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a fond farewell

This week was the third and final NEW ADVENTURES in web design conference… and it was another fabulous day. I will miss this motivating start to the year very much…

Jason Santa Maria Tyler Mincey Michael Heilemann Tiago Pedro jon tan Seb Lee-Delisle steph troeth wayne hemingway jessica hische

But what a brilliant end - a day full of insights, love and passion. An amazing line-up of inspiring speakers made this a very special final. A HUGE thank you to all, the organisers, speakers and everyone else involved - it was amazing.
To capture the day, I've written up my notes, hoping to pass on and share at least some of the inspiration of the day.

(all photos courtesy of the #naconf paper © 2013, sketches my own)

Jason Santa Maria

Jason Santa Maria The Nimble Process

It's easier to revise than to design.

Seeing Jason speak was one of my highlights of the day. I've been following and admiring Jason's work for years, having watched many clips of talks online and seeing him speak in person was such a treat. He spoke about his work for A List Apart and how his working approach had to change once he started work on the site for Typekit. It was wonderful to hear about Jason's evolving workflow and inspirations.

linear workflow

Jason discussed early processes and how constants guided the working approach, working towards the average screens sizes with static Photoshop mockups. This approach was linear and it worked well. That was then.

Starting to work on the Typekit site, Jason's approach had to change, evolve to become more agile, more fluid and flexible.

agile workflow

Aiming for a MVP, a minimum viable product, rather than a polished final - Jason spoke of how this approach freaked him out initially: "but people will see it". Getting used to publishing something that was not perfect was daunting yet rewarding.

It was great to hear about the inspiration behind the interface for the font library. Jason had been to an exhibition of Dieter Rams' work where he was drawn to mechanical buttons on an old device. The tactile and attractive nature inspired his approach to the presentation of fonts in the Typekit library, to create a tangible interface design ~ just wonderful :)

Jason went on to discuss his take on how to best start working on any project. Always start on paper first, have lots of ideas, sketch out anything that comes to mind to hone in on suitable ideas and find good solutions. Sketchbooks are for ideas, you don't need to be an artist.

Sketch any ideas you have. Exhaust your visual vocabulary. Once you have done that - the unique and original ideas will start to surface.

Fuck fidelity. Ideas want to be ugly.

Don't focus on details too early. Use plain sketchbooks rather than preset templates which show the browser chrome - too much fidelity - too soon. Wireframes are often not useful whereas visual prototypes will convey much more.

After working on paper - type comes next. I loved Jason's wording here. He spoke about how it's all about text - how he throws it all onto the page and then starts to shape and "mould it like clay". Lay out all your content first, then play with it - shuffle it around and experiment.

Jason warned of setting false expectations - stating how important it is to bring your clients into the process, giving them the language to be directly involved in all stages of the process. He mentioned style tiles as an example which could give a wrong impression. Assets are well presented yet can be seen as seemingly unchangeable elements, disconnected from the design.

Choose the right tool at the right time - keep prototyping and iterating.

Deciding the browser instead of designing in the browser.

Dan Mall

It was inspiring to see Jason's sketches and ideas and hear about his workflow.
Thank you, Jason :)

Tyler Mincey

Tyler Mincey Appropriate Tension

We need to get better at collaboration.

Next up was Tyler Mincey. I had heard of Tyler but did not know very much about him or his work. He worked for Apple in the early days of the iPod and managed the engineering development of the touch interface.
He began by telling us about his work at Apple, the trips to the factories and working with a diverse team of people across the world. It was amazing to hear his stories and what struck me most was his love and respect for people, how he highlighted how many good friends he made during his time working across the different places for Apple. This really resonated with me as I always felt that people were at the core of good work, in whatever field.

tyler mincey

Tyler spoke about the importance of good team work, how interdisciplinary teams are always stronger and can produce better results. It is best to push and pull, to be pushed and pulled by your colleagues - this is when the most productive work gets achieved. We should cultivate a culture of respectful challenge.

It is important to respect each other and each other's skills. Tyler made a point of highlighting that it is essential to respect both experience and youth. While old dogs might not as easily learn new tricks - there will be much to be learnt from their experience. Listening to experienced professionals will be beneficial in learning and evolving old working methods and avoid making the same mistakes again.
At the same time, it is important to be open to the different perspectives of newcomers and younger workers with less experience. To keep growing and evolving - a fresh view can often lead to new discoveries of tools or working methods.

