wider opportunities for networking and social interaction, enhanced facilitation tools, and can help reduce the environmental impact of unconferences. AR conferences require specialized hardware, software, and knowhow. vCamp supplies the rig, glasses, platform, and brings everything together on a single platform.


Unconference attendance is now available for all to all both physically and virtually. How to attend is merely a choice.

bottom of page