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Review of New Adventures in Web Design 2013

Posted in on 29 January 2013

Last week, I attended the New Adventures in Web Design conference in Nottingham. This was the third and (probably) last New Adventures and the event lived up to my expectations. It was a day full of insightful and entertaining presentations. Here’s my short review of the best bits for me.

Pre-conference

The conference was held on the Thursday but there was a pre-conference event the day before which was tied in with a regular Nottingham meet-up called Second Wednesday. I arrived in Nottingham that afternoon and went along. Firstly, Robert Mills gave a talk called Designing the Invisible which described how we tell stories on the web and the ways we communicate through design. Then, Rachel Shillcock gave a talk called Everybody is a Superhero where she talked about being the best at what we do and thinking about what you do best. Rachel also described her own background and how she left college at 16-17 without any qualifications. Quite an inspiring story for anyone looking to get into the web design industry. I really enjoyed both talks.

So, onto the conference itself…

The conference featured nine presentations and I’m only going to describe a few of these. Check out the conference page for details of all the speakers.

First up was Jason Santa Maria who talked about his web design process and how it had evolved over the years from a heavily Photoshop-based and linear process (lots of Photoshop comps!) to a prototyping, iterative and quicker, smarter process. Sketching ideas was a key part of this and it was great to see some of Jason’s sketchbooks for websites he has designed and how this plays a role.

Sketchbooks are not about being a good artist, but about being a good thinker

Jason Santa Maria at New Adventures

Probably the best talk of the day for me was Seb Lee-Delisle who gave a talk called Creative Coding where he described and coded some impressive visual effects with JavaScript and the canvas element. It’s difficult to describe this without seeing the presentation but I guess they can be described as “particle effects”. One (large scale) example described was the Pixel Pyros digital fireworks display which looked like a great event to have attended. Anyway, it was a very entertaining presentation. Sometimes a speaker just takes over a conference and I felt that this presentation absolutely did that.

Wayne Hemingway described how he and his wife Gerardine started in business by selling used Doc Martens boots in Camden Market, founded the fashion label Red or Dead, sold it and then created their own design agency with projects that include urban development design and vintage revival furniture. Phew, what a story! I hadn’t heard Wayne Hemingway talk before and I didn’t know his background in detail so this was an eye-opener in some respects. Take risks, love what you do, be good at what you do and make the most of your opportunities seemed to be the ‘lessons’ here.

Jessica Hische described how ‘procrastiworking’ (the things you do for fun when you are supposed to be working on other things) had transformed her life-work balance and shaped her career.

The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life

Jessica Hische

Jessica also described a nice visual slide which showed “Things You Get Paid to Do” and “Things You Love To Do” as two overlapping circles. If you can get these to overlap fully, you’ll be a very happy bunny was the message. I’m not sure I’m there yet (ahem) but Jessica seemed to be in that lucky position. She showed some beautiful letter illustrations that she was working on for a series of book covers and described some of her ‘procrastiworking’ (fun) projects.

That’s a wrap

Overall, this was en excellent conference. As you can see from above, web design was one part of the conference but not the only subject or theme and the talks covered quite a wide range of topics. I enjoyed the whole day and it’s given me quite a few things to think about, especially work-life balance, which was alluded to either directly or indirectly in several of the talks.

It was great to meet up with people at the conference, both people I knew and some that I had not met before. So, if we talked at the conference at some point, I hope we can meet-up again.

It must be an incredible task to organise an event like this so Simon Collison, Greg Wood and team deserve a huge amount of credit for putting on three New Adventures conferences. Great job guys. Much appreciated!

Not only but also: After the conference, I came back and had a think about why web design conferences are imnportant to me. Here’s an article I wrote on that subject: Why web design conferences are important for smaller companies

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