The other week I went to (probably the last) New Adventures in Web Design conference in Nottingham. Met up with some regular freelance faces and some new ones too.

The atmosphere at New Adventures is always a good one—inclusive, friendly, fun. The free bar at the after-party was one of the highlights. I even managed to miss my last train home (something I’m making a habit of). Here’s a short run-down of what went on.

Notes from New Adventures

The Nimble Process
Jason Santa Maria

  • First up was Jason talking about process. A linear process starts to make no sense (something I also noted in this blog post).
  • Jason talked about being scared of launching when he felt something wasn’t quite ready—something I think a lot of us can empathise with.
  • Show your clients MVU (Minimum Viable Understanding) layouts and designs—don’t spend time working up pixel perfect mockups.
  • Encourage clients to participate in the design process and allow them to feel ownership of a design. This will alleviate blockers in the last furlong of a project.
  • To encourage prolific ideas generation he shared a technique with us: use Alphabet 100 to draw the same thing many times. Use this method for logos, for layouts, etc.
  • Since the web is primarily text, start a design with copy and typography first. (We followed a similar route when re-designing the Mudlark website by choosing to focus on content to dictate our layout and design).
  • Jason quoted Dan Mall “Let’s change the phrase ‘designing in the browser’ to ‘deciding in the browser.’”

Appropriate Tension
Tyler Mincey

  • Tyler began with talking about his time at Apple and finding the right amount of ‘push and pull’ with the various inter-disciplinary teams there.
  • He talked about a ‘culture of respectful challenge’—always ask “why”, it encourages critical thinking and learning.
  • Understanding constraints: Innovation is when you move the constraints iteratively, not just designing within them.
  • ‘Good products as communication’: communicate through your work—the care and attention to detail will show through.

The Inertia of Ideas
Michael Heilemann

  • Michael designed the ‘Kubrick’ default WordPress theme. He explained how it was something he did for fun but ended up becoming wildly popular—people even named their dogs after the theme.
  • He talked about his journey from working on things he enjoyed, to working for the open source community, to then being offered a job at Squarespace.
  • Michael worked on an innovative technique that would improve the user experience of a CMS. It was rolled in to the main Squarespace service the day he showed it to the boss.

Responsive Teaching
Tiago Pedras

  • Tiago is a teacher and designer. He shared with us his journey through life up to how he teaches his classes today; which are practical, engaging and employ gamification techniques (involving a gold spray painted coconut.)
  • He encouraged us to share our passion.

Billboards and Novels
Jon Tan

  • Jon talked about the qualities of ‘impact’ and ‘immersion’.
  • He highlighted that the web is about reading. We can really take advantage of this now that we have webfonts and OpenType control.
  • He discovered that good typography induces a good mood (backed up by science!). Dispelling the common notion that it enables us to read quicker.
  • “Fonts are wayfinding apps for emotions”.
  • Jon taked about scan paths. Where does your eye focus when viewing a website. Use colour to highlight something and interup this scan path (and other techniques).

New Adventures in Code
Seb Lee-Delise

  • Seb started with talking about the separation between a ‘designer’ and ‘developer’.
  • Traditionally in educational settings there has been a (literal / spatial) separation between these disciplines. Anything art related would be in a separate campus to the maths and science classes, for example.
  • Between the ‘designer’ and ‘developer’ there is a hybrid emerging. Things seem to be leveling out. (I commented around this subject a while ago on Twitter).
  • Seb calls himself a “Creative Coder”.
  • He acknowledges coding can be a daunting learning curve but, as with most things, it’s very rewarding once you get there.
  • Seb’s talk was really engaging. He’s a funny guy, and his enthusiasm made everyone want to code.
  • He also did some live coding on a Commodore64 (!) and some JS stuff. Seeing this live was a nice way to break down the barrier of some of my code-related reservations.

The Beauty in the Impermanent
Steph Troeth

  • Steph talked about wabi-sabi, musing that we’re indulging in the immortality of things because we ourself are mortal.
  • She referenced James Bridle’s The New Aesthetic.
  • Showed us some examples of ‘low-res’ shoes, examples of digital imperfections out there in the world.
  • Throwaway vs. permanent or impermanent vs. permanent.
  • We get fonder of things over time.
  • How can we make digital things that are allowed to grow old gracefully?

Wayne Tells it Like it is!
Wayne Hemmingway

  • Wayne went on an entertaining, insightful, funny ramble about his life—an inspiring narrative that highlighted integrity and ballsyness.
  • As a board member of the Design Council he highlighted that investing in design will yield the highest return of all sectors.
  • He also said not to rest on the quality of your work—it’s more about what you stand for.

Jessica Hische

  • Jessica’s bubbly up-beat talk rounded the day off nicely.
  • As a freelancer, she talked about the importance on working on the stuff we love, which will then feed in to the paid work that occupies the bulk of our time (and pays the bills).
  • Jessica also touched on work-life balance, burnout and cats.

Now I should go catch my train. Wait, what time is it?