Tyler highlighted how important it is to understand constraints. Don't just design within the constraints - move them, change them. This is when real innovation happens.
Working with a good team, respect for all and the right amount of push and pull - the best results will be produced.

Listening to Tyler's stories about his time at Apple and his take on team work was both insightful and motivating, an excellent talk.
Thank you, Tyler :)

Michael Heilemann

Michael Heilemann The inertia of ideas

Follow your fucking bliss.

It was a pleasure to see Michael talk, to find out who is behind the original Kubrick WordPress theme. He told us about his journey to Squarespace where he currently works as Interface Director. Working in games Michael discovered his love for the web and began working on websites in his spare time for sheer fun and pleasure rather than taking it too seriously initially. He discovered his enthusiasm for content management systems and that was the beginning of his web career.

kubrick theme sketch

While reading and writing blogs - he had made various notes on what improvements could be made. For example, instead of displaying dates numerically - writing out the name of the month instead would avoid confusion between different date formats across the world. This lead to Michael creating a new theme for WordPress in his spare time, purely motivated by his own findings and conclusions.

Michael's delivery was fun and engaging and I liked his points about doing what you love, following your instinct and realising what you are good at :) Thank you, Michael :)

Tiago Pedro

Tiago Pedras Responsive Teaching

strive for perfection with belief,
self-discipline and passion.

Tiago is a webdesigner and teacher who talked about teaching webdesign to the next generation. I had looked forward to this talk, made a nice change to hear from someone involved in teaching. I was very curious to hear about his teaching approach and hoped to learn a few new methods.

sketchnotes for tiago's talk

Going back to his own education, Tiago told us about the teachers who influenced him and it was fun to hear him talk about his memories. It resonated with most of us that there were certain teachers who would make a lasting impression on us, guiding us towards a new direction and inspiring us.

Tiago spoke about working in web - how it is our mission as webdesigners to give something back. By being self-aware and committed, practising self-discipline and having passion and belief, webdesigners should strive for perfection and then share their knowledge to keep growing.

Tiago then told us about his teaching method and how he managed to get his students interested and motivated via team projects and awards. His focus was on teams, not groups, on learning the value of hard work and team spirit. He aimed to change the environment from a classroom to a web lab. Assigning roles like leader, designer and developer and encouraging self-managed work - his students created a mobile app in their teams. Rules and schedules were in place and the promise of an award ceremony at the end of the project produced excellent results.
It was great to hear such a success story and nice to hear about effective web teaching :)

Hopefully those in the audience who don't teach felt inspired to get involved and share their expertise with web students. For me, unfortunately, there was not as much to take away from his talk as I had hoped for. Tiago's project and teaching methods are brilliant, I'm not criticising at all. For me (already teaching webdesign for 10 years) this was merely a lovely story illustrating a great approach.

Saying that, I had probably expected too much, teaching does not get much coverage - discussion usually anchors around newcomers in the field, suggestions about taking on apprentices and guiding newly trained web workers. Those conversations are excellent and great news for our students. However, it is rare that actual webdesign teaching gets talked about directly - so I was likely too keen to discover fresh angles and new approaches, different to my current teaching methods.

I really enjoyed Tiago's talk, his perspectives and stories ~ let's keep on aiming to inspire our students :) Thank you, Tiago :)

jon tan

Jon Tan Billboards and Novels

contrast is careful deliberate interruption.

Jon is one of my favourite web peeps: designer / speaker / type lover / geek. It was wonderful to see him a second time at New Adventures, and another amazing, entertaining and inspiring talk. His wonderful eye and love for detail shines through and is sure to inspire enthusiam for typography in everyone :)
As with all other talks I will not be able to do Jon's talk justice but instead summarise his points briefly.

sketchnote, jon tan

impact vs immersion

The web is all about text and reading, it's about getting the text and typography right for the reader. Allow immersion and don't disrupt the flow. Impact disrupts and interrupts the reading - use with care. Aim for the right focus.

Good typography induces good mood.

