During early January (7-11) I had the opportunity and the pleasure to be part as a mentor in the Underexposed event organized by Simply Secure in Berlin, Germany.

Underexposed Collective is a loosely-knit group of designers, researchers, writers, advocates, and users who reject the current trajectory of mainstream technology development. They support people by providing funding, education, mentorship, design support, research, testing, and a community for collaboration.

This was the first event they decided to organize as a Residency. Fellows from around the world spent one week with the Simply Secure team focused on a project that they propose. Together, the cohort used the residency to workshop their specific design challenge. Over the week they had for user research, independent work, lectures, critical discussions, design critiques and office hours with leaders in the field. Fellows also had an opportunity to share their work with the public.

I was invited as a mentor alongside my colleague Elio Qoshi from Ura Design. We spent the week with other mentors and fellows by helping them with their ideas/projects and giving presentations on some topics.

Monday (7 January)#

The first day started with an introduction by the hosts from Simply Secure over at the WikiBär. Georgia Bullen, the new Simply Secure Executive Director, opened the event and talked about the purpose of it, the agenda and everything else. After, we began to introduce each other shortly and the reason why we were there. The fellows shared their projects and/or ideas with us so we could have a better graps before we started to work on them.


We decided to end the first day with drinks and food over at Brewdog, not forgetting some oldschool arcade games (and some anti-surveillance stickers at the toilets).


Tuesday (8 January)#

My presentation was scheduled on Tuesday afternoon, but the plan changed and so I had to do it in the morning. Fortunately, our place was about 10-15 minutes on foot from the venue so I arrived on time. My session was about Prototyping. We began with pen and paper prototyping, as that is still the fastest and best way to build a prototype for pretty much anything related to UI and UX.

The fellows had really interesting projects and for most of them, the main issue was related to the encryption key restore process. As these projects are security-and-privacy related, they are decentralized and offer users the option to create an encryption key in order to access their data if something bad happens in the future.

Unfortunately, this process is often bypassed by users as it’s (according to them) an extra step that slows down their workflow. As a result, they often lose access to their accounts and data, which could be avoided if they would have had created that key in the beginning.

We (Elio and I) helped almost all the projects here by creating prototypes on paper, discussing UX problems and possible solutions for them, then digitally creating mockups using Figma, a proprietary design collaboration tool.

The second day we went out for dinner at a Taiwanese sushi place, it was my 2nd time ever trying sushi (I still haven’t learned how to properly use the chopsticks 😞).


Wednesday (9 January)#

Wednesday was one of the busiest days of the event. We got up early, ate breakfast and joined the others at the venue. We separated into two groups, one upstairs and one downstairs and worked on our personal projects or with others.

Cade, a designer from Germany, gave a very interesting talk on Weaponized Design, a process that allows for harm of users within the defined bounds of a designed system. You can read his essay in the link above.

After the event, Simply Secure sponsored the dinner over at an old German restaurant near the venue (don’t have photos unfortunately).

Thursday (10 January)#

We decided to take some time off on Thursday and hang around the city center (Berlin doesn’t actually have a defined center) and did some shopping. The weather was, as always, gray and sometimes rainy.

Berlin Center

After some shopping, we returned to WikiBär and worked some more with the others until the end of the day.

Friday (11 January)#

Elio’s presentation was on Friday, about Style Guides and the process of working in the open. He explained our latest projects, how we worked with SecureDrop, I2P, Reproducible Builds, Thunderbird etc. and presented a short demo of the Identihub software, open source software for hosting your brand and visual assets.

This was the final day of the event and the fellows worked during the day to prepare their presentations, on what they learned during the week and what they worked on. The presentations were held at the Mozilla Offices in Berlin. Many people had registered for the event and the fellows presented one by one their projects and conclusions. I was happy that our mockups were present in their slides and hope that the process continues to turn them into reality soon.

Mozilla Offices Berlin

After the presentations, we got to discuss with each other and then head over for drinks somewhere close the venue.

Departure (12 January)#

The last day, we headed down to the luggage room at the hostel, and I was suprised to see pictures of David Hasselhoff everywhere. It was like a little museum so I had to take some pictures of it 😂.

The Hoff

I would like to thank the entire Simply Secure team; Georgia, Ame, Eileen and Molly for being there and organizing a fantastic event. I had a really awesome time and hope to see you all again soon.

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