The Final Adventure - New Adventures in Web Design Conference 2013

Posted by Matt Bailey on 14 February 2013

New Adventures In Web Design Conference 2013


Back in January I attended the (last?) New Adventures in Web Design conference in Nottingham. What follows is a summary of the day.

The Nimble Process

Jason Santa Maria

Jason Santa Maria

Jason spoke about design process. Here at GPMD we’ve been developing and refining our design process over the past year, so it was interesting to hear how other people are doing it.

  • Iterate: Test, revise, test, revise
  • “But people will see it!” - “Yes, that’s the point.”
  • Design process is about continual communication
  • Clients aren’t idiots - Bring them into the fold
  • Avoid common pitfalls:
    • Don’t worry about details initially
    • Grids
    • Sketchbook templates (eg. templates with browser chrome)
  • Where to start:
    • Paper (“F**k fidelity!”)
    • Gather your assets
  • The problem with wireframes:
    • Wireframes should show content placement and visual hierarchy (i.e. using grey boxes), not detail
  • Some people find Indesign useful for experimenting with multiple grids and layouts
  • Once into the visual design phase it’s all about the text/content!
  • The problem with style tiles:
    • They’re a bit like a Jedi mind trick
    • They’re all about style, not content
    • They’re better as an internal tool
  • Should I design in Photoshop, or the browser?
    • It only matters when it matters
    • Whatever is appropriate to get the idea across
    • Use the right tool at the right time
  • It should be about “deciding in the browser” (Dan Mall), rather than designing in the browser
  • Interaction prototypes:
  • We should be doing “Shitty first drafts” - it’s easier to revise than create

Overall Jason’s talk was engaging and interesting. I didn’t agree with everything he said, particularly with regard to style tiles, but that’s fine - every company has to find a process that works for them.

So far style tiles have been an incredibly useful part our projects as they’ve enabled us to nail the look and feel of the sites quite early on, but without having to worry about the layout. And because we’re talking to the client all the time they’re right there with us - we don’t just shove a load of photoshop mockups in front of them and expect them to choose one. This has enabled us to move into the prototyping phase much sooner.

Appropriate Tension

Tyler Mincey

Tyler Mincey

Tyler spoke about the strengths (and tensions) of working in a team, based on his own experiences as head of the Apple iPod team.

  • Strong design in deep partnership with strong engineering
  • Appropriate tension - how to work with a team
  • There should be an element of pushing and pulling
  • Impact requires interdisciplinary teams
  • Get good at collaboration
  • Recognising a healthy team:
    • The burden of responsibility - held to a high standard and striving towards it
    • Loyal to your discipline and product
    • Respect experience and youthful exuberance
    • Nurture a culture of respectful challenge - “Help me understand...” / “Why?”
    • Longevity (wants to stick together)
    • Understanding of constraints
    • But also... innovation happens by moving constraints, not just designing within them
  • Good product as communication
  • Seek good people to build your life around

The Inertia Of Ideas

Michael Heilemann

Michael Heilemann

  • “Follow your f**king bliss!”

That says it all really.

Responsive Teaching

Tiago Pedras

Tiago Pedras

Tiago spoke about the importance of passing on knowledge and teaching in a responsive way. Tiago not only works in the web design industry, but also ‘lectures’ at ESAD, Matosinhos (Porto) in Portugal.

  • Be “devoted to the art of making and thinking” - Standardistas
  • Our mission - to give something back
  • There’s no point in comparing ourselves to others, we are each unique
  • Keep trying to do things better, never be satisfied
  • Be aware of what’s around you (like a ninja - Ninjitsu)
  • Belief - Perfectionism - Commitment
  • Passion!
  • Be good at what you do
  • The Golden Coconut Award - learning through gamification (project based)
  • Deep knowledge + creativity + passion
  • Schools kill creativity” - Ken Robinson, TED Talks
  • Cultivate new talent
  • Be a mentor
  • Share your knowledge

Billboards and Novels

Jon Tan

Jon Tan

Having heard Jon speak at FOWD last year I was looking forward to hearing him speak again. His love of type gets me excited - my own background is traditional design and typography. There’s a lot to be said for people who have an understanding of type, but it’s often sadly overlooked these days. No doubt technology/services like @font-face have been key in re-awakening an interest in typography and typefaces.

  • Impact vs Immersion
  • Interruption / disruption
  • The web is about reading - language
  • What is reading for? (Robert Bringhurst)
    • Words are gestures
  • #vss Very short stories
  • Aesthetics can be influenced heavily by how well interactions work
  • People are amazing - poor typesetting doesn’t slow us down
  • However, good typography makes people think they’ve read things quicker
  • Good creative tasks make things easier
  • Good typography induces a good mood - time flies!
  • Georgia and Verdana, by Matthew Carter
  • Font test text - agh! iIl1 0O
  • Css kerning and ligatures: text-rendering
  • Css hypens
  • Prevent orphans:  
  • Css font-feature-settings
  • Optimum column widths - R. Bringhurst:
    • 45-75 characters
    • Multi-column 40-50 characters
  • Squint test - look for contrast
    • Use careful, deliberate interruptions
    • Position, density, space, hue, luminosity, size, style, case etc.
  • - The Origins Of ABC
  • “Don’t think. Feel.” - Bruce Lee

New Adventures In... Code

Seb Lee-Delisle

Seb Lee-Delisle

Not many notes on this one, but for me it was one of the best talks. Seb had a very natural, relaxed and funny way of talking about creative coding and did a few live coding examples, one of them even on a Commodore 64! As a result of Seb’s talk I will be looking to improve my javascript skills over the coming months, and maybe even attend one of his courses...

Wayne Tells it Like it is!

Wayne Hemingway

Wayne Hemingway

Another inspiring talk from a well known designer. Wayne spoke a lot about his humble beginnings and his rise to fashion ‘stardom’. Despite all that though, he has remained grounded and does a lot to promote social housing issues around the country. He is particularly involved in regeneration projects, such as Dreamland in Margate.

  • The design industry = £40 Billion
  • It’s the second biggest employer
  • And has the highest return on investment of any industry
  • Design classes at school have the lowest truancy rates
  • - Dreamland Is...


Jessica Hische

Jessica Hische

Let’s not beat around the bush, Jessica is lovely! She has one of those easy-going, a little bit bonkers personalities that you just can’t help but adore. In her own words she “is a letterer, illustrator, and crazy cat lady known for her silly side projects and occasional foul mouth”. Jessica shared a little bit about her life, the way she works, and what she loves doing.

  • “The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should do for the rest of your life!”
  • There’s a sweet spot in the middle of ‘the work you love’ and ‘the work that pays the bills’
  • What do you have?
    • A job - Pays bills
    • A career - Rewarding. Sets you up for retirement
    • A calling - Try and pry the mouse from my dead hands
  • Find out what you love doing
  • Simplex process wheel - creative problem solving tool
  • How to avoid creative block and burnout?
  • What inspires you?
    • Have enough on your plate to feel satisfied
    • But not so much that you want to throw-up!
  • Word association - process before starting to sketch

A number of the talks, including Jessica’s, served to remind me how lucky I am to be in an industry and job that I love. Thanks to all involved for your hard work and for putting on a great conference.


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