The Aesthetics of Reading

Jon showed a reading study on 2 examples of the same text, one well set, the other (justified alignment) badly set. Actual recorded reading time did not vary much - however, perceived reading time was in favour of the well set text.
Time flies when you're having fun :)

it's all so emotional

Type affects people - gestures speak to our lizard brain (amygdala). This was a lovely reminder of Jon's talk, "Language and the lizard brain", at the very first NACONF, lovely memories :)

Embed the spirit, message and intent with your typesetting, remember how it will affect people. Visuals and type should create an emotional place.

Details in typefaces are not to be seen but felt.

Erik Spiekermann

I absolutely loved Jon's talk. Another journey into the details of typography, a love letter to the intricacies of letter form and design. I could listen to Jon all day! Thank you, Jon :)

Seb Lee-Delisle

Seb Lee-Delisle New Adventures in… Code!

hybridify yourself.

Seb is one of the most entertaining speakers and is sure to make his audience laugh while downplaying his own genius. Superbright and mind-boggling to those of us who don't write Javascript - he manages to get everyone excited about coding. Seb was brilliant, coming on stage with his Commodore 64 to do some live-coding. I loved how he referred to the hardcore coders as "my people" while promising not to repeat what others do, to ask us all to learn coding. And then proceeding to do exactly that :-)

seb sketchnote

Seb showed us how to be creative with code, his live coding had everyone hooked on the old-style screen. His love for his work was evident while he managed to make it all so much fun. He showed us a great graph showing the division of design and code, how most of the time we would define ourselves to be within the outer ends, either as designers or coders, rather than the middle as hybrids who do both.
Seb called this "the valley of incomprehensibility" :-)

Seb showed some slides which played with type - all to make fun of the type lovers, a nice follow up from Jon's talk, making us all laugh ;)
I hope that Seb will soon share his slides so you can have a look yourself ~ brilliant and fun.

This talk felt like a geek comedy act, equally brilliant and funny. Seb's entertaining style and energetic delivery was wonderful :) Thank you, Seb :)

steph troeth

Steph Troeth The beauty in the impermanent

design something that gets better
with use.

Steph's talk was in stark contrast to Seb's - a wonderfully thoughtful look at "being touched by time". She began by telling us about miso soup - how it changes with time, from the moment it gets cooked and served into the bowl, to the moment it sits in front of. Initially cloudy, the soup settles into a clear starry sky in the black laquer bowl (quoted from memory). A gentle start to a very beautiful talk.

steph sketchnotes

Steph spoke of the concept of time in our lives, citing books and showing clips. Her tone, pace and message were wonderful. I will not be able to summarise what she spoke of - instead I will list a few poignant points to try and capture some of her message.

What a wonderful talk, one that made me think and inspired me immensely. Thank you, Steph :)

wayne hemingway

Wayne Hemingway Wayne tells it as it is!

banish your fear.
go and take risks.

Not quite knowing what to expect from this talk, Wayne was like lightning: superfast delivery of the story behind the fashion label red or dead which he setup with his wife, and onto his other projects. It was great to hear his success story, driven by necessity and without fear of failure - a successul business began and continues.

Wayne's delivery was so fast and dynamic that I didn't manage to take many notes - again, only a few points.

wayne sketch

I thoroughly enjoyed Wayne's talk - really liked the speedy delivery, a wonderful insight into an inspired design business. Thank you, Wayne :)

jessica hische

Jessica Hische procrastiworking

find your sweet spot ~ keep exploring
to find what makes you happy.

There is so much of Jessica's work that I know and like, I just knew that the last talk of the day was bound to be wonderful. It was lovely to see Jessica speak - such a blast of fresh air and enthusiasm. She talked about her newly coined term "procrastiworking", referring to the work you do when you should be working on a specific project.

jessica sketchnote

Jessica argued that the work you do when you should be working is the work your love and should probably be doing for the rest of your life. Don't be confined by your job title, explore and have fun - find what makes you happy and turn this into your full time job.

You will never be 100% happy through client work alone. Find side projects to work on which differ from you usual work, procrastiwork and always have enough on your plate. Walk away from one project to work on another when your productivity slows down.
Jessica told a few stories from her work as letterer and her talk was both fun and entertaining, simply wonderful. Thank you, Jessica :)