An Opera of Creativity at NAConf!

Report written by Chris Mills and Patrick Lauke

On Wednesday 19th January 2011, we descended on Nottingham UK to attend the first New adventures in web design conference, the brainchild of Mr Simon Collison. It looked to be a really interesting conference, with some interesting sounding talks providing a bit of a break from the norm, and we had also been given a table from which to distribute some merch and show off our browsers!

After a "few quiet beers" on the wednesday night and an "early night", we met up at the conference venue, set up the display table, and said hi to all the great people that started to wind their way in. The talk highlights for us were as follows:

  • Dan Rubin: The new language of web design: Dan opened proceedings with a very strong talk all about how language affects us, and how we should use language more effectively to cause less confusion and get messages across better, to clients and users.

  • Mark Boulton: A new canon: Mark's talk was also very strong, talking about some new design methods and best practices we should adopt to drive the industry forward, and make working with the web medium more effective. His three main points were "content out not canvas in", "bind the content to the device" (adopt responsive web design techniques, abandon your precious control), and "create connectedness" (eg don't use pixels, use ems, to make all the elements of your design relate to one another).

  • Jon Tan: Language and the lizard brain: Jon's talk was also great - kind of an extension of Dan's earlier talk, but with some interesting extensions. He cited some very interesting information about "the lizard brain" - the Amygdala - which is all lizards really have, but is only a small part of the human brain. It is the part of the brain that deals with emotional responses, and is therefore heavily involved in our response to design, before we even read any language involved in the design. He went through some interesting ideas on emotional design, but my favourite point was when he fought back against Seth Godin's constant advice about suppressing the lizard brain, because it gets in the way of efficiency and organization. Jon pointed out that emotional responses are important to really appreciate design work.

  • Andy Clarke: Once upon a time on the Web: Andy gleefully told us that private dicks were "so last year", announcing that he was moving on to cowboys for 2011. His talk was all about story telling, not only in terms of well written stories, but also in terms of using space and separation effectively for the visual part of the narrative. Both exist in the story that an effective web application tells, and he did well to compare web pages to comic books to hammer the point home. Fun and interesting.

  • Brendan Dawes: Produced for use: Brendan's talk was basically about product design, and why products are useful, usable and sellable, or not. He looked at a whole load of physical products like Pencils, paperclips, pencil sharpeners (and his obsession for stationary), before then drawing it back to the Web, with interesting UIs, and interfaces for products that bridge the gap between virtual and physical. I'm not sure how immediately practical it was, but Brendan's delivery is always so charming and humourous that you can't help but walk away smiling. A great way to end the day!

At the end of the conference, the Ready to Inspire conference was announced, which also looks well worth checking out. the rest of the evening was very enjoyable, talking to developers and designers about music and open standards until the small hours.