The "New Adventures in web design" was one of the most brilliant days - a huge thank you to Simon Collison! A day full of inspiring talks, great people and such a nice vibe.
This blog post is my personal experience of the conference. In case you were not there - please excuse the occasional vagueness or lack of specifics. I know I will not be able to do the talk justice but the videos will go online so I will update this page with links so you will be able to see for yourself ;)
Arrived in Nortingham the day before the conference and after a walk around this lovely town I met up with Antonia, met more lovey geeks and went to the bowling pre-event. Though I'm not the biggest fan of bowling, it was a great idea to get everyone together before the big day. It was busy, loud and fun ;)
It was nice to finally meet Jamie face to face and have a chat, as well as getting a chance to speak to Patrick. After more drinks, a late night and an early start it was time for #naconf.
Registrations started at 8am for the planned 9am start. A long queue winding itself around the Albert Hall meant a late start. I felt for Simon who must have been feeling the pressure but amazingly he managed to reshuffle a little and nothing felt compromised at all at the end of a packed day.
Simon was a wonderful host - such a calm and friendly start to the day.
Dan Rubin The New Language of Web Design
First up was Dan Rubin. Dan made some excellent points about the terminology used in our field and the confusions which can be caused by the use of terms originating in other contexts. Though adopting words from other fields can seem appropriate - this can at times lead to misunderstandings.
I did enjoy the talk as language, interpretation and meaning are always a fascinating topic. His points are clearly very valid, especially for teamwork within agencies. However, as I work as freelancer, mainly with individuals and smaller organisations - I tend to adopt my language to my clients specifically. My main aim is always to have productive discussions about the project in hand. When the word 'guidelines' popped up - I cringed a little, we have enough of those to follow already (though I am not disputing the validity of his argument at all).
I really liked Dan's presentation style and my favourite part was when Dan talked about where the use of the word 'scroll' came from. It was lovely to see a photo of an old paper scroll, followed by the old apple documentation of the adoption of this word for page scrolling.
Mark Boulton A New Canon
Next up was Mark Boulton. Last time I saw Mark speak I really enjoyed his talk, all about grids and his keen eye for detail and perfectionist nature made this topic once again inspiring. So I had been looking forward to hearing more from him.
Mark started with references to the Apollo 13 events, leading onto cars and car engines. I have to say that he lost me a little, not having an interest in space travel or cars - this felt like 'one for the boys' (not that there's anything wrong with that necessarily). But it took a while for Mark' s point to become apparent to me and that's when it all came together. His message was to use a design approach which creates 'connectedness': "respond - connect - bind".
Sarah Parmenter Crafting User Experiences
Third speaker of the day was Sarah Parmenter. After seeing the lovely old- style design on the latest redesign of her site - I was really looking forward to her talk and I overall really enjoyed it. It was nice to hear where the name "you know who" came from and hear more about her successful campaign (loved the Valentine balloon promotion campaign idea).
However, I thought that some of the points Sarah made were a little ambiguous (I wasn't quite convinced by the twitter example given, for example). The study of how Pepsi and CocaCola battled for market share was really interesting and I really liked Sarah's slides. Though I thought the quotes were great - it seemed a little much to read while also listening. A shame, as I thought there were some brilliant points in Sarah's talk and her concluding points were excellent.
Elliot Jay Stocks With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
After a quick break - it was Elliot Jay Stocks. I loved Elliot's delivery, his points and his self confessed moan about the current danger of an overuse of the the new effects and styling trends. The examples he showed clearly supported his arguments and it was nice to hear him admit to being guilty of some of the design sins he was criticising himself (a very familiar feeling for us all, I'm sure).
I really enjoyed hearing more about his love for typography and agree completely with the angle of getting the layout and typography right first, before going further into the design. Brilliant points well made.
Jon Tan Language and the Lizard Brain
Next up, the inspirational Jon Tan who I'd been really looking forward to seeing speak - and what an absolutely brilliant talk, looking at emotional responses to design and our often instinctual approach to the design process. I loved Jon's delivery and was fascinated by the points he made about the lizard brain. Using the famous quote "Don't think. Feel." from 'Enter the Dragon' - Jon argued that an emotional design approach has a lot to offer and that we should embrace it as part of the creative process.
This was one of my favourites talks of the day. Discussing the emotional repsonse a design can provoke, looking at the wondeful slides while listening to Jon was truly inspiring.
Jon Tan's closing quote (inspired by a tailor):
The best websites are the ones that look good at a glance but the closer you get, the better they get.
Tim Van Damme Designing on Solid Foundations
After a lovely 'lunch in a bag' - it was Timm Van Damme giving what I would call a pep talk on how to produce good design work, work better with your clients and how to keep improving your skills by refining your approach. I liked Tim's definition of the 'web bum', taking from 'surf bum'. Most of us always have some side projects to work on - while doing client work to pay our bills. We love what we do - so we need to deliver good work in order to keep doing our own bits as well.
Tim's points were very valid, confirming what I try to achieve myself, and what I try to bring across to my students. Initially, I have to admit I was a little disappointed that Tim didn't speak about more design specific issues as I really admire his work. But saying that - the talk was well delivered and made some excellent points and it is always nice to get confirmation.
Greg Wood Art Direction & Editorial Design on the Web: Does it Work?
Greg's talk was another brilliant highlight of the day for me. I loved his slides, the points he made so well and his presentation style. Discussing art direction in design and the benefits of a nicely designed page - Greg really inspired me. I'm not usually keen on numbers and statistics but Greg's homemade tests trying to recognise a pattern and a clear result of plain information driven pages versus designed or art-directed pages was brilliant.
There is no way I could do Greg's talk (or any of the others, for that matter) justice here - and so I will update this article as soon as the post Greg announced is online. You can then go and have read yourself. It will be well worth it.
Greg started his talk with telling us about a biking venture which the slide here relates to - and I just had to show it. It is not representative of the talk itself really - but it made me laugh so I had to share it here.
Veerle Pieters Unraveling the Mysteries of Inspiration
Veerle ❤ ... One of my favourite online people - I've always wanted to see Veerle speak. Though her graphic style is not always my own personal taste - her stunning work is simply beautiful to look at. She's been an inspiritaion and a huge help to my teaching (via her numerous online tutorials on her blog) over the years and her talk was wonderful. Sharing an insight into her working methods and design experimentations - it was wonderful to see the final results to emerge from sketches over digital iterations.
Andy Clarke Once Upon A Time On The Web
Well, what can I say - Andy had me in the very first minute, as soon as he mentioned 'once upon a time in the west' ;) One of my favourite films, I really ejoyed being taken back into the opening scene, brilliantly edited to still convey the tension and mood. I always enjoy seeing Andy speak - and so I knew I would love this talk :)
Andy discussed the art of storytelling in film and comics and highlighted the aspects of timing and tension throughout. I've seen Andy talk about this before and this time the examples shown of comic book panels again strongly emphasized his points. It is always amazing to see how the simple addition of a frame around an image can completely change how its content is conveyed. The example which struck me most was a guy being pushed out of a window. The drawing of the fall inside a frame was expressive but once the frame was removed - this feeling of falling was much more dramatic.
Combined with Greg's approach of art direction for design - these ideas will keep me busy pondering, experimenting and having fun for ages, I can tell ;)
Brendan Dawes Produced For Use
Brendan was the last speaker of the day - again, another guaranteed success in my eyes. And he was on fire... brought the house down. I love Brendan's enthusiasm and passion for design. His presentation was amazing - taking us from his obsession with a specific pencil to the uselessness of certain design objects, all delivered in the most dynamic and entertaining way.
I won't be able to tell you enough about this talk - you will have to wait and see for yourself :) All I can say is that Brendan's talk was a perfect last presentation of a perfect day.
a huge thank you to our lovely host
And last but not least - a thank you to you, Simon ❤
Your considerations for one and all, your careful planning and hard work on everything from the design of the passes, to the hiring of a wonderful venue, the selection of excellent speakers and your calm hosting made this conference a truly special event. It felt like a family get-together :)
I thoroughly enjoyed the entire event. It was an inspiring day with some wonderful talks, great speakers and I left inspired with lots to think and ponder about. The affordable price was amazing, the availability of wifi not missed in the slightest, the lunch in the bag was great, the goodie bag - aw, so lovely - an excellent read in the paper, the cute Erskine pin (!!!), I could go on... and on... and on...